Adam Bad Wound
By Michelle Armstrong
Adam Bad Wound is a name that stands out from the crowd, and the same is true of the man behind the moniker. "For me, it's not about making money, but I'm guided by my mind," and he finds his appetite for knowledge "nourished by my academic environment." A descendant of a Sioux tribal chief reputed for his peaceful and diplomatic nature, Adam himself displays the same qualities. He arrived at Teachers College by way of Montana as well as his family's new hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota. As an undergraduate at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, he pursued studies as a triple major in religion, music, and American Racial and Multicultural Studies in which he concentrated in history and sociology. While at the school, it became apparent to him there was no student network established for others like himself of either American Indian heritage or with an interest in the culture. "It's a funny story," Adam recalls as he speaks about starting the Talking Circle student organization at St. Olaf to fill this void. "I found a lot of people who were interested and saw it as an opportunity to learn."
During the summer between his junior and senior years at STO, the McNair Scholars Program at the University of Minnesota selected Adam to engage in a research initiative while also providing mentorship and academic workshops as it sought to prepare students for enrollment in graduate school. He conducted research at the Indian Community School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he says "it was nice to see a school with plenty of resources, plenty of money, and doing good work. It was so good to see students learning and having a cultural component [included in their education]." Adam says that he thought to himself, "These kids are so lucky."
Participating in the program sparked Adam's interest in education. He started to think about his future, but felt it was too late at that point to pursue a teaching career since his coursework over the past three years had not been in preparation for the profession. "[The McNair Scholar's Program] really changed my direction; I knew that education would be meaningful to me." He thought teaching was the only way by which to enter the field, but a member of the STO faculty pointed Adam towards TC. His interest in college access prompted him to apply to the Master's program in Higher and Postsecondary Education to which he was accepted for Fall 2002. "For me, it feels very fulfilling." Adam's coursework has afforded him the opportunity to read works by esteemed scholars such as Maxine Greene and John Dewey. He identifies parallels between his studies at the College and those at St. Olaf, particularly in liberation theology as an undergraduate. "I saw the ways I oppressed myself. My self-esteem began to grow, and I was freed from external and internal oppression. It was a ‘coming of age' experience for me." Feeling "philosophically liberated from material, social, and political oppression," Adam remembers that he became so intrigued by what he was learning that he developed insomnia. Sleepless nights fueled by a new outlook on his life and on the world provided him time to draft his life's mission statement:
I believe in the power of education and its capacity to liberate individuals and communities from social, political, and material oppression for the promotion of knowledge, fellowship, and proactive freedom. It is my devotion to this belief, with the acknowledgement that my days on earth are limited, that I persist-committed to integrity, justice, and love.
"It's almost like a religion," Adam expresses. "No matter what career [I choose], I want to be advancing my mission statement."
But for Adam, the only career option is one in academia. "It would be a dream come true to be a professor." He says that despite the fact that others might consider his age of 23 as too young to definitively know his calling, he "feels it's right" for him. To nurture this desire, he is applying to the Ph.D. program in sociology and education. Adam hopes to examine educational policy (in which he is currently concentrating in the Higher Education program) from a sociological perspective. As an individual who remembers an economically disadvantaged childhood, he says, "If I can obtain a Ph.D., it gives me hope for everybody. This [experience] is surreal. When I grew up in Montana, I never thought it would be possible." He says the sociology and education program "really aligns with my intellectual curiosity," and he has already taken a class at Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Science in classical sociological theory that can also serve to fulfill one of the doctoral requirements.
Outside of his academics at the College, Adam's experiences have included working as the Assistant Director of Programming in its Office of Community and Diversity with Special Counsel to the President Janice Robinson. His responsibilities involved planning monthly happy hours and other projects designed to bring the TC community together. "It was interesting to observe how communities manifest. I got to create that environment and participate in it." Adam met union members, administrators, and faculty as the contact person for these events. "People were thirsty for programs and wanted to make connections." Not only does he call the work that he did with the office "very rewarding" and "a great time," but he also speaks of an excellent working relationship with Robinson. "We couldn't have clicked better," says Adam, and he considers her a mentor. Adam is now the Transfer of Credits Coordinator for the College's Admissions Office.
While his scholarly interests are broad at this point, he notes a couple of specific areas on which he would like to focus. Thinking back to the Indian Community School, he is intrigued by self-segregation, but from the perspective of the ways in which groups with common identities come together for networking and support. This ties into his interest in the Harvey Milk School in New York, the nation's first public high school for gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Adam himself came out while at STO and e-mailed about 80 people once he made the decision to do so. At that point, he says, he was "able to be myself," and in fact, was selected as senior speaker of his STO class. "It was an honor, symbolic that I had made a difference and could be a visible role model." Adam is a long way from the comforts of home, but he says, "To live in New York and be who I am feels good. I really feel like this is the place for me. The world I come from is very different from the world I'm in, [but] what I'm doing is what I need to be doing."