Dr. Malia Villegas is the Director of the NCAI Policy Research Center (www.ncai.org/prc). She is an enrolled member of the Native Village of Afognak in Alaska, where she also serves on the Tribal Council. Dr. Villegas is Sugpiaq/Alutiiq (Alaska Native) with family from Kodiak and Afognak Islands in Alaska and O’ahu and Lana’i in Hawai’i. The NCAI Policy Research Center was established in 2003 to provide tribal leaders with the best available knowledge to inform their strategic policy decision within a framework of Native wisdom to positively impact the future of Native peopleShe currently serves as the Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded Native American Research Center for Health project examining the use and dissemination of community-based participatory research (CBPR) practices in Indigenous and minority communities. Dr. Villegas leads a project funded by the Administration for Native Americans designed to celebrate and strengthen Native youth leadership and policy. She also serves as a co-Core Director of an NIH-funded project with Washington University in St. Louis on diabetes-related translation research, lending to her experience with CBPR methodologies and translation science. Most recently, she secured funding from the National Science Foundation to improve tribal-level data quality. Dr. Villegas has extensive experience in tribal governance as she leads projects involving tribal research regulation (including the delivery of the NCAI PRC Research Curriculum as part of tribal workshops and trainings), tribal public health law, and data quality. She serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of American Indian Education and previously served as an Editor of the Harvard Educational Review.
Dr. Villegas earned her master’s degree and doctorate in Culture, Communities, and Education at Harvard University and completed her undergraduate studies at Stanford University. She developed extensive relationships in the South Pacific through her Fulbright-funded dissertation research in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, serving as part of a team evaluating the first, national, longitudinal Indigenous education initiative since the 2008 Apology to the Stolen Generations – the Stronger Smarter Learning Communities Project that seeks to improve the leadership culture of schools serving Indigenous Australians. Her specific research interests include Indigenous philosophies of education, community- and place-based education, sovereignty and nation building, and social and moral development. Dr. Villegas has also served as a Research Fellow for the Alaska Native Policy Center of First Alaskans Institute, where she worked on research and policy related to Alaska Native education, student success, and community development. She co-edited a volume (with S. R. Neugebauer & K. R. Venegas) entitled, Indigenous Knowledge and Education: Sites of Struggle, Strength, and Survivance (Harvard University Press, 2008).