Melissa Peterson


Melissa Peterson in front of plain blue background
  • Director, Hawk Link & Native American Initiatives
  • Co-Executive Director, MSP Scholars Program
She/her/hers

Contact Info

Strong Hall, Room 133

Biography

Since stepping foot on KU’s campus in 2015, Peterson has been a strong advocate for students, including Native Americans at KU as seen through her role as the adviser for the KU’s First Nations Student Association (FNSA), president of the Native Faculty and Staff Council and organizer of the KU FNSA Powwow & Indigenous Cultures Festival. She not only advocates for Native Americans at KU but has a strong commitment to advance the support for students of color, first-generation college students like herself, and students who are Pell-eligible. As demonstrated in the commitment to the work she now leads through Hawk Link, Multicultural Scholars Program, and Native American Initiatives. 

Peterson previously served as Director of Tribal Relations, and prior to that role, she served as an associate director for KU TRIO Supportive Educational Services & STEM, and assisted the Haskell/KU Exchange Program in the KU Office of Diversity & Equity. Before working at KU, Peterson served as head coach of the Haskell Indian Nations University volleyball team and later assisted the Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools grant at Haskell.

Peterson, born and raised on the Navajo Nation is of the T ł 'ízí lání clan (Many Goats) born for the Todích'íí'nii clan (Bitter Water). She earned her bachelor’s degree in community health from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008, where she was also a member of the volleyball and women’s basketball teams. Peterson holds a masters of public health degree from the KU Medical Center and anticipates completing her doctorate of education in educational Leadership and Policy Studies - Higher Education Administration from KU. For her efforts in making significant contributions to Indian Country, Peterson was named to The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (The National Center) 2022 class of Native American 40 Under 40 award recipients. Most recently, Peterson has been named the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas Association of Native American Education (KANAE).