BOZEMAN — Naomi Redfield always knew she wanted to go to college, but the one thing she was not as open to was conducting research.
Redfield initially thought she would attend Montana State University, go through her classes and move on to become a veterinarian. But in her junior year, Redfield took part in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Harvard University and saw firsthand how research was not just interesting, but something she wanted to do herself.
“We followed American beaver dams and mapped out their complexes for damming and I found it really interesting,” said Redfield, who is from Crow Agency and a member of the Crow tribe. Her clan is the Newly Made Lodge and is a child of the Greasy Mouth. “We were out in the field, which I wasn’t expecting to like so much but did. I learned a lot about beavers and got to meet a lot of people in different research fields who showed me what is happening right now in science and what is dominating research fields.”
Now a senior majoring in animal science in MSU’s College of Agriculture, Redfield has received a major award to not only help her research but also help her continue her education after graduation. Redfield recently won the Louis Stokes STEM Pathways and Research Alliance: All Nations Alliance for Minority Participation award. The award aims to diversify the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce by broadening the participation of students from historically underrepresented groups, primarily at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate levels. The award comes with semesterly stipends, assistance to navigate graduate school, attend conferences and more.
“Naomi is an outstanding student who has taken full advantage of the opportunities to get involved in STEM research,” said Carl Yeoman, head of the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. “As a Native American woman, she is paving a path to success that we hope will inspire many Natives and women of color to follow. I’m glad to see Naomi recognized and rewarded in this way.”
With the help of the award, Redfield wants to pursue a master’s in microbiology and study reproduction, nutrition and changes in the gut microbiome in animals and eventually pursue a career in the veterinary field.
“It’s going to help me in a lot of ways, but the main reason I’m excited to receive this is because of the opportunity it presents, not just helping me with my studies but it encourages me to go to other conferences where I might learn new information in research-related fields,” she said.
Redfield is part of the McNair Scholars Program. The program provides faculty mentoring, undergraduate research and academic support services for students who are either first-generation college graduates, from low-income families or are members of underrepresented minority groups. Redfield applied to be a part of the program after she discovered her passion for research and wanted more mentorship and experience.
“I am so proud of Naomi and the work she has done to get this award,” said Shelly Hogan, director of the McNair Scholars Program. “She genuinely found a discipline in a field she enjoys and a career path that fits her and it means a lot.
“Naomi has shown that she’s taken advantage of her education at MSU and on top of that she’s a hard worker. She goes to school full-time, participates in undergraduate research and I am always impressed with how much she does with extracurricular services. She is a great role model for young Native students in junior and high school.”
Currently Redfield conducts research with Dr. Bob Sager, an MSU alumnus and veterinarian who runs Medicine Creek Bovine Health Solutions and Consulting near Wilsall. Redfield’s research focuses on oral supplements to prevent certain diseases among cattle, such as respiratory diseases and improving fertility in bovine breeds. She said working with Sager has been eye opening, as she has received a thorough overview of how certain nutritional aspects can affect the overall health of cattle.
Growing up with and around family members who had cattle and horses is a major reason why Redfield wanted to study animal science. Along with her love for animals and desire to be a veterinarian, Redfield said she believes her education at MSU will give her the knowledge to one day have her own cattle ranch.
Additionally, Redfield said her great-great grandmother, medicine woman Pretty Shield, and her husband Goes Ahead, were inspiring examples of helping the Crow people with natural medicines to heal them. Although Redfield’s work is not healing the human body, her work will be healing the animals that livestock owners from her tribe rely on for income, food and various other resources.
“When I began my research, I realized that there’s a lot more to the industry than there was 30 years ago,” Redfield said. “If I want to have cows and take care of them, I need to learn a lot of information to do a good job on my end. It encouraged me to choose this path. While I want to continue my education and do research, later on I can come back and better run my own cattle.”
Redfield, who last year was co-president of the American Indian Council at MSU, didn’t find the ANAMP program until later in her college career. She now hopes that her experiences in it can help inspire other Native students to seek out programs that will further them in their education and careers of choice.
“Just knowing there are other Native students at MSU doing different kinds of research really helped me stay grounded here,” Redfield said. “We all come from different backgrounds. Some of us were raised on the reservation, some weren't. Some were really interested in engineering or cows, but we all come together and talk about what we are doing and how we want to make a difference.”
Contact: Naomi Redfield. email@example.com; and Shelly Hogan, 406-994-6764 or firstname.lastname@example.org