Isabel Yasana Hawley

GU graduate student, Isabel Yasana Hawley, uses her degree to connect with her culture.

Isabel Yasana Hawley is a graduate student at Gonzaga University striving to develop a career that positively impacts her community and future generations. Hawley is one of two winners of the REDW Native American Scholarship in Accounting and is pursuing a Masters in Business Administration in American Indian Entrepreneurship.  

The scholarship, administered by the American Indian Graduate Center, provides merit-based need for students pursuing degrees in accounting, taxation or business administration. It is sponsored by REDW, one of the Southwest’s 10 largest public accounting and business advisory firms, and helps Native Americans pursuing higher education degrees in those fields. 

“I have always known that I wanted to pursue higher education,” Hawley said. “The MBA-AIE degree is so unique compared to anything else out there which is what really sparked my interest.”  

Hawley graduated from Southern Oregon University in 2012 with a bachelor’s in business administration and health and physical education and a minor in Native American studies. She was involved at her university in clubs and athletics, playing volleyball, participating in multicultural clubs and volunteering within the community.  

Throughout her life, Hawley has been playing in All-Indian Ball tournaments as a way to keep up with her love for basketball.   

“That was a way I kept active and kept my passion alive, but it also keeps me connected to my community,” Hawley said.  

Hawley is an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribes, and is Klamath, Modoc and Filipina. She grew up in Coos Bay, Oregon, location of the traditional villages of the Coquille, Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw people.  

Inspired by her family, Hawley is connected to her cultures and strives to empower her community. Her mom, a retired English teacher of 31 years was involved with the National Indian Education Association and her sister works at the Native American Rehabilitation Association. Hawley and her husband, Kellen, strive to pass on their cultures and traditions from their backgrounds to their 4-year-old daughter.  

“I’m so passionate about my community, my culture and giving back, which is why I’m working toward earning this degree,” Hawley said.  

She and her family are learning Klamath through their Tribe’s language program in weekly Zoom meetings.  

Hawley has worked at Nike since 2011, starting as an intern before returning as a contract worker and eventually moving to a full-time position in digital brand marketing, where she  worked for the last five years. In January, she started a new role in Unite / Value Brand Marketing.  

One of her favorite parts of Nike is the volunteer networks within the organization. Hawley is on the NikeUNITED Native American and Friends network (NAN) leadership team as chief of staff.  NAN focuses on recruitment, retention and educational opportunities internally for employees. They strive to increase representation, provide educational opportunities and develop community within Nike.  

She has also worked with Nike’s N7 program, a fund that supports organizations that deliver programs and services, focusing on physical activity and education, to Native American youth.

“What has kept me whole in this corporate space is being able to work with our NikeUNITED Native American and Friends network,” Hawley said. “With my experience at Nike and at N7 I feel like I have been able to come across these opportunities that I would have never dreamed of.”  

Hawley is working full-time at Nike while pursuing the MBA-AIE degree, doing the most for herself and her family in order to give back to her community. She aspires to pursue a doctorate after, but has not decided what the exact focus will be.  

“I don’t know what I want to study, all I know is that I want to give back to my community through it and be able to teach others,” Hawley said.  

Through her dedication to community and empowerment, Hawley has made an impact on those she has met in the MBA-AIE program.  

Mirjeta Beqiri, MBA programs director and professor of operations management, could not be more excited for Hawley’s accomplishment.  

“What has impressed me most about Izzy is her dedication to her studies and her perseverance to excel,” Beqiri said. “Her positive attitude, graciousness and care for others, especially during this incredibly challenging time, are highly valued. She exemplifies Gonzaga’s highest ideals.” 

One of Hawley’s peers in the MBA program and executive director at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, Meg Miller, recently hired REDW LLC  to do accounting and financial audits for her organization. She has been very impressed with the firm and its reputation in the industry, making Hawley’s selection as the scholarship winner even more significant.   

“I think a lot of Izzy, she’s an incredible person and a great colleague,” Miller said. “She can see how upstream accounting would have affected her projects in the past and can affect her future projects. She can help everybody see things through that lens in such a unique manner.” 

Through all of the hard work and challenges Hawley has faced, she is guided by a quote from American civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman. “You can’t be what you can’t see” has motivated Hawley to pave a path for other Indigenous women to follow in becoming leaders in both corporate America and their own communities.  

“There needs to be an increase in representation in leadership roles for our Native American tribes in all sectors,” Hawley said. “I want to inspire others, especially those coming from my community, to be able to pursue a degree in business, feel empowered to share their voice, increase our visibility and Indigenize corporate spaces and beyond.”

Sydney Fluker is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @sydneymfluker.

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