I am a Navajo and the executive director of the American Indian science
and engineering society (AISES), a non-profit organization whose mission
is to increase the number of American Indian scientists and engineers.
I am the third executive director in the society's twenty-year history
and the first woman to serve in this position. I manage the society's
$2.5 million operations and educational programs.
In 1987, I received a bachelor of science - civil engineering degree from the University of New Mexico. I worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories before I earned a master of science - structural engineering degree from Stanford University. I also worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories before accepting my current leadership position. Within AISES, I served as a college chapter officer, a national student representative, and a member of the board of directors. I was the first woman to chair the AISES board of directors.
In the sixth grade, I was very interested in architecture, but I knew I was not an artist. I also enjoyed math and solving problems so I looked into the engineering profession. I attended a "minority introduction to engineering" program as a high school junior and I discovered that civil engineers worked on a variety of interesting public projects, which included work with architects. This program solidified my decision to become an engineer.
My family and teachers always encouraged me to attend college and I knew that a college education was necessary to pursue a rewarding career. My parents are both my role models and mentors. As a tribal leader, my father showed me that I needed to use my skills to assist other American Indians. Before my mother's death, she guided me as a working woman and mother.
I love to solve problems. I also enjoy discovering ways to influence others to assist with these challenges. As a project leader, I enjoyed working with other engineers and our customers. When I analyzed structural problems, I realized how important my work is to the safety of my customers.
One of the earliest challenges I faced was in continuing my structural engineering studies following the 1989 California bay-area earthquake. I was a first quarter graduate student at Stanford when the earthquake hit. Through prayer and reflection, I understood my unique role as an American Indian engineer. I must use my best knowledge to design structures for earthquake resistance, but my cultural heritage taught me the wisdom that engineers ultimately cannot control Mother Nature and we have to accept the consequences from natural phenomena.
Sandra Begay Cambell
Sandra Begay Cambell