Graduate student sharing Native American language and culture

Student Spotlight
Benjamin Parker, applied and computational mathematics graduate student

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Benjamin Parker, right, teaches classes on Native American culture and language while studying as a graduate student in applied and computational mathematics. He is pictured here with Heather Yazzie-Kinlacheeny, a fellow graduate of Dartmouth College.

After earning an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, Ben Parker came to RIT to study applied and computational mathematics in pursuit of a master’s degree. In between his classes and thesis research, Parker finds time to stay involved in numerous campus groups, including the Native American Student Association where he holds language and culture classes and movie nights. These are scheduled around the group’s meetings. Upcoming meetings are on March 22 and April 5 in the Global Village Conference Room 400-2055A, located next to the Study Abroad Office and above Salsarita’s. For more information, contact

Question: Where are you from?
Answer: I was born and raised in Seattle, Wash. I am of Squaxin, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe and Cree descent.

Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: I liked the possibilities and flexibility I had with research. Linley Logan, a friend and RIT alumnus, attended RIT when he was my age as well.

Q: What has been your favorite thing about RIT so far?
A: I would have to say the atmosphere. Everyone I’ve met—students and faculty—are very friendly. That, and the RIT Hackathon.

Q: What organizations are you involved in at RIT?
A: Right now, I am president of the Native American Student Association. I am also a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Future Stewards Program, the American Mathematical Society and RIT Global Union. I also served on the Club Advisory Board this past winter quarter.

Q: What sorts of activities do these groups do?
A: The American Indian Science and Engineering Society will host the Region 6 AISES Conference on April 12–14. We will hold workshops and campus tours aimed at Native high school students and undergraduate students who are looking to continue their education, learn more about college life and network with potential employers. The Native American Student Association has upcoming general meetings at 4 p.m. on March 22 and April 5.

Q: How do you feel being a graduate student differs from being an undergraduate?
A: Aside from the classes and workload, I see more similarities than differences. Being a teaching assistant has shown me that we both have our struggles and need breaks from work, even if it’s something we enjoy. I like this because it puts me in two positions at once—being the student and the teacher. It allows me to understand the feeling of relief that someone is there to help, even if this happens just during class. Graduate students need a nudge every now and then, too.

Q: What advice would you give to other RIT students?
A: Try things that are new to you and outside of your bubble, and go to as many student-led events as possible. You’ll be able to branch out, meet new people and possibly get a free meal.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?
A: After graduation, I am taking a year off from school and working. I also plan to apply to Ph.D. programs in mathematics this coming fall, specifically in scientific computing.

Matt Gregory compiles “Student Spotlights” for University News. Contact him at with suggestions.