K-State's Red Corn receives O'Brien Award from human rights education group
Monday, Dec. 4, 2023
MANHATTAN — Alex Red Corn, assistant professor of education leadership in Kansas State University's College of Education and citizen of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, has received his second national human rights award this year for his work with Indigenous education.
Human Rights Educators USA, a collaborative network dedicated to human rights education in America, will present Red Corn with the coveted O'Brien Award at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, as part of its virtual Human Rights Day Celebration. The award, created in 2015, honors the memory of Edward O'Brien, a pioneer human rights educator.
Red Corn, co-chair of the Indigenous Faculty and Staff Alliance and coordinator for Indigenous partnerships at K-State, was nominated for the award by the Kansas National Education Association.
"I'm humbled and honored that our community partner in Kansas, the Kansas National Education Association, nominated me for such a meaningful award," Red Corn said. "I want to thank the O'Brien Award review committee for their faith in me to carry on such an important legacy. My favorite part of the work I do is that it is done in community with others, and I must give credit to a large network of supporters, peers and collaborators as co-recipients of this award. There's so much work left to do to improve our education systems to work better for native students, communities and nations. I am excited about what we can accomplish together moving forward."
One nominator summed up Red Corn's passion. "He brings together communities to learn and urges educators to move beyond land acknowledgements to taking action: 'Do you actually want to improve learning about Indigenous peoples and nations? Or are you just trying to check a diversity box? To go beyond the acknowledgement and make them meaningful, we need to have action to go with it.'"
In addition to his full-time teaching position, Red Corn serves as executive director of the Kansas Association for Native American Education, whose mission is "to support, promote, and advocate for the unique educational needs of American Indian/Alaska Native students, families, nations and educators in Kansas."
He collaboratively created the Osage Nation Educational Leadership Academy and serves as chair of the newly minted Kansas Advisory Council for Indigenous Education Working Group. He has also created the Indigenous educational leadership graduate certificate at K-State, which is now in its second cohort.
This summer, Red Corn was also awarded the National Education Association's prestigious Wilma Mankiller Memorial Award.
Red Corn specializes in teaching qualitative research courses and Indigenous leadership courses where he shares his research about the needs of American Indians in education in the university setting and well beyond. He helps current and future educators reexamine curriculum and resources to dispel myths and reframe thinking by including past and present Native American contexts. His work reflects his belief in education as a means for social change.
"Just as our ancestors have always done, we are persistent in asserting our rights to exist as a people," Red Corn said. "Our persistence must triumph over the pernicious status quo we are constantly enduring, because our future depends on it, so we press on."
Nancy Flowers, chair of the O'Brien Award Selection Committee, said it is fitting that Red Corn received the O'Brien Award this year, the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its preamble states that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."
"Dr. Red Corn's work reflects the essential principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Human Rights Educators USA is proud to honor him for his commitment to realizing these principles in the United States," Flowers said.