Dr. Heather Ann Moody, assistant professor of American Indian studies, graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2000. An enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Moody is passionate about preventing and addressing stereotypes about American Indian people.
“On one level, I like to be involved with preparing our future teachers here on campus," Moody says. "But, I also do work in the community with K-12 classrooms going in and doing presentations or working with teachers on their curriculum.”
Moody believes teaching people at a young age about diversity can have a big impact on their lives as adults.
“I believe kids can learn at a young age about diversity and aspects, such as white privilege and racism. We start that at an early age, and we can have a really different society coming into our classrooms and colleges.”
Growing up, Moody says she didn’t come from a family that went to college or into higher education.
“I was first in my immediate family to get a higher-education degree," Moody says. "I was always told, ‘If it’s something that you want to do, you can do it.’ There are always people here (at UW-Eau Claire) to support you, and I think that’s just foundational, (students) feeling like they are cared about and not just another seat in the classroom.”
Having struggled with her identity while in college, Moody says it’s important for her to have a relationship of support with her students who might have a similar story.
“Growing up, I always knew I was American Indian, but I never felt really comfortable with just expressing that," Moody says. "I could get around a lot of the questions that went with if people find out you’re Native, 'OK, well how do you say this in your language, well what does this mean?’ I didn’t have a lot of that background so I was able to avoid a lot of those conversations. I hid for quite a while on campus.”
With continuous support from faculty in the American Indian studies program, Moody learned to feel and be comfortable with being American Indian, which she says has enabled her to bring that perspective to Native students at UW-Eau Claire who might have a similar experience.
“There are a lot of students who are in that same situation of not quite feeling comfortable because they didn’t grow up with their traditions and customs on a reservation," Moody says. "They might not speak the language — and still have that aspect of ‘I know who I am, but I’m not quite comfortable with expressing it.’ So I think that’s a connection I can make with students who are feeling that way by saying, ‘Hey, I went through that too, and it’s OK. So, let’s talk about it, and let’s figure out how we can make you more comfortable.'”
Moody is thrilled to be back as a faculty member at UW-Eau Claire, a place she says gave so much to her when she was a student. As faculty, she enjoys teaching and watching students learn and grow in their experiences.
“I love watching students learn information for the first time, to challenge not just their misconceptions, but to challenge their experiences growing up," Moody says. "We have a large student population on our campus that has not been exposed to a lot of diversity in their experiences, and rural neighborhoods, or places where they don’t get to experience American Indian culture. I think for them, seeing them open their eyes for the first time is really a fantastic aspect of teaching, bringing them a knowledge that they weren’t aware was even out there.”