Bailey Nez, a Lawrence University sophomore pursuing an environmental science major and geoscience minor, has made her presence known on campus through her ongoing work with Lawrence University Native Alliance (LUNA) and environmental activism research. She hopes to use her experiences to better the lives of the Diné and other Indigenous communities.
Nez grew up on a reservation in Tocito, New Mexico, where “everybody knows everybody” and the community connections are strong. She’s been fascinated by the natural sciences for as long as she can remember, with the climate of her home ranging from desert to mountainous terrain. Quickly this interest pushed her engagement with environmental activism and research, as she grew passionate about climate change and the negative impact of pollution on her community.
She ventured to Lawrence, where she hoped to learn about environmental protection and conservation to better the current situation of the Diné.
“LUNA is super important to me. My culture is a big part of my identity. Mahina Olores helped create a space where I felt comfortable and visible for the first time. He helped me love the group and the work.”
Bailey Nez ’26
Environmental Science, Geosciences
Pinehill, New Mexico
On her first visit to Lawrence, Nez connected with graduated leaders of LUNA, a student organization that works to represent and celebrate Indigenous students. She became an active and passionate member, eventually taking on the role of president.
“LUNA is super important to me,” Nez said. “My culture is a big part of my identity. Mahina Olores [a prior LUNA president who graduated in 2023] helped create a space where I felt comfortable and visible for the first time. He helped me love the group and the work.”
Nez continues to forward the work of past LUNA leaders alongside her fellow board members. In particular, she is grateful to Wynter Burns, the current secretary, who “goes above and beyond to continue creating a space of belonging and advocacy.”
LUNA often collaborates with the Diversity & Intercultural Center (D&IC) to recognize Indigenous peoples and raise awareness throughout the academic year. November, which is Native American Heritage Month, marks a particularly active time for LUNA, as the members will work to coordinate community-based events through art, speakers, and other ways to share culture and knowledge. They also work to raise awareness of injustices faced by the Indigenous community, such as with speakers and memorials on May 5, which marks Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.
Most recently, Nez helped coordinate the 2023 Indigenous Peoples’ Day event on campus. The day’s guest speakers included a chairwoman of the Menominee Nation, the president of Ho-Chunk, and a Menominee elder, all of whom spoke about cultural identity, bigger cultural issues, social injustices, and environmental activism. Appleton Area School District students joined in on the celebratory events, as community members were invited to learn and participate in a stomp dance. The Oneida Nation also shared a traditional dance whilst raising awareness. Nez could be seen throughout the day creating LUNA buttons, sharing about LUNA’s role on campus, and communicating her own story with others.
In addition to her involvement in LUNA, Nez spent last summer on campus researching sustainable energy resources in collaboration with Greg Hitch, the Jill Beck NEH Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities. Funded by the Lawrence University Research Fellows (LURF) program, Nez explored the ways that the Menomonee perceive energy and their efforts toward clean energy on the reservation.
Nez has plans to become an environmental lawyer. She hopes to eventually work with tribes on behalf of natural resources.
“I want to represent the best interest of tribal entities,” Nez said.