Seven-generation solutions

Premed student Hannah Balderas makes a difference in hopes of impacting lives well into future

Hannah Balderas

Hannah Balderas, a pre-med student from Twin Buttes, N.D., and a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, aspires to be a physician who brings a traditional touch to medicine for the people who reside in and around her hometown. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

What you do affects the seventh generation.

Hannah Balderas always keeps in mind the American Indian principle decisions she makes will affect descendants seven generations into the future.

“I want to be a physician and help the seventh generation,” said Balderas. “What you do now affects that generation.”

That’s why, whenever an opportunity pops up, Balderas just says “yes.”

The psychology and pre-med senior from Twin Buttes, N.D., is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and a third-generation UND student whose mom and grandmother, along with lots of cousins and other relatives, all graduated from UND. They and other family members pushed Balderas to be involved in student organizations when she joined the University.

Balderas took their advice to heart.

Giving voice

She joined AISES, the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, which works to increase the number of American Indians and other groups in STEM careers. It was a great fit.

Since Balderas has been part of AISES, the UND student organization has earned three chapter awards, and Balderas has been named a Sequoyah Fellow, a lifetime member. The program is named in memory of the Cherokee Indian who perfected the Cherokee alphabet. Fellows are recognized for their commitment to STEM and the American Indian community. Fellows are chosen when a donor gives $1,000 to induct a member.

“I was at a national conference and didn’t know I would be inducted,” said Balderas. “It was a surprise. To know that someone would donate $1,000 to AISES to induct me made me cry.”

She currently serves as senior national representative, a liaison between students and the board of directors.

“I want to give students a voice,” Balderas said. “We’re working to target high school students and recruit them before they go to college.”

Hannah Balderas

Balderas joins UND President Mark Kennedy and Vice President for Students Affairs & Diversity Cara Halgren at the opening ceremony for Time Out Week. The week-long observance of American Indian culture and topics culminates with the annual Wacipi celebration at Hyslop Sports Center April 20-21. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Traditional touch

Balderas also serves as the president of the UND Indian Association and the Indian Studies Association, as well as vice president of AISES. Along with that, she serves as an ambassador for American Indian Student Services, tutors for the Indians Into Medicine Program, and works for American Indian Student Services as an office assistant where she helps plan events and Time Out Week, which is taking place this week. The week-long observance of American Indian culture and topics culminates with the annual Wacipi celebration at Hyslop Sports Center April 20-21.

Balderas said her favorite activity is AISES.

“AISES helped me get a second family,” she said. “It’s a national organization, and I’ve made friends all over the country who inspire and motivate me. Now I’m motivating others.”

Balderas credits her experience in student organizations with helping her choose a major.

“I changed majors several times and figured out what I want to do through involvement.”

“Only 12 medical students have graduated from my tribe,” Balderas said. “A lot of the physicians are non-native and don’t understand the culture and who the person is. It’s easier to take care of people when you know their background and incorporate traditional medicines and foods. I want to serve people back home.

“I would not be where I am if I didn’t have people who helped on my journey,” Balderas said. “I didn’t do any of this by myself. Their support helps me continue to do what I want to do.”