Gerald Shorty: Indigenizing psychology The Independent
The Advice Center added a new staff member, Gerald Shorty, Deputy Director of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives, this semester.
Born in Shiprock, Shorty attended Nenahnezad boarding school as a child, he said. It was an adjustment coming from that academic setting at Shiprock High School, and later, college.
Shorty concentrated his studies in criminology at San Juan College, then went on to study at the University of New Mexico where he would receive his bachelor’s degree in criminology with a minor in psychology, he said.
Coming from a background of poverty and academic disadvantage on the reservation, Shorty said he felt unprepared during his time in college. He said he took responsibility and needed to engage with his institution to see change.
Influenced by the community, Shorty decided to pursue a career as a lawyer, he said.
Originally, Shorty wanted to defend the rights to water and land, as well as other resources with which indigenous communities face disparities, once he returned to the reservation as a lawyer, he said. His plan changed when he took psychology classes at UNM and his career path eventually changed when he spent time as a legal assistant at Law and Resource Planning Associates in Albuquerque, a-t -he declares.
“I recognized how I could still help my community or just people in general, by providing counseling services,” he said.
Moving from law to psychology, Shorty said Indigenous peoples are often underrepresented in the field of psychology. Supporting students interested in the field is a priority, he said.
There is a way to understand Indigenous patients through cultural competency training, through a process of asking questions and connecting during counselling, he said.
Kaitlyn Painter, president of the Aboriginal Society of Psychologists at Fort Lewis College, who identifies as Inupiac, said she would describe cultural competence in counseling as keeping an open mind to those you work with. and the people you serve.
With his new title, Shorty soaked up information from conversations between professors and students. Shorty said he hopes to understand the Indigenous student population and develop ideas to better meet their needs.
Through literature and data, Shorty said he can understand what the Indigenous community on campus may be going through. However, it was the conversations he had that really impacted his understanding of the Indigenous experience here at FLC, he said.
From there, he hopes to provide surveys to offer workshops and events to those who need them.
Since his time here, Shorty has been attending ISP meetings and having conversations with members, he said.
In one meeting, the lack of representation at the counseling center was mentioned by a student, Painter said. The student described his reluctance to receive treatment at the counseling center because he felt the counselors did not understand where he came from, she said.
With Shorty joining the counseling center staff, she hopes to see change, Kaitlyn said.
“It’s his first semester here, and there’s already so much I see in the works when it comes to bringing in more cultural perspectives.” she says.
As a member of the Society of Indian Psychologists, Shorty appreciates and likes to see the Native Society of Psychologists club offered as a student organization on campus, he said.
“I like how they’ve created their own student branch here,” he said. “It says a lot about the students here and the student organization that they are driven and ready to be creative and change things based on their needs and goals.”
Painter, who will be graduating this spring, hopes to see Shorty become involved with FLC’s Indigenous Society of Psychologists in the future. He received support from her to provide personal experience and guidance in graduate universities, she said.
“He comes and he talks with us and he laughs with us and he shares stories with us,” she said.
Indigenous students at Fort Lewis College have shown resilience to succeed in higher education, Shorty said. That’s what made his time here fun and exciting, he said.
“I love the energy and the ambitions of the students and the desire to make a difference,” he said. “They are an inspiration.”
That’s what makes working with students so rewarding, Shorty said. Indigenous students may come from the same background as him, he said.
The goal as a counselor is to get students where they need to be in order to achieve their goals of bringing what they learned back to their hometown, as he wanted, Shorty said.
“I love seeing other Aboriginal people succeed! he said, “That’s the best part when you know they’re successful and you know they’re doing well.”