AFMC Command News

Native American Heritage Month mentoring event focuses on indigenous innovation, opportunity

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson
  • Air Force Materiel Command

As part of the ongoing effort to bring diverse ideas and experiences forward through the mentoring process, Air Force Materiel Command Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility hosted a Native American Heritage Month Cross-Cultural Mentoring Panel Nov. 16.

Dennis D’Angelo, Executive Director, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, facilitated the discussion. Panel members came from communities local to AFMC installations and included Dr. Johnny Poolaw, Director of Student Success for American Indian Science and Engineering Society; Dr. Maurice Godfrey, Professor, Munroe-Meyer Institute; Dr. Liliana Bronner, Clinical Education Manager and Director of Medial Pathways, University of Nebraska Medical Center; and Victor Cope, Title IX Indian Education for Tecumseh Public Schools and Pastor of the First Indian Baptist Church of Moore, Oklahoma.

Many of the panel members are educators and focus their efforts on introducing students who live in remote areas of the United States to fields of study they might not have considered. Their efforts allow students to see what professions and opportunities are possible beyond their local communities.

They panelists emphasized how the rich indigenous culture can move science forward. For example, many Native American innovations in plant-based health and medicine contribute to today’s pharmaceuticals, including the concept of vaccines.

“American Indian knowledge and all of the related innovations and goods and technologies have had a huge impact in medicine, engineering, astronomy and math,” said Bronner, “I recently heard that more than 50 present-day medications were developed by examining the use of plant extracts that were used in traditional native medicine.”

The panelists also answered questions from the field and spoke about how mentoring and being mentored by those with different viewpoints and values only strengthens and diversifies the organization.

“A student once told me that my course in multi-cultural studies was the most important class he ever took as he went out into the world,” said Cope. “I taught them about a world that is vast and how important it is to understand and dialogue with others in order to grow.”

Cross-cultural mentoring events give different demographic groups a place to support each other while also educating Airmen and civilians on how they might seek a mentor or become a better mentor to someone who is unlike themselves.

D’Angelo closed the session with an African proverb appropriate to the topic of cross-cultural mentoring: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

The recorded event can be viewed at:   

Additional information on mentoring, resources for learning and future panel events is available on the mentoring feature page of the AFMC website at The next Cross-Cultural Mentoring event will be held in February 2024 and will feature Black History Month.