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Katie Smith-Henshaw, a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has been named Northeastern State University's fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate Student. She is multi-year scholarship recipient,

A resident of Tahlequah, Oklahoma,Smith-Henshaw is always looking for ways to give back to her community and studying public health was one of the ways she has been able to do that. 

 “Choosing the public health program was deliberate because it was a way to connect with my culture while also doing what I love—research,” Smith-Henshaw said. “I was drawn to public health because it’s a rewarding, evidence-based and data-driven field.” 

During her graduate studies, Smith-Henshaw pursued research in various ways. Her project, “Examining the Lived Experiences of Native Americans Affected by Poultry Farms in Cherokee Nation Reservation: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis,” examined how Native communities have been affected by the large influx of poultry in the Cherokee Nation Reservation. 

Smith-Henshaw has also conducted research with the Hudson College of Public Health and was selected to participate in the Native American Research Assistantship sponsored by the Wildlife Society in partnership with the United States Geological Survey. 

This fall, she interned at the Cherokee Nation Office of Environmental Health where she worked on a project titled, “Identifying Potential Factors Contributing to E. Coli Positivity Rates through Spatial Analysis in Private Wells Located on Cherokee Nation Reservation.” 

Just as her research has focused on helping improve the lives of communities, Smith-Henshaw has spent her graduate career giving back.

“Throughout my master’s degree program, I have consistently strived to create a positive impact on my fellow students within my courses, the NSU community and my broader professional discipline,” Smith-Henshaw said. 

During her graduate studies, she engaged in collaborative projects, facilitated study groups and provided support to classmates to create a positive and inclusive learning environment. 

Beyond the classroom, Smith-Henshaw engaged in various campus activities and organizations, including American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and participated in community service initiatives. 

Smith-Henshaw received her Master of Public Health degree on December 9 as part of NSU’s fall commencement programs. She will continue her graduate education studying Geographic Information Systems this spring at NSU. 


For more information about the Master of Public Health or graduate Geographic Information Systems programs, contact the NSU Graduate College at [email protected], 918-444-2093 or visit www.nsuok.edu/gograd


The NSU graduate faculty nominates outstanding graduate students who meet the criteria of a 3.5 cumulative GPA, excellence in scholarship in an advanced degree program, leadership, service and a positive impact on the campus community.

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