Raven Pinto grew up on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, near the small town of Twin Lakes. Now that she is graduating this month, she said her time at Colorado State University has been full of major personal accomplishments and has inspired her to continue helping Native American communities.
“A lot of people living on my reservation don’t have running water or adequate food access,” she said. “Compared to how I was living at CSU, it felt like a huge separation. I began sparking conversations on those topics, to consider Native Nation self-rule and efficacy to achieve greater health for its people.”
Pinto’s political science major and legal studies minor led her to focus her academic career on community development strategies. She wants to help find solutions to build sustainable healthy communities on Native reservations, a passion she discovered after her first year at CSU.
Juggling being a resident assistant in Academic Village and a senator representing the Native American Cultural Center and Officer for Recruitment and Retention for the Associated Students of Colorado State University kept her busy, and her impressive accomplishments both on and off campus have allowed her leadership and academic abilities to flourish.
“Raven is the recent recipient of both a prestigious Udall Congressional Internship and a Udall Scholarship – an outstanding achievement,” said Peter Harris, a professor of political science and mentor for Pinto.
She also is a member of the Honors Program, was recognized for her freshman year research paper on food waste bans in 2017, and was named the political science department’s Outstanding Junior in 2019.
“Right now I want to be wherever I can serve people well. A lot of people in my community need public service and basic access to a lot of things.”
— Raven Pinto, outstanding grad
Recently, Pinto presented a research project on the implications of environmental policies on Native Country at the Associated Conflict Resolution conference in Arizona, something she said: “was a great opportunity my mentors helped me with and secure.”
As an RA, Pinto remained on campus, working as community support staff in Corbett Hall, when campus pivoted to virtual learning and teaching.
“My plan [after graduation] is to go back home and reconnect with my tribal community,” she said. “Right now I want to be wherever I can serve people well. A lot of people in my community need public service, and basic access to a lot of things.
“When you’re living in it, you normalize it,” she said of growing up on the reservation. But, thanks to her many mentors and opportunities she’s garnered at CSU, and her faith, she knows “when you leave, you realize you have the tools to make it better.”