Dean Buffy Smith and alum Cheyene Bialke
Mark Brown / University of St. Thomas

In the News: Dougherty Family College Fulfills Dreams

Persistence pays off. That’s the theme of the message Dougherty Family College Dean Buffy Smith and alum Cheyene Bialke AA '22 BS '24 shared in an interview with Native Roots Radio.

Bialke told listeners that some of her high school teachers thought she was not college material because she struggled with core courses, such as math. And when she first applied to Dougherty Family College, she was not admitted. But with the urging of her mother, she reapplied and was admitted to the two-year associates degree college at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. She eventually fulfilled her dream when she continued on to receive her bachelor’s degree in digital media arts and journalism from St. Thomas in 2024.

“I came back (to DFC) with an army behind me and 10 people who had recommendations for why I was fit for the program,” Bialke said. “I submitted all of that, and DFC was like 'you know what maybe she does have potential.' I got accepted and I remember just being so excited over the moon.”

Smith said that Bialke’s story is proof that sometimes institutions make mistakes. “We should have admitted Cheyene the first time,” she said. “I tell prospective scholars to persist; don't give up if you have the dream of going to college. I do believe that Dougherty Family College is a good place to start to earn your associates degree and then to continue to earn your bachelor’s degree.”

Smith added that the college operates on a cohort model of 25 to 30 scholars, who are mostly recent high school graduates, “which helps us in terms of creating that sense of belonging … when they're closer and similar in age and lived experiences it also helps build that support and that accountability to one another.”

“I'm so fortunate to say that I'm a part of this DFC family and that I can always come back to them when I need to talk,” Bialke said. “Even in my most stressful times I'll come back to DFC just to hang out and it's honestly been really helpful for me just to have those connections.”

Hear the full conversation with host Robert Pilot and producer Haley Cherry, starting around the 19-minute mark of the video.