Chosen as president of Antioch University Seattle, Dr. Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet became the first Native American woman to ascend to the presidency of an accredited university outside the tribal colleges. Prior to her presidency in Seattle from 2007 to 2013, Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet served as the first woman president of Diné College, a tribal college with 8 campuses located on the Navajo reservation situated in Arizona and New Mexico.
Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet is the great, great granddaughter of Navajo Chief Manuelito. She is born into the Towering House and Salt clans. Her maternal and paternal grandfather clans are the Mud and Weaver clans.
She earned her Bachelor’s in social work, her Master’s in counselor education both from the University of Wyoming, and her Doctorate in educational policy and management with a special emphasis in higher education administration from the University of Oregon.
Prior to her leadership positions, Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet worked over 25 years in various student support and counseling roles at Oregon State University, University of Oregon, University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and University of Wyoming. Cassandra has served on advisory boards at the University of Wyoming, American University, University of Washington, University of Utah, University of California, Berkeley, the American Indian College Fund, and HERS (Higher Education Resource Services).
With retirement in 2013 came the gift of time and contemplation—to reminisce the events and experiences that defined her career journey and resulted in a recently published chapters in Indigenous Leadership in Higher Education (2015) and Journeys of Social Justice: Women of Color in the Academy (2017). She divides her time between Corvallis, OR and Central MT as she remains professionally engaged in consulting work, speaking engagements, and professional coaching and mentoring.
Some of her notable recognitions include:
She was honored as “America’s Top 25 Women in Higher Education” in Diverse Issues in
Higher Education, in March 2013.
Featured Indian woman leader in Native Daughters: Understanding the Past for a Brighter Future, magazine and website of University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012.
“Joys of the Presidency,” Center for Advancement of Racial & Ethnic Equity, American Council on Education in 2010.
Honored as “Women of Color Empowered: Women in Power: Nonprofits & Community Organizations,” by Northwest Asian Weekly in 2009.
“Doing the Right Thing,” The Presidency. The American Council on Education’s magazine for higher education leaders in 2008.
Honored as “Diversity at the Top,” by Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation in 2007.
Her love of backpacking, camping, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, along with knitting, book clubbing, and three grandchildren keep her busy and sustains her personal wellness and a commitment to hózhó, the Navajo word for balance.