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For Immediate Release 



  Eric Davis, Marketing & Communications Director

                505.424.2351, or 


Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)  
2020 Commencement Keynote Address 
to be Delivered by  
   United States Poet Laureate and IAIA Alumna
Joy Harjo

Virtual Ceremony to Take Place 
Saturday, August 22, 2020 at 11:00 am MDT
SANTA FE, N.M. - July 14, 2020. 

Two-term United States Poet Laureate and IAIA Alumna Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation) '68 has been selected to give the Institute of American Indian Arts' 2020 commencement address at 11:00 am on Saturday, August 22, 2020 .  

After consulting with New Mexico health authorities, faculty, staff, and students, IAIA has made the difficult decision to conduct a virtual graduation ceremony. As with other changes resulting from the pandemic, this one is especially disappointing for everyone at IAIA that have been looking forward to an in-person celebration in honor of the class of 2020's achievements.   However, the safety and health of the students and the IAIA community have remained the highest priority.   
The ceremony will include recorded and live-streamed speeches from the class Valedictorian, MFA Creative Writing Program student speaker, Faculty of the Year, IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee), Board of Trustees Chair Loren Kieve (Cherokee), and Joy Harjo.   

The program also will be comprised of a video montage announcing each graduating student in their cap and gowns or regalia as well as honor songs and footage of students, staff and faculty.   In addition to participating in this virtual ceremony, graduates will have the option to take part in the 2021 graduation ceremony  as well.

T o stream the event on-line, p lease visit   on the morning of commencement.

In addition to delivering the commencement address live from campus, Harjo will also be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree during the ceremony. Previous recipients of the IAIA Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree have included notable persons such as Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo), George Rivera (Pojoaque Pueblo), Dan Namingha (Hopi-Tewa), Kevin Red Star (Crow), Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee), James Luna (Luiseño), N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), Tony Abeyta (Navajo), Dave Warren (Santa Clara Pueblo), David Bradley (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe), and Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw).

Joy Har­jo, the 23rd Poet Lau­re­ate of the Unit­ed States, is a mem­ber of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hick­o­ry Ground). Born in Tul­sa, Okla­homa, she left home to attend high school at the inno­v­a­tive Insti­tute of Amer­i­can Indi­an Arts. Har­jo began writ­ing poet­ry as a mem­ber of the Uni­ver­si­ty of New Mexico's Native stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion, the Kiva Club, in response to Native empow­er­ment move­ments. She went on to earn her MFA at the Iowa Writ­ers' Work­shop and teach Eng­lish, Cre­ative Writ­ing, and Amer­i­can Indi­an Stud­ies at Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-Los Ange­les, Uni­ver­si­ty of New Mex­i­co, Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona, Ari­zona State, Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois, Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado, Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai'i, Insti­tute of Amer­i­can Indi­an Arts, and Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, while per­form­ing music and poet­ry nation­al­ly and internationally.

Har­jo is the author of nine books of poet­ry, includ­ing her most recent, the high­ly acclaimed An Amer­i­can Sun­rise (2019); Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion for Holy Beings (2015), which was short­list­ed for the Grif­fin Prize and named a Notable Book of the Year by the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion; The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), which received the Okla­homa Book Award; and In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an Amer­i­can Book Award and the Del­more Schwartz Memo­r­i­al Award. Her mem­oir, Crazy Brave, was award­ed the PENUSA Lit­er­ary Award in Cre­ative Non Fic­tion and the Amer­i­can Book Award. She has also pub­lished two award-win­ning children's books, The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becom­ing; a col­lab­o­ra­tion with photographer/ astronomer Stephen Strom; an anthol­o­gy of North Amer­i­can Native women's writ­ing; sev­er­al screen­plays and col­lec­tions of prose inter­views; and three plays, includ­ing Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morn­ing Light, A Play, which she toured as a one-woman show and was recent­ly pub­lished by Wes­leyan Press. She is Exec­u­tive Edi­tor of the forth­com­ing anthol­o­gy When the Light of the World was Sub­dued, Our Songs Came Through - A Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Native Nations Poet­ry, to be released in 2020.

Har­jo per­forms on sax­o­phone and flutes -- solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynam­ics Band, and pre­vi­ous­ly with Joy Har­jo and Poet­ic Jus­tice. She/they have toured across the U.S. and in Europe, South Amer­i­ca, India, Africa, and Cana­da. Har­jo has pro­duced five award-win­ning music albums includ­ing Wind­ing Through the Milky Way, for which she was award­ed a NAM­MY for Best Female Artist of the year.

Harjo's awards for poet­ry include the Ruth Lily Prize for Life­time Achieve­ment from the Poet­ry Foun­da­tion, the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets Wal­lace Stevens Award, the New Mex­i­co Governor's Award for Excel­lence in the Arts, a PENUSA Lit­er­ary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund Writ­ers' Award, a Ras­mu­son US Artist Fel­low­ship, two NEA fel­low­ships, and a Guggen­heim Fellowship.
In addi­tion to serv­ing as U.S. Poet Lau­re­ate, Har­jo is a chan­cel­lor of the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets, holds a Tul­sa Artist Fel­low­ship, directs For Girls Becom­ing, an arts men­tor­ship pro­gram for young Mvskoke women, and is a found­ing board mem­ber of the Native Arts and Cul­tures Foun­da­tion. She lives in Tul­sa, Oklahoma.

Joy Harjo

IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee) commented   " Congratulations  Class of 2020!   I express my heartfelt gratitude and pride for the resilience and determination they have demonstrated in confronting the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Their success in completing the academic year and graduating is testament to their commitment, passion, sacrifice, and persistence.
I applaud each and every one of them for remaining focused on achieving their academic goal of earning a postsecondary degree or certificate. I t is also an incredible honor for IAIA and our 2020 graduating class for Joy to join us on this day of celebration to deliver the commencement address.  Also, the awarding of an honorary doctorate will provide an opportunity for IAIA to acknowledge and express our admiration to one of our alumna for her outstanding contributions to IAIA, Native arts and cultures, New Mexico, and the nation".

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Offering undergraduate degrees in  Studio Arts, Creative Writing, Cinematic Arts and Technology, Indigenous Liberal Studies, Museum Studies, and  Performing Arts  -- an  MFA in Creative Writing  -- along with certificates in  Business and Entrepreneurship, Museum Studies, and  Native American Art History  -- IAIA is the only college in the nation dedicated to the study of contemporary Native arts. The school serves approximately 500 full time equivalent (FTE) Native and non-Native American college students from across the globe.  IAIA is accredited by the  Higher Learning Commission  -- and is the only college in New Mexico accredited by the  National Association of Schools of Art and Design

About IAIA  -- For over 50 years, the Institute of American Indian Arts has played a key role in the direction and shape of Native expression. With an internationally acclaimed college, museum, and tribal support resource through our Land Grant Programs, IAIA is dedicated to the study and advancement of Native arts and cultures -- and committed to student achievement and the preservation and progress of their communities.  Learn more about IAIA and our mission at
The Institute of American Indian Arts Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.  To make a donation on-line, please click here -- or call toll free: 1.800.804.6423.