A reader recommended that Robin Máxkii apply to college, suggesting in an anonymous post on her blog that higher education could transform her into a positive force for Native Americans. Máxkii typed “how to go to college” into Google. She is now a college graduate – and the star of “Between Worlds,” an article and video released by Google on Sept. 24.
The newest installment in the “Search On” documentary series featured on Google’s homepage traces Máxkii’s story from the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, where she earned dual associate degrees at Diné College in 2014, to AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., where Máxkii interned this past summer for SciLine, an independent resource for journalists seeking access to science sources and background materials.
Máxkii, who was raised in Houston, Texas, and in the Stockbridge-Munsee community in Shawano County, Wisconsin, felt isolated as a girl. From an early age, she cultivated an interest in technology, learning to code and build websites on a library computer. Later, she started her own blog where she explored indigenous issues. As the first in her immediate family to attend college, she turned to Google for advice on how to choose a place to study, how to pay for college and how to navigate the educational bureaucracy.
After graduating from Diné College, Máxkii studied at Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead reservation in Montana, earning bachelor’s degrees in psychology and information technology. Higher education has, as predicted, led Máxkii to a host of accomplishments.
She has held several internships; traveled to Capitol Hill to speak out in support of tribal colleges; had the opportunity to introduce Jill Biden at a national conference on success for community college students; and enjoyed a leading role in the PBS series “Roadtrip Nation,” which followed three young computer science students as they traveled across the country in a recreational vehicle and interviewed prominent players in the tech industry who inspire them.
“More importantly, I also realized that I could leverage my experiences to create opportunities for others,” wrote Máxkii in the article in which she first shared how Google brought her one step closer to college.
In 2016, in an effort to get members of her community involved in technology, she directed the first-ever collaborative computer programming event – or hackathon – for native college students at national conference of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. The hackathon, now a regular event, will hold its third-annual edition at the AISES National Conference in October in Oklahoma City.
“I love science and I love tech, but right now the indigenous voice is largely missing from these industries,” she said.
The video also highlights Máxkii’s role as an intern at AAAS’ SciLine, the journalism service that launched in 2017 to provide journalists with vetted scientific information. She learned about AAAS while attending a AAAS seminar during her stint as a National Science Foundation summer scholar. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to be here,’” said Máxkii in an interview.
Máxkii and a fellow intern were instrumental in researching and developing additional fact sheets that will be added to SciLine’s arsenal of online resources once they are reviewed by field experts, said Meredith Drosback, associate director of science at SciLine and Máxkii’s internship supervisor.
Máxkii described SciLine as “a dream job” and a place where she felt honored to have a seat at the table, literally – she recounted sitting in the corner during a staff meeting before being offered a seat with the rest of the staff. With a small team, interns truly had the opportunity to contribute, added Drosback.
“For a curious person, interning is the best thing I could ask for,” Máxkii said. “You’re basically a student of the job, so you can ask all the questions and you can explore things.”
Máxkii, who has also served this year as a Native Americans Journalists Association fellow, is now planning to apply to graduate school to study science writing and communication. Her goal is to share science with her community.
“As an indigenous woman, I grew up with stories. Stories explain the world, and science explains the world,” she said in the video. “A lot of tradition is just explaining science in a way that communicates to the masses.”
Miranda Haskie, Máxkii’s professor at Diné College, praised her in the video, “Robin is trying to open a whole new world to her peers. They see, through her example, that they too have that potential.”