HESD Student Addresses Needs of Native American Communities, One Student at a Time
In 2018, Matthew Holgate stepped foot on Vanguard University's campus, not knowing how much that place would impact his trajectory. Now, Holgate is a first-year student in Wheaton Graduate School's Higher Education and Student Development program. However, long before his story brought him to Wheaton, he was already discovering his passion for supporting college students.
Matthew, a Navajo from Flagstaff, Arizona, is the son of the Native American Assemblies of God pastors Jackie and Lenora Holgate, who lead Mountaintop Church in Flagstaff and engage in compassion relief efforts. While Matthew knew at a younger age that he was called to address the hardships in his native community, as a student leader and eventually the student body president at Vanguard, he found a new way of advocating for the change – through holistic support of Native American college students.
Since Native Americans comprise less than 1% of the U.S. undergraduate and graduate student population, these students' stories are infrequently captured in higher education research. However, Matthew has a very good idea of what they need to flourish. Holgate's participation in various student development offices and student government, along with guidance from incredible mentors, pushed his interest toward higher education after graduating from Vanguard University in May 2022.
Currently, Holgate serves as the Director of Student Life at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) American Indian College (AIC), a regionally accredited private Christian college campus, and the only Christian college campus in the nation that primarily attracts and serves Native American students. SAGU AIC is committed to every student's academic, professional, and spiritual development, guided by its mission to "equipping Native Americans for Christian Service, emphasizing Biblical truths and academic excellence within a Christian Community."
Holgate is committed to creating an inclusive and hospitable faith and academic community to support the growth of every student. "My goal is to offer our students an atmosphere of authentic celebration, honoring their experiences and stories," Matthew shared in a recent conversation with Dr. Olga Dietlin, Program Director of Wheaton's Higher Education and Student Development Program, where program faculty members aspire the same goals – through the program curriculum, mentoring, and holistic support.
Matthew is a member of the first cohort of the West Coast Partnership, the HESD Program's initiative to collaborate with Christian colleges to co-train and support higher education professionals.