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Micah Swimmer, Class of 2017

Why did you choose KU’s Indigenous Studies Program?  Micah Swimmer poses with Dr. Stephanie Fitzgerald and Dr. Kelly Berkson, members of his master's exam committee
The main reason I chose KU was because the program had a concentration on Preservation and Management of Indigenous Resources: Language Documentation and Revitalization. [Ed. note: Prior to 2011, ISP was under a different name and included tracks.] After reading the core courses and requirements, I knew that there wasn’t a better place to be than in that program.

What was your main area of research/academic interest?
My main area of research was on the status of various tribes and their languages. I studied the methodologies tribes were using to save their language so that I could return home and do the same. During my time at KU I also became interested in linguistics. I feel that second language learners could benefit tremendously from a solid base of linguistics.      

How are you using that research and the skills gained through the ISP program now?
As of right now, I am developing a curriculum and guide for an adult immersion program. The goal here is to develop as many fluent speakers, or as close to it, as possible so they can teach in our schools, community, and to their families. I have been working with our brothers and sisters from the Department of Cherokee Nation’s Cultural Outreach, as they have an adult apprentice program that is doing really well. We share ideas and practices but continue to work for the main goal, and that is to save our language. We look to start our program this upcoming March.

You took a few years off before coming back for your master’s. What led you to want to finish? What did you do in the interim?
I felt like a cloud of unfinished business was always lingering over my head that was never going away until I finished or at least tried to finish. During my time off I accepted a position as an early childhood supervisor at our Language Immersion School. I wanted to focus on the school and help my second-language learner staff learn the language the best way I knew how.

Let’s look ahead a bit. What are your goals for the future?
My main goal for the future is to run a successful adult immersion program.

You’re from the same town as Ethan Clapsaddle, another ISP master’s student. How do you know each other? Have you helped push each other to finish your degrees?
Yes, Ethan I are great friends. We both have sons who play on the same basketball teams, and Ethan and I coach our boys AAU basketball team. I think it was at a practice I mentioned an assignment, and he said, yeah he’s got one due, too. I asked where he was in school, and he said KU! I immediately said, ‘Me too!’ We looked like two dogs jumping around, but after that we stayed on each other to finish.

We heard something about a road trip with you and Ethan on your way to your master’s defenses? Can you tell me a little about how you got to Lawrence for your defenses?
Every November my family and I travel to Oklahoma to visit the in-laws, and every November my daughter plays in a basketball tournament in Henrietta, Oklahoma, with her cousins from there. My son never gets to play because he doesn’t have any cousins his age that play in the tournament. So, one day, Ethan I were talking about different tournaments we should hit up over break and I mentioned taking our AAU boys to one in Oklahoma. We both agreed that it’d be good for them to play against other competition, so we put the word out to the other boys and we started fund raising. Around that time, we scheduled our defenses to fall right after we were done in Oklahoma. It was a great trip and we enjoyed every minute of it!     


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