Three-time ASU grad advocates for Native students in higher education
For Kris Beecher, the Great Recession was a catalyst for positive change, spurring him to leave a career in manufacturing to pursue a degree at Arizona State University and a career path more aligned with his community.
Now, as a three-time ASU alumnus, Beecher is using his education, passions and skills to advocate for Native American students and serve his community through his career as an attorney.
“Navajo culture teaches me that I have a responsibility to the community to make sure that I give back,” said Beecher, who is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. “I've been very lucky to have all sorts of opportunities and I need to open those opportunities up for other members of my community, specifically the Native American community. That kind of opportunity is what pushed me to go back to school and reassess what I wanted to do for a career.”
Beecher got his start at ASU in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in communication in 2016. In 2020, Beecher earned two concurrent degrees from ASU, a JD degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and a master’s degree in business from the W. P. Carey School of Business.
As a father of two young girls, Beecher said it was challenging at times to balance schoolwork with family life, but with the support of his wife and professors he was able to succeed.
“Going to school wasn’t always easy. Having a family while going back to school was a different experience in and of itself,” he said. “My wife also went back to school at the same time, so my kids really grew up on the campus in many different ways, even attending classes when the circumstances called for it. But my experience was great from that standpoint as well, because as a parent, things came up, and all my professors were always very accommodating, making sure that I had the help I needed.”
Upon graduating, he accepted a position as an associate attorney with Dickinson Wright, a prominent law firm based out of Detroit, Michigan, with offices around the country. He will start in his new role in March.
Beecher has continued to remain involved with ASU, mentoring Native students and serving on the School of Politics and Global Studies advisory board. He shared his advice for students, his plans for the future and what his greatest motivations are.
Question: How did your political science program help prepare you for your career?
Answer: The School of Politics and Global Studies gives students an opportunity to get out there and interact with their local and state community and government organizations. For me, that just really opened up a lot of opportunities. One of my first internships was for the city of Chandler in their economic development division. One of my aspirations is to help Native American tribes with economic development, and Chandler was a great city to learn from because they have really great economic development and are moving in the right direction. I also got to do a legislative internship in the state Capitol. That opportunity really helped me connect with many of the state’s political players and put me in contact with all sorts of resources that I continue to work with to this day. Another opportunity was getting to be a junior fellow and a teaching assistant for Senior Lecturer Gina Woodall in her women in politics class and our internships class. All of these experiences were unique and very valuable.
Q: What has been your biggest motivation to succeed professionally?
A: I think my biggest motivation is helping people in the Native American community aspire to go to college or trade school — anything post-high school. I think it's great to have skill sets that can carry you in any direction that you want. I feel that one of my callings and obligations is to open those opportunities up for other Native American students because the system itself isn't necessarily encouraging for Native American students. So one of my roles as someone with a higher education is to make sure I go back and open those avenues up and create those opportunities for others to be successful in the same way I was.
Q: What advice would you give to students in The College?
A: Go to office hours, connect with the professors and remember that they really want to be there and they want you to be there and be successful. Interacting with your professors, especially on the regular, can create other opportunities. Although most of this is being done over Zoom now, I still think it's a really useful way to connect and ask those questions that maybe aren't always about something that's in the curriculum. Ask those questions that maybe help inform what kind of career path you take.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in 10 years?
A: My hope is to recruit, motivate and encourage Native American students to take positions of leadership and to utilize their education and experience to go back and help their communities in any way possible. I also want to make sure that the opportunities that I've been afforded are opened up to all Native American students, bringing them to the quality that should have been there from the get-go, but we're continuing to work on things like internet service, electricity and water — those basic fundamentals that many people in urban centers take for granted. I'm encouraged by how many people of Native American communities are joining governments and being a part of the policy talks. It's an exciting time. But there has to be this continued push. In the next 10 years as my career in law and policy continues to evolve, it’s crucial for me to make sure that I open up even more opportunities for the people coming up right behind me.