Native women entrepreneurs begin 1-week training program on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Project DreamCatcher is a collaboration between Freeport-McMoRan, Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU

October 10, 2023

Since 2015, the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, in partnership with the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, has been empowering Native American women entrepreneurs through the no-cost business development program Project DreamCatcher.

On Oct. 9, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the program kicked off its latest session with participants from Arizona and New Mexico tribal communities. The one-week program is designed to build the capacity of Native women business owners and is taking place at the headquarters of the Thunderbird School of Global Management on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Women seated in an audience smiling. Twenty-seven Native American women entrepreneurs graduated from the September 2023 cohort of Project DreamCatcher on Sept. 15. Photo courtesy the Thunderbird School of Global Management Download Full Image

“Our October session starts as we wrap up our hugely successful September cohort," said Dinora Gonzalez, senior project manager at Thunderbird School of Global Management. "More than 180 women have graduated from Project DreamCatcher since the program began in 2015, and it has fostered the creation and success of over 80 businesses. With the support of Freeport-McMoRan, we have empowered Native women to pursue their dreams, arming them with the skills they need to succeed.”

This year's September cohort saw 27 women graduate from Project DreamCatcher. During the one-week program, they participated in graduate-level classes taught by Thunderbird faculty, coaching and advising sessions with business professionals, and networking activities designed to impart new skills and the confidence to start or grow a business.

“We are proud to support female Native entrepreneurs with Thunderbird through the DreamCatcher program,” said Ondrea Barber, manager of Native American relations at Freeport-McMoRan. “The experience these women have at Thunderbird is valuable because they learn from each other and feel supported by people who have shared life experiences. The interpersonal relationships built during these cohorts are just as valuable as the business skills they are developing.”

The women in the cohort have a vast array of experiences — from technology and procurement to health services, wellness and counseling; fashion, design and art; culinary ventures; and various forms of business management. What they all have in common is the desire to grow their business, keeping their culture and community at the forefront. Many are taking on these challenges while being caretakers and completing their education at the same time.

All program costs, including classroom instruction, lodging and meals, are free of charge, which is made possible due to the support of the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation in partnership with Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.

Group of Native American women who are graduates of Project DreamCatcher.

The graduation ceremony for the September 2023 cohort of Project DreamCatcher was held Sept. 15 on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo courtesy the Thunderbird School of Global Management

Graduates of the Project DreamCatcher September 2023 cohort are:

Angelena Johnson-Calderón (White Mountain Apache)
Angelita Casale (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
Cassandra Enriquez (Navajo)
Ciara Minjarez (White Mountain Apache)
Daili Lister (Hopi)
Dawn Manuelito (Navajo)
Dorthea Litson (Navajo)
Emma Hughes (San Carlos Apache)
Francesca Lester (San Carlos Apache)
Jacquelyn Aranda (Navajo)
Jolee Taylor (Tohono O’odham)
Kaitlyn Newman (San Carlos Apache)
Karissa Owens (Navajo)
Kayla Cromwell (White Mountain Apache)
Kelly Cassadore (Navajo)
Leann Lewis (Navajo)
Leigh Ramon (Tohono O’odham)
Matilda Joe (Tohono O’odham)
Myriah Cypriano (Tohono O’odham)
Nicolette Gomez (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
Page Mull (San Carlos Apache)
Polly Walker (White Mountain Apache)
Rantrivia Tsosie (Navajo)
Rose Ann Littleman (Navajo)
Shannon Clark-Holiday (Navajo)
Shawna Jones (Navajo)
Shekira Beach (White Mountain Apache)
Sophie Hungrywolf (Tohono O’odham)
Storm Tso (Hopi)
Tina Gomez (Tohono O’odham)

Mary Hess

Digital Communications Manager, Thunderbird School of Global Management

'The center of a storm': Audience members to experience a hurricane through dance, technology

Graduate student performance at MIX Center feature augmented reality technologies

October 11, 2023

Each year students from the graduate program in dance at Arizona State University present their thesis projects in the “Emerging Artist” showcase.

This year, Dean Saifullin and Isabella Lepp collaborated to bring their project, “category FIVE,” to audiences at the ASU Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center on Oct. 13 and 14.  A dancer performs in front of a screen depicting a hurricane "category FIVE" will show at the ASU Media and Immersive eXperience Center on Oct. 13 and 14. Courtesy photo Download Full Image

Lepp and Saifullin knew they didn’t want to choreograph a traditional show on a stage. With “category FIVE,” they’ve created a perfect storm of dance and augmented reality technologies, something only possible at the MIX Center.

“It’s a tremendous place to host, showcase and take a performance to the next level,” said Paul Amendola, events technical director at the MIX Center.

The audience will be fully immersed, viewing the performance from all sides on the second-floor balcony to see the 360-degree interactive projection of a hurricane. The mix of audio and lighting on this unique stage will also bring the storm to life.

“It’s simply an extraordinary blank canvas for an interactive, one-of-a-kind show experience,” Amendola said.

Patrons will be a part of the show instead of just viewers. They’ll walk through the set of a home, passing by a bookshelf and coffee table.

Then a storm destroys it all.

“It’s going to create specific emotions,” Saifullin said. 

How do I react to this? How does my mind and body respond? How do I proceed? These are all questions audiences will ask themselves while being a part of the show, according to Lepp and Saifullin.

“We wanted people to leave understanding what they were a part of, not wondering what they just saw,” Lepp said.

Audiences will move to 20 feet above the set, looking from the top down at a hurricane of dancers destroying the home they just walked through.

Dean Saifullin and Isabella Lepp view the stage from where the audience will be positioned. Courtesy photo

The audience being above the dance was something Lepp and Saifullin had to account for when designing the choreography and costumes for the project. Movement had to be more expansive, and costumes had to have some form of movement.

“We didn’t want the dancers to get lost in the space from being too small,” Lepp said.

“I always said that I either would like to be a dancer or a meteorologist so that I could stand at the center of a storm and report on it,” she said.

Experience “category FIVE” at the MIX Center Oct. 13 and 14. There are multiple showtimes each night starting at 6 p.m. to give audiences a personal experience as they walk through the hurricane.

Tickets must be purchased online at the Herberger Institute Box Office. Ticketing is limited for this special event, and audience members will need to be able to stand for a minimum of 30 minutes and travel throughout the space. Please inform staff when checking in for elevator accessible accommodations.

Content transparency: This performance will include intense audio and visuals, including alarms, red flashing lights, strobe lighting and the simulation of a hurricane. May include physical touch. Patrons will be asked to fill out a consent form prior to participating.

Written by Benjamin Adelberg