However, after attending the Aseto'ne Institute hosted by UNMC in Omaha, Richards is now considering expanding on her education.
"I want to get an R.N. and then go into nursing research, maybe with the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in D.C. (Washington D.C.)," Richards said.
A student at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Richards was one of 10 Native American undergraduate students from seven different tribal colleges who spent June 4-14 learning about the wide variety of biomedical research and health profession careers from faculty and staff at UNMC, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
Along the way, they also learned a little something about themselves.
"I was nervous at first," Richards said.
But after encountering the variety of researchers, health professionals and professors during the Aseto'ne Institute, Richards said, "I feel motivated, more confident that I can do these things too."
That confidence and motivation is exactly what organizers of the Aseto'ne Institute hoped they would cultivate among the students who attended.
"These types of programs are great opportunities for our tribal college students to learn and be engaged," said Darryl Monteau, Aseto'ne Network project coordinator with AIHEC.
"In visiting with the students, they said they all learned something new and found the presentations and activities meaningful in helping them figure out what they wanted to do as a future career," Monteau said.
The summer institute is part of the Aseto'ne Network Project, which is a multi-institutional initiative designed to expand health research outreach, education and mentoring services at the nation's 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities.
I applaud everyone who contributed to this effort. What a great event!