Clarkson Doctoral Student Abraham Francis Secures Changemaker Fellowship

May 9, 2023

Abraham Francis is Deer Clan from Akwesasne, a Mohawk Community at the intersection of New York, Ontario, and Quebec, and has been awarded a prestigious Changemaker Fellowship from the NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power, in recognition of his leadership potential and community dedication.

portrait, Abraham Francis
Abraham Francis

The NDN Changemaker Fellowship is designed to invest in the visions, leadership, and development of Indigenous Changemakers. Francis is one of 21 Indigenous Changemakers Fellows for the 2023 Cohort from across the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Islands of Hawaii, and U.S. Territories.

Francis is a PhD student in the Environmental Science & Engineering program at Clarkson University. He is co-supervised by Professor of Biology Tom Langen and Michael Twiss, an adjunct Professor of Biology at Clarkson and Dean of the Faculty of Science at Algoma University, in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.

“I particularly wish to thank Dr. Paulette Steeves (Algoma University) and Dr. Lori Bradford (University of Saskatchewan), both Canada Tier II Research Chairs in Healing & Reconciliation, and Social & Cultural Decision Making in Engineering Design, respectively, for their contribution to preparing Abraham Francis for his interview,” Twiss said. “Abraham is well engaged in community involvement in the Great Lakes region, particularly through the lens of his Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) heritage. The Changemaker fellowship will provide him additional funds to allow his ideas and energy to translate into meaningful actions.”

“Abraham Francis has already demonstrated environmental leadership at Akwesasne and at Clarkson,” added Langen. “Recently, he organized and chaired a roundtable of Indigenous scientists on bridging Indigenous and colonialist ways of knowing in environmental science. His research and community engagement with St. Lawrence River shoreline management at Akwesasne is very exciting, and certain to be impactful. He is working with residents on traditional ecological and conventional science ways of environmental management on the shorelines, which have been impacted by over a century of St. Lawrence Seaway infrastructure and many other factors. It’s great science, and more importantly will benefit the community. “

“I am so grateful to be provided this exciting opportunity through the NDN Collective’s Changemaker Fellowship to develop a theory of change that is directly linked to my dissertation work,” Francis said. “A body of work that I hope contributes to the radical paradigm shift sought by our current generation to address complex issues of oppressive structures and their intimate connection with Climate Change. It is this shifting of paradigms, or reclamation in my community’s context, that opens the possibility to embrace a radical responsibility to future generations and all our relations. Further, there is healing embedded within this responsibility of caretaking for each other and all our relatives, as our relationships are reciprocal and relational.”

The NDN Collective operates by organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building and narrative change; they create sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms of Defend, Develop, and Decolonize.

As a private, national research university, Clarkson is a leader in technological education and sustainable economic development through teaching, scholarship, research and innovation. We ignite personal connections across academic fields and industries to create the entrepreneurial mindset, knowledge and intellectual curiosity needed to innovate world-relevant solutions and cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the New York Capital Region, Beacon, N.Y., and New York City, Clarkson educates 4,000+ students across 95 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, the arts, education, sciences and health professions. Our alumni earn salaries that are among the top 2% in the nation and realize accelerated career growth. One in five already leads as a CEO, senior executive or owner of a company. To learn more about Clarkson University, go to
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