Our Advisory Committee


Dr. Manely Begay

Advisory Committee Member

Dr. Manley A. Begay, Jr. (Navajo) is both Faculty Chair of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, and Senior Lecturer/Associate Social Scientist in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Arizona. He also serves as Faculty Affiliate at the Institute of the Environment, as well as co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Begay obtained his Ed.D. and M.Ed. degrees in Administration, Planning, and Policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Ed.S. and M.Ed. degrees in Educational Administration from Brigham Young University, and holds B.A. in secondary education from the University of Arizona and A.A. from Dine College (formerly Navajo Community College).
He teaches courses on Native nation building, curriculum development, and Indigenous education. His research and work experience has focused on projects about and for Native nations in the promotion of strong and effective institutions of governance and leadership. He has presented on a variety of topics from leadership to Indigenous nation building and from curriculum development to pedagogy and from historical and contemporary Indigenous issues to education at numerous national and international colleges and universities, private and public high schools, national and international conferences, institutes, and symposia. He also has worked closely with Native nations in the United States, First Nations and Bands in Canada, Aborigines in Australia, and Maoris in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Juan Quintana

Advisory Committee Member

After living and studying abroad for a significant part of my life, I focused on studying political sciences and sociology, developing extensive knowledge specialized in the understanding of sociopolitical causes and issues, particularly as they pertain to the general Colombian and broader Latin American context. I am also experienced in fields such as consecutive English-Spanish interpretation, customer service, social activism, and in artistic fields such as visual and performing arts.  I am currently heading the administrative, operations, and artistic direction of the Bonda Foundation's project to empower the production of artisanal goods designed and created in collaboration with Emberá-Chamí artisans while designing a platform for commercializing their work so as to potentialize their skills into being a stable source of income. 


Dawnafe Whitesinger

Advisory Committee Member

Supervisor Dawnafe Whitesinger represents District V on the Navajo County Board of Supervisors.  She is the first White Mountain Apache to serve on the Board of Supervisors and was the first woman to serve as Chair in 2015. As a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, she grew up on the Fort Apache Reservation and currently lives in the Pinetop-Lakeside area.
Supervisor Whitesinger has a strong love of her community, and has spent the majority of her life working in the field of education to better the lives of children and their families. Supervisor Whitesinger holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, and a Master of Arts in Curriculum Development from the University of Michigan.
Following the completion of her Master’s degree, Supervisor Whitesinger started as the Curriculum Specialist for the Dishchii’bikoh (Cibecue) Community School, and now serves as the Director of Instruction Programs for that organization. She has been dedicated to the service of her community and the students of Cibecue for 14 years. She has been a strong advocate for students and community growth.
Through her years of experience in public service, Supervisor Whitesinger has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about the community and how her leadership can better serve not only students, but the community as a whole. She currently serves as the Board of Directors Chair of the Sunrise Park Resort (White Mountain Apache owned and operated ski and outdoor recreation area), Vice-Chair of the White Mountain Apache First Things First Regional Council, Chair of the White Mountain Regional Transportation Committee, Board of Directors member of Conservation Legacy (national organization dedicated to supporting locally based conservation service programs); Advisory Board Member of White Mountain Youth Corp, Vice Chair of Board of Directors for Books for Kids AZ, and National Association of Counties Human Services and Education Committee member.

Dr. Michael Wright

Advisory Committee Member

Dr. Michael L. Wright is the superintendent of schools for Blue Ridge Unified School District. He has been a leader in education, corporate development, and community relations for over 20 years. After graduating from Arizona State University, Mike taught and coached at Gilbert High School in 1990 and Florence High School from 1993 to 1997. From 1997 to 2014, he held various executive and senior executive leadership positions at Universal Technical Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, and York Technical Institute in York, Pennsylvania. He became superintendent of Blue Ridge Unified School District in December 2014. Wright currently serves on the Commission for Post-Secondary Education and the Board of Directors for the Kairos Health Arizona Inc.

Blue tie dark back 19.png

Charitie Ropati

Advisory Committee Member

Charitie Ropati is an undergraduate student studying Civil Engineering
concentrating in Water Resources and Anthropology at Columbia University. In
2019 she was named a Champion for Change by the Center for Native American
Youth and was nationally recognized for her work in education. They are a
member of the Native Village of Kongiganak Alaska and studies the intersections
of civil infrastructure, permafrost, and cultural resilience. She is a Yup’ik and
Samoan environmental and education activist and worked to implement an
accurate and inclusive history sub-curriculum of Indigenous peoples in Western
pedagogy. She currently studies permafrost degradation in coastal Native
communities in Alaska and works on the coproduction of knowledge at Columbia
Through her works, she hopes to create a better future for her siblings and other
younger Native youth.

Sen. Victoria Steele

Advisory Committee Member

Arizona State Senator Victoria Steele is a Democrat representing Tucson, Arizona’s 9th District. As Seneca-Mingo, she is a powerful advocate for addressing climate change and ending violence against women and children. As a member of the Indigenous People’s Caucus, she introduced legislation that led to the creation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. 
Senator Steele is a champion for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She is dedicated to protecting the environment and helping victims of sexual assault, incest, child abuse, and domestic violence.
She has a master’s degree in Counseling/Psychology and a 25-year career as a television and radio newscaster. 
Senator Steele is a Co-Whip on the Senate Democratic Leadership Team. She serves on the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee, as well as the Transportation and the Senate Ethics Committees. 
On a more personal note, Victoria loves jazz, and hiking in the mountains of Southern Arizona.

VS JP headshot.jpeg