Staff & Faculty

Sapsik’ʷałá Distinguished Elder Educator and Faculty: Virginia Beavert, Ph.D. (Yakama Nation)

Virginia Beavert (Yakama), Ph.D., is Distinguished Elder Educator in the Sapsik’ʷałá Program at the University of Oregon. She is also a long-time Advisor to the Northwest Indian Language Institute. Dr. Beavert established the Sahaptin/Ichishkíin language program at the University of Oregon and continues to advise and teach within classes on language and culture. She has served widely as a leader for her Tribe and throughout Indian education, being the first woman elected as an officer of the Yakama Nation General Council Executive Board; she has published two dictionaries of Ichishkíin language. Her most recent book is Wántwint Inmí Tiináwit: A Reflection of What I Have Learned, published by the University of Washington Press. 

Recent Media:



Program Director, Principal Investigator and Faculty: Michelle Jacob, Ph.D. (Yakama Nation)

Michelle M. Jacob, Ph.D., is Professor of Indigenous Studies and Director of the Sapsik’ʷałá (Teacher) Education Program in the Department of Education Studies at the University of Oregon. Her research areas of interest include: Indigenous educational frameworks, Indigenous research methodologies, traditional ecological knowledge, health, Native feminisms, and decolonization. Her first book, Yakama Rising: Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Activism, and Healing, published by the University of Arizona Press in 2013, analyzes the ways in which Yakama peoples resist the ongoing effects of colonialism through reclaiming cultural traditions. Dr. Jacob’s second book, Indian Pilgrims: Indigenous Journeys of Activism and Healing with Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, published by the University of Arizona Press in 2016, examines how Indigenous activism advances our understanding of community-building, environmentalism, and spirituality. Michelle is a member of the Yakama Nation. 

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Sapsik’ʷałá Co-Director and Faculty: Leilani Sabzalian, Ph.D. (Alutiiq)

Leilani is an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies in Education at the University of Oregon. Her research focuses on creating spaces to support decolonization and Indigenous self-determination in public schools and preparing teachers to challenge colonialism in curriculum, policy, and practice. She is also dedicated to improving Indigenous education in the state of Oregon by serving on the American Indian/Alaska Native State Advisory Panel and strongly advocating for legislation such as Senate Bill 13, which requires and supports educators to teach about tribal history and sovereignty in K-12 public schools ( Dr. Sabzalian is proud to have joined the Sapsik’ʷałá team and support the next generation of Indigenous educators! She hopes that one day, each and every student in Oregon public schools, including her own two children, will have had a Native teacher. 

Dr. Sabzalian recently published her first book, Indigenous Children’s Survivance in Public Schools, which provides teachers and administrators with case studies to understand how colonialism continues to shape educational policy and practice, and to help educators to counter colonialism and better support Indigenous students in public schools. See this flyer for 20% discount on purchasing her book. 





Sapsik’ʷałá Program Coordinator: Stephanie Tabibian (Shoshone-Paiute) 

Stephanie maintains day-to-day administration for the the Sapsik’ʷałá (Teacher) Education Program, and provides student support and advocacy for participants. She is passionate about student success and strives to increase access for Native students in higher education. Prior to joining our team, she served as the Native American Retention Specialist/Academic advisor for UO. She helped co-found the Native American & Indigenous Studies Academic Residential community  (NAIS ARC), institutionalized a UO campus wide Native American Graduation Ceremony, and is currently advocating for the creation of a Native Specialist position in the University Counseling Center.

Stephanie is from Owyhee, Nevada and a tribal member of Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley Indian Reservation. She earned her B.S. in Planning Public Policy and Management from University of Oregon (2014), and is pursuing her Masters of Community and Regional Planning at University of Oregon (2021).


Phone: 541-346-2454





Business Manager: Teodoro Reyes-Ramirez

Teodoro is the Business Manager for the Sapsik’ʷałá Program. Teodoro received his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Accounting from the University of Oregon and has worked at the University of Oregon in the College of Education since 2006. He is currently the Business Manager of two grant management units in the College of Education, the Center for Equity Promotion (CEQP) and the Oregon Science Education Laboratory (OESL). Teodoro brings his expertise in coordinating externally funded projects, business operations, and project management and has extensive experience in training grants, such as Sapsik’ʷałá.







Sapsik’ʷałá Graduate Employee: Rena Dunbar, Ph.D. candidate in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership (EMPL)

Rena Dunbar, along with her identical twin, grew up bi-racial in Indiana. She earned her BA in literature from DePauw University and her MAT from Pacific University after moving to Oregon in 1995. A longtime educator dedicated to challenging the marginalization of young people, she and sister Leah were organizers of “Weapon of Choice: Voice” an open mic for Eugene area youth for ten years. Rena was the co-founder of the Peace Village educational program at Network Charter School and was the Nobel Peace Laureate Project’s Educator of the Year in 2014. Rena was a facilitator of the Youth Action Project at the White Privilege Conference (WPC) in 2014 and 2015. She has co-created and taught Courageous Conversations, a local rendition of a secondary level critical ethnic studies course, to students across Eugene School District 4j for over 10 years. Also a doctoral candidate (2020) in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership (EMPL), Rena’s intention is that her time with Sapsik’ʷałá will deepen her ability to serve in ways that acknowledge connectedness, justice, and healthy communities.




Sapsik’ʷałá Graduate Employee: Connor Yiamkis (Pit River), Language Teaching Studies M.A. Candidate

Connor is a member of the Illmawi band of the Pit River tribe, and a graduate student in the Language Teaching Studies MA program at University of Oregon. His purpose of joining the LTS program is to study language revitalization in order to help the Pit River language return to every day use, as there are very few speakers left. He has taught Pit River language to youth in the Redding, CA area and at Montgomery Creek school, as well as co-taught a course on Pit River at the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) Summer Institute 2019. He also has presented at the Language is Life conference 2017 put on by AICLS, and the Living Language Circle conference 2019. At UO he has interned at both NILI, and the new Language Revitalization lab, helping to set up a database of sources on language revitalization. Connor is from Sacramento, CA and earned his Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology from California State University Chico, after which he moved to Redding and worked for the American Indian education center Local Indians For Education (LIFE) until deciding to pursue language revitalization at the University of Oregon.