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Melissa Bennett Named NASCC Program Coordinator

M.Div. alum Melissa Bennett was named program coordinator of the Native American Student Community Center at Portland State University in October 2013.

Excerpt from an article by Jay Pengelly in the Portland State Vanguard, October 22, 2013.

This year not only marks the 10th anniversary of the Native American Student Community Center at Portland State University, but also the arrival of a fresh face: Melissa Bennett, the new program coordinator.

Coming into the position, one of Bennett's main goals is to get Native students through the doors of the NASCC and involved.

Bennett recently finished her Master of Divinity at Marylhurst University. Her undergrad education came from Evergreen State College, and she is a member of the Northwest Indian Storytellers Association, WordCraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and the Portland Inter-Tribal Canoe Club.

Along with her experience, Bennett's personal background offers her a unique perspective in this new position.

"I come from two worlds," Bennett said. "I was adopted [and] did not grow up in the Native community, but I knew I was Native American. Ten years ago [I] found my birth family—I immersed myself in their culture."

Her ancestry traces back to the Umatilla, Nez Perce, Sac and Fox nations.

Part of Bennett's work in particular is dispelling common misconceptions about Native American society.

"People talk about Native culture like it's one singular group, but it's too diverse and vast," Bennett said. "There are over 500 federally recognized tribes, each its own entity, with their own language. There are state-recognized tribes, and tribes not recognized for various political reasons.

Melissa Bennett holds a Master of Divinity from Marylhurst University along with graduate certificates in pastoral care and theological studies. In addition to her time spent as a healer and resource to Native peoples, Melissa is a writer. She has multiple essays and poems published, including a poem in the upcoming Yellow Medicine Review.

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