President and CEO, Kootznoowoo, Inc.
We may all come from different tribes, but we are one community. I want to do everything I can to help Native students and alumni be more competitive, at Dartmouth and after.
For generations, the Iñupiat villagers of Wales, Alaska, danced atop the world. They danced to celebrate; they danced to communicate. Only at the insistence of Christian missionaries in the 1940s did their public dancing cease. Fifty years later, Debbie Atuk T’04 and her family reclaimed this part of their heritage by forming a dance troupe.
“We had to start by practicing to old VHS tapes. Because of the way they were filmed, we had to mimic the dancers in reverse. We were terrible for years, but now, after two decades of weekly practice, we’re very good,” she says with a laugh. “It’s one of my favorite stories about how we have been able to maintain some of our traditional culture in a very modern world.”
Navigating the present while honoring the past can be a lifelong challenge for many Native people and Atuk is no exception. It was a difficult decision for her to leave her home community in rural Alaska in pursuit of higher education. It remains a difficult decision for her to live and work in the Lower 48.
Knowing firsthand the sacrifices Native daughters and sons must often make, Atuk has dedicated the past decade to growing Dartmouth’s pan-indigenous network. In addition to serving three terms as president of the Native American Alumni Association of Dartmouth (NAAAD), she is also one of the college’s most outspoken and accessible advocates for minority students. Last year, she became the first person to win Dartmouth’s Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award without holding a Dartmouth undergraduate degree.
“The community-building, advocacy, and outreach Debbie has accomplished on behalf of Native students and alumni at Dartmouth is nothing short of amazing,” says Sally Jaeger, Tuck assistant dean and director of the MBA Program. “Her leadership is a legacy and an inspiration for all of us.”
Atuk was only one year out of Tuck when the school’s alumni services department asked her to help revive the long-defunct NAAAD as its president. Despite the demands of her career as CEO of video-on-demand Tuck startup OmniVidia, she volunteered countless hours to the organization and quickly proved herself a hands-on, visionary leader. Atuk conducted an extensive survey of all Native students and alumni before launching an ambitious slate of local and national programming, networking events, and mentorship opportunities.
Her work with Native students and communities proved so impactful and personally meaningful that Atuk decided to switch career paths. After completing a yearlong position as business director for the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation in Coulee Dam, Wash., Atuk accepted a role as treasurer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, based in North Carolina.
“I never lose sight of my responsibility to every one of these individuals,” she says. “A big part of the position is economic development work—they have capital to invest and projects to execute on. Tuck really prepared me for this, sharpening my ability to analyze, evaluate, and make recommendations and investments.”
Atuk eventually hopes to bring her career full circle by earning election to the Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) board headquartered in Nome, Alaska. (Childhood visits to her father’s office there first inspired her to consider a future in business.) Like the other corporations established to transfer wealth, money, and land back to Alaska’s indigenous people so that the United States government could claim ownership of the state, the BSNC is a for-profit organization that can pay shareholders dividends as well as contribute to community programs and scholarships.
Atuk, a recipient of one such scholarship, has built her life and career with this thought in mind. “With every job or opportunity I’ve had over the years, I always think, ‘This will be good experience for when I go back to Alaska,’” she says. “I’ve pursued my path with every intention of coming back to serve my community, and this would be a great way to bring to bear everything I’ve learned along the way. I can’t think of a more perfect application of my Tuck degree.”
The measure of how far she’s come—and how much further she’d like to go in service—really hit home the last time Atuk was in Alaska, attending the annual dance festival in Wales. Once again dancing with her family and friends, Atuk was reminded anew of the power of community, whether it’s one you are born into or one you create along the way.
“My ultimate goal, really, is to let every Native student know how much we alumni care about their wellbeing,” she says. “We may all come from different tribes, but we are one community. I want to do everything I can to help Native students and alumni be more competitive, at Dartmouth and after.”
Closing the Financing Gap for Local Businesses: Meet Honeycomb Cofounder George Cook T’17
Honeycomb Credit works specifically with small businesses and allows consumers, nonprofits, and other organizations to loan small amounts of cash to a particular venture.Read More
At BCG, A Small-Team Approach: Meet Cristina Henrik T’08
A conversation with Cristina Henrik T’08, managing director and partner at the Boston Consulting Group, on how private equity has evolved and what has stuck with her since her Tuck days.Read More
Leading with Purpose: Bank of America CFO Alastair Borthwick T’93
Alastair Borthwick T’93, CFO at Bank of America, reflects on his Tuck experience and the people-first approach that drives his success as a financial leader.Read More
Why We Need More Women Entrepreneurs—And Investors
A conversation with venture capitalist Elizabeth Davis T’20, an investor with the Anthemis Group’s Female Innovators Lab.Read More
Meet Tuck Alumnus Jose Minaya T’00, CEO of Nuveen
A commitment to building diverse, inclusive, and equitable structures across organizations is personal for Jose Minaya T’00, who was named CEO of Nuveen in 2020.Read More
Meet Tuck Alumnus Richard Noyes of Bartlett Associates
Meet Tuck Alumnus Richard Noyes of Bartlett AssociatesRead More
Noreen Doyle T’74, chair of the Newmont Mining Corporation, was the first woman to chair the British Banker’s Association in its 96-year history.Read More
Preserving Culture Through Banking: Meet Dawson Her Many Horses T’10
Dawson Her Many Horses T’10, SVP & Native American business leader at Wells Fargo, helps Native American tribes protect their way of life.Read More
Tuck Alumnus Named Head of Goldman Sachs’ Global Securities
At Goldman Sachs’ Global Securities Division, Tuck Alumnus Jim Esposito orchestrates a global operation managing risk for asset managers, pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds, corporations, and governments.Read More
Bringing Order to the Chaos
Solving complex problems is what's kept Diego Ferro T'93 in finance for 25 years. Here's what he's learned.Read More
T’98 Rick Cardenas’ first job was bussing tables at a Red Lobster. Fast forward 30 years and he’s now CEO of Darden Restaurants which, until 2014, owned Red Lobster.Read More
Fun Finance: Lindsey Drake T’11 talks about her role as a senior finance manager at Amazon Books.Read More
James “Jim” Lindstrom
Jim Lindstrom T’01 has a career of both investment and senior operational roles—a unique perspective to lead a multinational corporation in today’s dynamic environment.Read More
As managing director of the Boston Forum of Golden Seeds, a national network of angel investors funding early-stage companies led by women, Deb Kemper T'95 lives by the motto: be the change you want to see in the world.Read More
Kathryn Baker T'93 is a true expert on boards of directors. She has served on more than 20 of them over the last 16 years, ranging from oil and gas companies to Norway’s Central Bank to Tuck’s own European Advisory Board.Read More
The Chinese economy has grown tremendously since 1989, and so have the opportunities for enterprising Tuck graduates, like Jie Lian T'01.Read More
Not many people in ball bearing sales finish their careers in venture capital. For Mike Carusi T’93, now one of the most successful health care investors in Silicon Valley, that unlikely journey started with two eye-opening years at Tuck.Read More
Williams College chief investment officer Collette Chilton T’86 is helping deliver big returns for the Little Ivy.Read More
Investor. Philanthropist. Entrepreneur. Roger McNamee T’82 is all of these and more in a career that has taken him to the top of the tech world.Read More
Alain Karaoglan T’87 never could have predicted he would one day be chief operating officer of Voya Financial, a top-tier retirement plan provider with more than $500 billion in assets under management and administration.Read More
After working in security sales for Goldman Sachs, Christopher Fox T'81 was drawn back to the public sector because he wanted to serve his community and for the intellectual challenge.Read More
At Tuck, Vicki Craver T'97 discovered a latent interest in financial strategy. Now, after a successful career at Goldman Sachs and raising a family, she applies her financial accumen to vetting nonprofit projects.Read More
Following five years in the mergers and acquisitions industry, Scott Frantz T'86 joined a few close friends in putting together a private equity and venture capital business.Read More
Sword, Rowe & Company CEO Daniel Rowe T’09 is blending his love of music into a successful career with the boutique merchant bank.Read More
In much of the Middle East and North Africa, cash is still king. PayPal’s Francis Barel T’05 wants to change that, and open people’s lives to the world along the way.Read More
One of Blair LaCorte T’90’s great skills as a leader is not only to guide a company from infancy to success, but to know when to set it—and himself—free.Read More
Christopher Williams T'84 harnessed his architectural and business skills to grow the Williams Capital Group into one of the most successful mid-sized investment banks in the world.Read More