Malaika Michel-Fuller is a junior undergraduate at the University of Northern Colorado, studying English, minoring in Sociology, and pursuing emphases in Secondary Education and Teaching English as a Second Language. Malaika is a transformative campus leader active in bridging the gap between access and opportunity for students and community members. Student Senate is Malaika's primary avenue for enacting social change, and for the past three years she has played a prominent role in cultivating a more inclusive campus climate. As the current Student Trustee on UNC's Board of Trustees she approaches governance with quiet, intelligent determination to make change through active participation, grass roots mobilization and deep research on issues. A self-described first-generation, underserved student of color, Malaika brings not only her innate intelligence, curiosity, empathy and diplomacy, but also invaluable perspective to leadership discussions about how UNC supports students. When Malaika speaks in a Board of Trustees meeting about the FAFSA verification process as an obstacle to student retention, she speaks from a place of personal experience. Malaika's willingness to use her personal experience as a bridge to meaningful conversation, tenacity in exploring multiple perspectives and genuine interest in others' success make her an unparalleled consensus-builder.
I belong to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nations (CSKT) of the Flathead Reservation. I spend summers on the reservation with my maternal grandfather's family. As time passed, I noticed differences in my family's lives and mine. Many relatives depend on public assistance for sustenance. Children lack academic motivation and see no tangible benefits of education in their community. An inefficient and nepotistic employment system leaves tribal members working jobs that do not provide adequate financial support or viable growth opportunities. This early exposure revealed my calling to return to my roots, and I entered college with a dream of utilizing secondary education to fight educational inequality. However, my time on campus and in my surrounding civic community provided space to discover my own potential as a change agent and explore the complex nature of systems-level change. This fostered my desire to serve my tribe beyond the classroom. I feel strongly about civic engagement, and on my campus I enact social change through an interdisciplinary, grassroots lens. Whether leading chants at Take Back the Night or delivering leadership seminars for first years, I am most fulfilled when I invest in the collective welfare of my fellow peers, colleagues, and residents.