In our Storyteller profile series, we highlight the dreams, journeys and achievements of Doyon Foundation students, alumni and supporters. Profiles are available to read, watch and listen.
This edition of Storyteller features Robyn Ludecker of Fairbanks. Robyn is currently attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree. She expects to graduate in May 2022.
PURESTYN MILK: Today we’re talking with Robyn Ludecker, she is a 2021 – 2022 scholarship recipient, and she is from Kaltag and Fairbanks. Thank you for joining us, Robyn. If you could please tell me about your educational journey.
ROBYN LUDECKER: Of course. I just want to start by saying thank you so much for inviting me to be one of the students on the Storyteller. My name is Robyn Ludecker and I’m both Inupiaq and Athabascan, born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. My mother is Edith Kokrine, from Kaltag, Alaska, and my dad is James Ludecker from Fairbanks.
I’m just so excited to be here to talk about my college experience, and I hope that my story inspires other students who are considering going to college. I started college right outside of high school. Education has always been important to me; I see it as a tool that can be used to better my Native community, and that’s pretty much been my motivation to go to school. My mom always asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I wasn’t really sure because there was just no like really famous Native people who are successful in their careers, and so my only role model was my grandmother, and she valued education highly. So I was inspired to go to school from her. She now has four degrees, so you could just tell that me and her love learning.
I am attending Fort Lewis College, I am in my last semester. I chose to go to Fort Lewis College for three reasons. The first was that I wanted to see what life was like outside of Alaska and experience what most Native kids in Alaska can’t do, so I took this opportunity to see what else is out there. And I was also drawn to Fort Lewis College because of the Native American tuition waiver, which has been extremely helpful. That means that you don’t have to pay for like your classes or your credits, but you do still have to pay for the dorms and the food. So Doyon has helped me with that. And the last reason was that I wanted to go to a school where the campus is diverse. Living in Fairbanks, Alaska, there’s not that much people of color, so I always felt like a minority, but going to Fort Lewis College where there’s so many different people from different reservations or villages or areas in Alaska, like, it’s just been so amazing to meet all these different people and go to a school where we’re all motivated to get higher education. So I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree of arts in criminology and justice studies. I also have two minors in pre-law and psychology. I am graduating on May 14 this year.
PURESTYN MILK: That’s exciting. Thank you for sharing that. Why did you choose your field of study?
ROBYN LUDECKER: So I chose criminology because just the whole field, the whole discourse just really interests me. When I was taking my general education requirement classes, I noticed that I looked forward to my criminology classes the most. I just liked learning about how to reform our education and prison system. I liked learning about restorative justice and rehabilitation options. So those are my favorite. It was my sophomore year when I decided on criminology; you have two years until you decide your major. Around this time I was looking at law schools and advice that people had in most websites said that law schools encourage you to choose a major that you actually like so you get a higher GPA. So it was a no-brainer that I just chose criminology and I’m really glad that I chose this because criminology majors, they fall underneath the sociology department, and when you’re a senior, you have to take this sociology block program, that’s what they call it, where you simultaneously do an internship, 15 hours a week, and a senior research project. So I feel like that has helped me steer where I wanted to go. After my bachelor’s degree, I interned at the Earth Law Centre, which is an environmental block program that they’re trying to like, do different environmental campaigns all around the world, push for the rights of nature. So doing this, it helped me choose my path that I’m kind of leaning towards environmental law to go to school. I also got accepted to two law schools and so that’s what I’ll be doing after this. So my education doesn’t stop here.
PURESTYN MILK: What are your plans for the future, and what do you hope to accomplish with your education?
ROBYN LUDECKER: So, since my schooling is not done yet, I don’t have any concrete plans right now, but I am hoping that law school will help me figure that out. I do know that I want to go back to Alaska and use all of my education for the Native community. I want to concentrate on Native American law and see where that takes me. I also want to continue on the work that others did before me with like policymaking, and also help what they did and ensure that there will be future generations to come.
PURESTYN MILK: What has been your biggest challenge you faced during your educational journey, and how did you overcome it?
ROBYN LUDECKER: Well, I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but it was definitely the pandemic, COVID. So when it first started, I was in my sophomore year, dorming on Fort Lewis College, and for spring break they all told us that we’ll be able to go back and so I just left everything in my room. And then they told us we had to stay home. So, yeah, I had to get everything else again, I couldn’t get my clothes and stuff. So also, because of COVID, I had to stay home my junior year, back in Alaska, and that was pretty hard because I’ve never taken online classes before and I had to take five online. And so that was really challenging. Also being around my friends and family again, it was hard to like plan out when I’m going to hang out with my friends, my family, and then do homework. And so that was probably the biggest challenge, but I figured it out. There was also a two hour time difference from Alaska and Colorado; Alaska’s two hours behind. So like when everything was due at 11:59 p.m., it was due at 9:59 p.m. for me, so I just had to adjust to that, but it wasn’t that hard.
PURESTYN MILK: What activities are you involved in outside of the class?
ROBYN LUDECKER: So I’m an officer of a registered student organization called The Indigenous Society of Psychologists. So within this group on campus, we focus on promoting mental health awareness in Indigenous communities, just because it’s not widespread, usually people choose not to talk about that, and that’s pretty much our goal of our group. I am the outreach coordinator so I help with social media and bringing our name on campus so that more people join us. We help with various events. Mainly our goal right now this semester is to just spread awareness and facts about like Native issues in our communities so people are aware of it. But other than that I like to work out too, like go to the gym. I try to go at least four or five times a week. And then also, I’m a big beader, too.
PURESTYN MILK: What role does Native language or culture play in your life?
ROBYN LUDECKER: I’d say that culture plays an enormous part of my life. I try and bring my unique experiences into every setting and environment. For so long there have been spaces where Native voices were limited, so I take every opportunity to fill that space. And spaces I’m talking about is like the classroom, or like white-dominated institutions, such as law school. So I plan to bring my unique experiences as a Native woman to expand their horizons. But I also grew up hanging out with my grandma too, learning about Athabascan values from her and my family, so I always incorporate those into my daily life with everything that I do. I respect those around me, respect all living things, and am taking responsibility for my village by going to school.
PURESTYN MILK: That’s amazing. What kind of support have you received from Doyon Foundation, and how has it helped you as a student?
ROBYN LUDECKER: Doyon has helped me with funding since my sophomore year, and I can’t thank the Doyon Foundation enough. Because you guys believed in me and my goals, I was able to make it to graduation without any debt, which is a huge thing, and I’m just now hoping that Doyon continues to fund me for law school.
PURESTYN MILK: Of course we will. Do you have any words of encouragement for your fellow students?
ROBYN LUDECKER: Yes. The first thing that I have to say is, do not be afraid to leave and explore life outside of Alaska. Alaska will always be there and always be home, and I know it seems scary, but I cannot tell you enough how many opportunities and experiences I’ve had just by going to school out of Alaska for four years, which is not that long. I can’t believe I’m a senior already when I was just a freshman like four years ago.
But another thing is, don’t wait until the last minute for assignments, I’d always say do things early, or at least put on the draft and your Google Docs so that it’s there and ready for you to work on it. Also, never be afraid to ask for help from your peers or your students or any counselors that you may have. Everyone in college is rooting for you and wants you to succeed, so just never be afraid. You could also use me or other alumni as resources as well, because I have a lot of things I could say to aspiring college students. And also just look what’s out there. Like, you never know what opportunities are out there, like I just recently discovered that Seattle Law School does a free tuition waiver for Native people, all of it.
PURESTYN MILK: That’s so cool.
ROBYN LUDECKER: Yeah, I didn’t know that until like recently, it was like you just have to go out there and look at what opportunities are set for Native people and just never be afraid. You know, this is the best thing that’s happened to me and I’m excited to see where I’ll go next. I’m not sure what law school I’ll go to right now, but I’m leaning towards Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where I’ll study Native American sovereignty law. So yeah, just don’t be afraid.
PURESTYN MILK: That’s exciting. That’s great advice, thank you for that. Is there anything else you would like to mention today?
ROBYN LUDECKER: I’m excited for other Native people to go to school and fill up those spaces where there’s usually not any people of color. Don’t be afraid, just put yourself out there and the opportunities will come to you.
If you are interested in being featured in an upcoming Storyteller profile, or would like to nominate a Doyon Foundation student, alumni or supporter, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907.459.2048.