Chancellor Phil DiStefano has appointed Benny Shendo Jr. associate vice chancellor for Native American affairs, a newly created position that will liaise between the campus and tribal communities across Colorado and collaboratively address all related issues.
Shendo, a 1987 CU Boulder graduate, is currently a New Mexico state senator and a former tribal administrator and lieutenant governor for the Pueblo of Jemez. He has significant experience in regional tribal matters and previously served as the cabinet secretary for New Mexico’s Indian Affairs Department. He also worked at the University of New Mexico and in the Dean of Students Office at Stanford University on Indian affairs issues.
“I cannot wait to get started in this new role at CU Boulder to strengthen our relationships with the tribes of Colorado and those historically connected to Colorado and to build a strong, supportive Native American community on campus for our students, faculty and staff,” said Shendo.
He began his duties on a part-time basis at CU Boulder on Oct. 2, before joining the campus full time on March 1, 2024.
“I am thrilled that Benny is joining the CU Boulder community in this important role,” said DiStefano. “His deep commitment to tribal affairs and his extensive network of relationships across many tribal communities will be an immediate asset to our campus as we seek to strengthen those relationships and encourage additional Native American students to matriculate.”
Andrew Cowell, the faculty director of CU Boulder’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies (CNAIS), and chair of the search committee for the new position said, “Benny Shendo is a great choice for this position as both a CU alumnus and someone who has been actively involved for several years supporting Native students and Native studies on campus.”
He added, “He has been on the External Advisory Board for the Center for Native American and Indigenous studies for four years now, and I’m looking forward to a continued productive relationship between our new AVC and the Native and Indigenous-oriented communities on campus.”
Shendo will join the Office of Government and Community Engagement, whose employees report to the chancellor. Primary functions of the job include liaising with tribal governments and communities throughout Colorado and the wider region and interfacing with state and federal entities that have roles in tribal affairs and higher education.
Last month, another tribal leader, James Rattling Leaf Sr. joined CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) as its first tribal advisor, helping CIRES scientists and researchers build relationships with tribes through projects, proposal writing, workshops, outreach and training.