Bringing a native perspective to Congress

Leaders aren’t born, they’re made – and for Rudy Soto, this happened at Portland State.  

Soto is an enrolled member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe. Born and raised in Nampa, ID, Soto was raised among six siblings, some with disabilities. By middle school, Soto fell into the wrong crowd. A move to Portland as a teen and earning a scholarship to attend PSU offered him a fresh start.

As a student, Soto was elected coordinator of United Indian Students in Higher Education. He also served as project assistant for a suicide prevention grant at the Native American Rehabilitation Association. He later received training in community organizing in Washington, D.C., as part of the Native American Political Leadership Program. During the 2007-08 academic year, he served as the first Native American student body president at the University.  

In 2011, Soto graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, becoming the first in his family to earn a university degree.

After graduating, Rudy set off for Washington D.C. where he launched his career in politics. For two years, he served as a legislative assistant for Congresswoman Norma Torres, a Democrat from California, where he was responsible for energy, environment, agricultural, educational and tribal affairs issues. He also served as a policy analyst for the National Council of Urban Indian Health.

In 2018, he took a new leadership role with the National Indian Gaming Association as Legislative Director. The national nonprofit is an inter-tribal association of federally recognized Indian Tribes dedicated to protect and preserve the welfare and sovereignty of tribes through economic self-sufficiency.  

Soto credits much of his success to the experiences and community he found at Portland State. “I built my strongest friendships at PSU,” he says.