BOZEMAN — It’s time to meet another Native American Montana State University student on a path to success. Alicia Andersen is a history major—she’s also a mother of four children under the age of five.
We talked with her about her dream to help other Native Americans learn about their culture and family heritage.
“Knowing your history and knowing where you come from is really important whether you realize it or not,” said Andersen.
Andersen is one busy lady. She is a wife, a mother of four, and a hard-working, full-time MSU student. She’s Native American and very proud of her heritage.
“My grandpa who just recently passed had helped raise me and he had taught me all these old stories and at the time I didn’t realize I was learning our history,” she recalls.
Now as a history major she hopes to help pass along stories of her culture and help others learn about theirs no matter where they are from. She sees several ways she may want to turn history into a career: as a teacher, or curator of a museum, or genealogist.
“I have always been interested in genealogy and having a history background brings an even greater perspective,” said Andersen. “We don’t have resources when it comes to that on many reservations. It would be amazing to contribute to that.”
She believes it would be invaluable for her children and others to have access to those resources, especially as they grow up in a diverse community on MSU’s campus, a world far away from the reservation.
“We try to let them know we are all different and everybody is beautiful,” she said. “We are already in a world different from when I was a child. We are already learning more about Native Americans in schools, so seeing that difference is great.”
After spending time talking to Andersen, we couldn’t help but feel she makes it look easy to juggle so many roles. We learned her husband is also a full-time student, a horticulture major.
They share four children: Liam who is 5, 3-year-old Douglas Owen, 2-year-old Killian, and 4-month-old Margo.
“I actually have an amazing husband; we are a great team,” Andersen said.
She says all-around support is key, and she says she gets peace from her children, her family back home, and her Native American family at MSU. She says leaving home isn’t always easy but it is worth it.
“As a people, we rely on our families. It is amazing for my kids to be able to see life on campus and see their parents succeed. For my kids to see us and promoting Native American education in general along with the school's support and design—it is a dream,” she said.
Andersen wants to encourage other Native Americans, especially mothers, to persevere when it comes to getting an education.
“If people take away one thing from my story, I would say just go back to school if it’s calling. Just go. It is a lot easier to go back and get it done," she said. "Even with kids, just go get the process going. Even if you are the only non-traditional student or Native American in class.”
She says surrounding herself with support also helped her learn how to also do things alone, something she knows can be hard. She hopes sharing her story will empower others to follow their dreams as well.