Community member is now a Stanford grad

July 20, 2018


Aaron J. Tothsoni

Gila River Indian News


District 3 Community member Joseph Manuel Jr. graduated this past spring from a world top-10 university, a huge accomplishment but it wasn’t without trials. In the end, personal growth and determination helped Manuel Jr. return and finish his degree, a Bachelors of Arts from the School of Humanities & Sciences at Stanford University.


A Science, Technology and Society major with a concentration in Innovation and Organization, Manuel Jr. started on the Farm in September 2010 after graduating the spring prior from Basha High School in Chandler.


After starting in 2010, Manuel stayed at Stanford through March 2012 before taking a three-year break. Returning to summer school in June 2015, Manuel Jr. planned for his major and political science minor classes to be completed by 2018.


With his degree completed, Manuel Jr. made the decision to return home with plans to enter the workforce.

“I thought about staying in the Bay and working for a tech company,” said Manuel Jr. “I figured I’d come back and help the Community somehow and apply [for a job] here. There are different opportunities here and there but I am still figuring it out now. I got a scholarship from the Community and I figured I should give back in a tangible way.”


In comparison to other universities, Stanford uses a quarter system compared to semesters, which meant it moved at an accelerated rate squeezing semester-length classes into shorter timeframes.


“If you fall behind it’s hard to get back on track,” said Manuel Jr. “Time moves by fast and slow there. Time moves by slow day-to-day but moves by quick week-to-week and next thing you know it’s the end of the school year.”


Other challenges that Manuel Jr. said are important to remember are mental health issues and identity struggles. According to Manuel Jr. the urban setting can easily lead one to forget their identity and “get lost.”


Of things that Manuel Jr. enjoyed about his time attending Stanford was the Native American community that included members from the Navajo, Lakota, Ponca and Cherokee Tribes. Manuel Jr. also said there was one other Akimel O’otham, Noah Anselmo, from South Pasadena, Calif. that attended school alongside him.


One of his favorite memories was when the Native Community would host a candlelight vigil in White Plaza on Indigenous Peoples Day. Manuel Jr. served a term as co-chair of the Stanford American Indian Organization.


The biggest culture shock that Manuel Jr. saw was the liberal atmosphere of Northern California’s wealthy, tech-driven area compared to the conservative Arizona state that he grew up in.


“I’ve gotten a lot of education just by talking to people,” he said. “You have to be more educated on issues…even saying certain words and certain things that I never really thought about before because its normal [in Arizona] but isn’t necessarily okay there.”


When asked, what advice he would give to any Community members seeking a higher education at a top-level university, Manuel Jr. replied “Go all in for your education. It will expand your mind and make you a better person.”


Ending up in Palo Alto was in direct relation to a project that he worked on while attending Basha High School. In his English class, the students were instructed to research two in-state schools and a dream school to learn about the classes they offered, tuition prices and cities they are in.


From that assignment, Manuel Jr. found that he wanted to attend Stanford University since it aligned with what he was looking for in a school.


Now, Manuel Jr. will find his footing in the workplace but eventually wants to return to school for a master’s degree and work his way up to earning his doctorate. While he would attend Stanford in the future, Manuel Jr. may find himself on the East Coast, where he almost went for undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania.