Congratulations to Nicole McGaa, Recipient of the Distinguished Peer Award for Public Service!

October 26, 2023


Nicole McGaa

Nicole is a leading representative of MIT's Indigenous population and has consistently fought for better representation and support of her relatives and community throughout her time at MIT.

Nicole is the current co-president of the Native American & Indigenous Association. Working closely alongside her fellow leaders, Nicole has advocated for major institutional change for Indigenous students, faculty, and staff at MIT. Last fall, she was a student contributor to the MIT Indigenous Working Group’s recommendations, an ad-hoc committee initiated by President Reif under concerns centered around Walker Memorial, the Morrill Act, and MIT’s inadequate land acknowledgement. She then coordinated the Open Forum for these recommendations to the MIT student body. The findings of this committee, published through a letter from Reif, led to two major outcomes this fall - the hiring of MIT’s first-ever tenure-track Indigenous faculty member, Professor Eli Nelson, and two, the first Indigenous-scholar-in-residence, Jean-Luc Pierite at Simmons Hall. Furthermore, last year, Nicole, alongside her co-president Alvin D. Harvey, led personal, direct discussions with ORSEL to establish the foundations for an MIT Indigenous Elder program, similar to ORSEL’s other affiliated chaplains. These discussions were successful, and this summer, MIT established the first-ever Indigenous Spiritual Advising role, fulfilled by Nina Lytton. Currently, Nicole seeks to begin institutional research into the paused Morrill Act funds, in which MIT received state funding from seizure of Indigenous lands.

Through her tireless efforts alongside those around her, Nicole has served her community by both influencing institutional change and fostering a sense of belonging at MIT.