Meet the Rural Institute Diversity Fellows

Salena Hill and Helen Russette
Salena Beaumont Hill and Helen Russette photographed in the Native American Studies building at the University of Montana.

April 18, 2019

The Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD), funded grants for University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) to develop diversity fellowship programs.

The Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) was awarded a grant to support an American Indian graduate research assistant preparing to work in a human services field. The RIIC boosted the award amount and are thankful to have 2 participants in the Diversity Fellowship program.

Salena Beaumont Hill

Salena Beaumont Hill is a member of the Crow Tribe and a Blackfeet tribal descendant. Salena has been active in higher education on both the Crow Indian Reservation and at the University of Montana. She has served in numerous student support positions at UM and Little Big Horn College and has years of experience in student advocacy promoting student access and support in higher education. She has also worked with middle school students in Billings Public Schools. Currently, a doctoral student in Counselor Education and Counseling at UM, Salena is taking the next step in acquiring the credentials and skill set to provide leadership in higher education. She is excited to serve as an AUCD Diversity Fellow and is looking forward to gaining knowledge and being inclusive to people with disabilities.

Recently, Salena was nominated for the Student Diversity Leadership Award by the Diversity Advisory Council which honors students for their leadership and support of diversity.  

Helen Russette

Helen Russette is a member to the Chippewa-Cree Tribe and was born and raised on Rocky Boy’s Reservation where most of her family still lives. She currently lives in Missoula, MT with her partner and daughter where they enjoy outdoor recreation and hosting family gatherings. They make regular visits to Indian Country and enjoy their annual powwow where her daughter, Cailena, fancy dances. Helen is grateful to serve Indian Country and will continue to serve Indian Country for all of her academic and professional career.

Currently, Helen is a PhD student in Public Health at the University of Montana, a fellow for the Indigenous Substance Abuse, Medicines and Addictions Research Training (ISMART) program, a second-year fellow with the Utah Regional Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) program, an AUCD Diversity fellow and recently received the Bertha Morton Scholarship. Under these fellowships, she works with experts from diverse fields to learn more about interventions for families with children prenatally exposed to opioids and other drugs. Additionally, she has conducted the first cultural engagement component for URLEND trainees, where they received trauma-informed training and visited an American Indian community to learn about current interventions for pregnant women with substance-use disorder and their children. The goal was to better orient trainees to serving Native American families that have children with complex developmental and behavioral needs.

Helen’s current research centers on identifying resilience-promoting factors among Native Americans that have been historically absent in research studies with the goal of identifying tailored approaches that directly benefit the community. She has been involved in disability-related research for eight years. For the past two years, her projects have centered on American Indian communities.