Red Shirt-Shaw


Faculty/Staff Development
Native Americans
Programs for High School Students
Racism/Racial Justice
Youth/Student Activism
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw (Oglala Lakota) is an inspiring educator, writer, and researcher in higher education. Passionate about Indigenous rights issues, college admissions, and greater Native presence in media​ and higher education​, Megan believes in empowering young people to use their voices for the issues they care about in their communities. A powerful speaker, she has presented at colleges and universities as well as conferences nationwide.

Megan is currently the Director of Native Student Services at the University of South Dakota. She has held positions in undergraduate admissions, college counseling, and student advising at the University of Pennsylvania, Questbridge, Santa Clara University, Albuquerque Academy, and the 7th Gen Summer Program. She also was elected, in 2021, to serve a 7 year term on Harvard University's Board of Overseers, one of two governing bodies that plays an integral role in the governance of Harvard.

Megan is the author of the powerful policy paper, Beyond the Land Acknowledgement: College “LAND BACK” or Free Tuition for Native Students's. Her writings have also been featured on Huffington Post, ThinkProgress, Racialicious, Model View Culture, and Last Real Indians. She is the founder of Natives In America​, an online literary publication for Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian youth.

Megan earned her Bachelor’s from the University of Pennsylvania in English and her Master's from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Higher Education where she was co-chair of FIERCE — Future Indigenous Educators Resisting Colonial Education. Megan is currently pursuing her PhD in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development with a focus on Higher Education and a minor in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Her favorite phrase her mother ever taught her in Lakota is “Weksuye, Ciksuye, Miksuye” meaning “I remember, I remember you, Remember me.”


"Fantastic! Not only were Megan's remarks grounded, emphatic, timely, inspiring, and actionable -- but she did the best job I've seen, ever, engaging the audience in this remote setting through the chat - making her remarks not only informative but conversational and relational. I can't wait to have our organizations and those within out networks implement her suggestions and report back!"
— Nicole Torrico, Program Director, The Intentional Endowments Network, organizers of the 2022 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit

“Red Shirt-Shaw spoke passionately on a myriad of topics related to indigenous people and identity…At the heart of (her) message was not just that the Native people of this country continue to struggle, but that we must all work together by having uncomfortable conversations and speaking up about our own individual experiences in order to enact positive change.”
— Jenny Gumbert, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster PA

“We had the pleasure of having Megan Red Shirt-Shaw as our keynote speaker at our annual conference. It was one of the largest conferences we’ve ever had and it was fully virtual. Even in that setting, where people are tired of seeing talking heads on their screens, she held the attention of a packed Zoom room. Megan talked about tough issues in the admissions world but did it in a way that asked people to step in and listen. Her words were moving and uplifting yet challenging and motivating. I am not sure I have ever heard a speaker command all those things so effortlessly and naturally in a presentation before. Her talk was cathartic, educational, and empowering. Megan is a voice that needs to be heard by everyone in the education profession.”
— Breanne Boyle, President, Western Association for College Admission Counseling

Other comments from the Western Association for College Admission Counseling Conference (WACAC):

“One of the most memorable sessions/keynotes of my professional career. Thank you!”

“I so appreciated her message of activism, infused with care and compassion for herself, her audience, her students, and our planet. She was the perfect speaker at the perfect time. “

“Megan Red Shirt-Shaw was amazing!! Each year I've been able to attend this event the keynote speakers have been great, but she was the best I've been fortunate to listen to. “
“Megan was AFREAKING-MAZING! I felt inspired and emotional and connected in a way I have not felt to admissions for the last year.”
“UNBELIEVEABLE - Megan Red Shirt-Shaw was inspirational and her previous work in admissions really made her (and her work) so relatable. I hope we'll be able to welcome her to another WACAC event in the future.”
“She set a high bar for WACAC leadership regarding keynotes. Her message and approach should be the standard moving forward. Revealing, comprehensive, relevant, progressive, and thought provoking. Inspired to be better and do better.”



Beyond the Land Acknowledgement: Higher Education, the Occupation of Native Nations, and "Land Back"
Land acknowledgements have become a powerful introduction to convocations, graduations, meetings, and conferences in higher education. But institutions must challenge themselves to move away from encouraging acts that are just performative, into commitments of transformative change. In this presentation, Megan discusses her research into how institutions of higher education received their land and the steps institutions can take for land-based reparations including returning institutional land back to Native nations or if this is not possible, providing free higher education to Native students whose traditional homelands the institution sits upon.

We Are Still Here: On Native Identity and Activism
This presentation discusses the contemporary, and often forgotten, presence of Native people in social justice conversations through a personal lens. The conversation is not expected to define what it means to be Indigenous in America, but is an opportunity to share one perspective, as an urban Lakota woman, about the importance of hearing our voices and our stories.

We Are Still Here: Relations, Foundations, and Native Nations
What if we truly re-envisioned institutions as systems of relations on behalf of our students? Centering concepts of kinship and community, this presentation reflects on how creating connection plays a role within education communities and re-imagines these relations as opportunities for support.

Natives In America: On Writing and Authentic Voices
This presentation discusses the creation of an online platform for Native youth to express their contemporary stories through prose, poetry, and hip hop. In order to reclaim our spaces, we must reclaim the stories and narratives that the country have written for us. What better way to do this than to allow the next generation to tell us their stories?

Advice For First Year College Students
This presentation examines the transition into freshman year, and the challenges students, especially those who identify with underrepresented communities, may face during their process and experience.

Perspectives on the College Process
This presentation discusses the college application and admissions process, drawing on Megan’s work in undergraduate admissions at two institutions, at an admissions focused non-profit for high achieving low income students, and as a college counselor on the high school side.