Haskell’s New President: New Leadership “Stepping Up”

Dr. Vemda Chenault

Dr. Venida Chenault

LAWRENCE, KANSAS — Haskell Indian Nations University will welcome its newly named president as she addresses the school for the spring convocation.

Dr. Venida Chenault, Prairie Band Potawatomi/Kickapoo, will be the keynote speaker for the event, introducing herself for the first time as leader of the Bureau of Indian Education School.

In an interview about how she felt about being named president, Chenault talked about her career journey. She previously held the vice president of academic affairs position.

“It is an honor and it is very humbling. I can’t help but think about going to a Kellogg Leadership Institute. Lionel Bordeaux, president of Sinte Gleska University was talking with us about the different leadership roles. And he said: ‘we are getting old, we are looking for the next generation of leaders, you need to step up.’ That statement had a significant impact on me. To be selected president, I wish my mom would be able to be here, I know she is here, it’s a pretty big deal for me. It is a big responsibility, but I don’t think I can sit on the sidelines and not step in and contribute what I can,” she continued.

“That is my commitment. This whole institution—with its full history—has an amazing impact on our graduates, and I am committed to making sure that tradition continues. I am responsible to give it my best and I will do that.”

Chenault spoke of her goals for the University, preparing the school for accreditation, re-prioritizing the academic mission and getting Haskell some more independence:

“We are going to look at strategies to improve the level of autonomy we have. Maybe release us from some of the process we have to go through, like other federal institutions, like the military or historically black university’s they don’t have to use the regulations of that funding agency, like Haskell has to.  I like to see us operate more like a University instead of going through these cumbersome obstacles.”

Chenault also spoke to Haskell’s past experience in not speaking with the local media. “The Lawrence Journal World” attempted several times to get an interview with the then President Chris Redman, about investigations into academic fraud going on within the athletics department.


“There will be a higher level of accountability.  Haskell has never had to cheat to be competitive. That is my goal; that that kind of activity is going to be fully corrected, and it is not going to happen again. We have to be more—whether it is with our students, the media, or our board of regents.”

Chenault had many ideas about what she has planned, but she also was very positive of the direction the tribal college is heading.

“I don’t think we have reached our peak of what we are capable of and what can happen at Haskell.”

Good words for the next generation of Native American leaders.

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  1. jeff wilson 5 years ago
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