Outstanding Graduate, Fall 2019
As a junior in high school, Shandiin Yessilth (Yiisił in Navajo) came to ASU to participate in a summer math program called the Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors Program.
Having been born and spending most of her life in Nevada, the city vibe of ASU’s Tempe campus vibe reminded Yiisił of where she’d she grown up. She was eager to leave the reservation in New Mexico where she was living at the time but unsure about what she wanted her career path to look like. After a trial-and-error process that included changing her major a few times, she eventually decided to study construction management.
“I had no ties to the construction industry at all and was a bit worried about what I was getting myself into,” Yiisił says. “This blurred path cleared up when I got my first internship with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. After that summer, I knew what I wanted to do with construction – I had found my passion.”
In addition to her major, Yiisił minored in studio art.
“If you were to take away my labels of a student and part-time project engineer, I am an artist,” Yiisił says. “The majority of my artwork consists of either portraits or fusing my Navajo culture with modern media such as ‘Star Wars.’ I never thought my artwork would be where it is now. I currently have two paintings in an exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona.”
For two years, she was a First-Year Success Coach for Native students and helped with the retention of incoming Native American freshmen. She served as the vice president, president and dean of Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, Inc., a Native American sorority, was a co-facilitator for the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples, served as president for the Construction in Indian Country Student Organization, and was a member of Sigma Lambda Chi.
After graduation, Yiisił plans to continue working for the Phoenix-based construction company Kitchell Contractors, where she’ll take on a full-time role after working part-time this semester. She will return to ASU in the 2020 fall semester to pursue a master’s degree in sustainable engineering.