Daphne Hooper, the former city manager of Fernley, Nevada, was hired as the new director of community Indigenous relations for the University of Nevada, Reno in May 2022 after a nationwide search and interviews with a search committee composed of various University members.
“I have worked in public service for over 20 years, which started with working in tribal communities, community non-profits and then in local government,” Hooper said.
The position highlights a few overarching roles: focusing on external Indigenous relations, on-campus policy and Indigenous student retention as well as providing counsel to the University’s president.
“Our University is proud to welcome Daphne Hooper, a community leader with years of prior experience in public service,” University President Brian Sandoval said. “Not only am I confident in Daphne’s abilities to help increase support for our Indigenous students on campus but also to increase the University’s collaboration with the tribal communities in Northern Nevada.”
Hooper received her Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of California, Davis in 1992, her Master of Arts in organizational management from the University of Phoenix in 2004 and her Master of Science in community economic development from Southern New Hampshire University in 2008. Most recently, she received her public leadership credential in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School earlier this summer.
Prior to her 10-year career working with the City of Fernley, Hooper served as the executive director of Nevada Urban Indians – a nonprofit organization focused on improving the well-being of Native peoples and other marginalized members of the community by providing resources like health care, social services, cultural awareness and education.
“Over two years ago, a group of us worked together to establish the Nevada Tribal Leadership Development Program, and we have also been working with some tribes on strategic planning,” Hooper said. “With these experiences, I felt it was a great opportunity to work with communities to not only work toward building bridges for education but also an opportunity for the University to provide resources to support our Native communities.”
Hooper’s background in Indigenous organizations, as well as working in local government and other public service positions have equipped her for both the communications side of her job duties as well as the implementation and policy side.
“[In the past, I helped] develop youth and community programs within tribal communities, developing collaborative efforts, funding and policy development, budgeting and general administration,” Hooper said.
Additionally, she emphasized building connections with Indigenous students to help them to finish their degrees.
“It is critical for the University to build bridges to pave the way for Native students to attend and complete their education,” Hooper said. “It is also important for the University to provide resources through training and other means to support opportunities to tribal communities.”
Hooper’s prior experience allowed her to come into this position with goals already in mind as well as the necessary steps to start acting on them.
“One of the biggest goals is to begin to build relationships with the tribal communities,” she said. “I have started to reach out to the communities and will begin making visits throughout the state to listen and understand how the University might work with the tribal communities.”
By collaborating directly with tribal communities in Nevada, Hooper hopes to work with current and potential students to find out exactly how the University is already supporting them and what else the University can do to actively support their education.
“The first thing we must do is identify what resources are currently in place,” Hooper said. “We want to support the efforts that have been made and currently exist and look for opportunities to fill in potential gaps. This position must work collaboratively with others throughout the University and the community to establish resources that may be needed.”
Despite being well-prepared due to her experience, Hooper still acknowledges that actively providing resources to students will be the hardest part of her job.
“The hardest thing will be to make sure we have the resources and support to make a difference. Everyone is busy, and we must all work together to support our Native students and communities,” she said. “It’s going to take time. We have to establish relationships and develop teams that can move things forward.”
Even though Hooper has only been in this position for a little more than a month now, she is confident in both herself and her prior experiences to help better the University for its Indigenous students.
“Everyone has been very welcoming, and I have enjoyed meeting new people. I look forward to working with everyone and developing a plan to move things forward,” Hooper said.