Portland State Alum Stevie Lemke '12 is a J.D candidate at Lewis and Clark Law School and is the Vice President of Native American Law Students Association. She was born and raised in Southern Oregon, near Sams Valley and the Rogue River.Her family is originally from North Carolina, Oklahoma and the Great Lakes area. She is Cherokee, Chickasaw and Scottish.
She was the alumni keynote speaker at the Native American Student and Community Center’s (NASCC) tenth anniversary celebration during Portland State of Mind, and spoke of the support she found within those walls to stay on track to finish college despite adversity she faced throughout her college career including a sexual assault. “The NASCC made all the difference in me having a space to heal and continue with school, despite being so far from home.”
From this support Stevie is now giving back to students. She is the alumni representative on the NASCC advisory board and is creating a group for NASCCC alumni. This is a group open to alumni who were involved in the center, either through student groups, work study or just calling the NASCC home. The alumni group, when fully off the ground, will serve to provide alumni with networking events and resources, community building workshops and a continued connection to the NASCC. The group will also serve to support current students and is considering a mentorship program connecting current students to alumni.
She had originally studied at Oregon State University. “OSU is a pretty normal path for the youth who do decide to go to college from Southern Oregon, so I just went with the crowd” she says. After spending 2 years at Oregon State she transferred to Portland State in January of 2011. “I was ready for something different. Corvallis was very similar to the experiences I had growing up around the Medford area, and I was interested in going to ‘the city’, and having that new adventure.”
At Portland State, Stevie thrived in student groups and found community: “I got involved with the United Indian Students in Higher Education (UISHE), took a couple classes out of the NASCC, got a couple work-study positions within the NASCC and Healing Feathers, was involved with the PSU Chinuk Wawa Social Club, and interned with a language acquisition program. I was doing a lot but was really happy with the work and school that was being done. I was prepping to take the LSAT, took the LSAT, applied to law school and got accepted to law school.” After her assault in her senior year after riding the high of such a great college experience, she had a lot of support and encouragement and a space to heal within the community and groups she had given so much to. “I graduated on time and got to enjoy those 'senior' moments, I was here for the salmon bake, honor day, that kind of stuff, even when they were through some tears.”
Stevie just returned from 4 months in Washington D.C., working at the National Indian Gaming Commission as a legal clerk, and is just about done with her 3rd semester of law school, which puts her about halfway finished. She is currently applying to a few law clerk positions for next summer, and definitely wouldn't mind going back to D.C. She is also looking into possibilities for positions here in Portland and the greater Pacific Northwest. In her last year of law school she would really like to study abroad, then her focus will be on graduation, studying for the bar and finding a job. “As far as where I will be working or what I will be doing, I just don't know,” she says. “I'll be advocating for Indian Country that is for sure, maybe litigating, maybe doing contract work, or maybe I'll end up in a language department. I'll be happy working for my community, however it is that happens.”