Meet Michelle Boyer-Kelly, Udall Foundation Graduate Assistant

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Michelle Boyer-Kelly has been a student worker in Special Collections for almost 10 years. She began working with us as a freshman in 2009, majored in English and Creative Writing, and received her master’s degree in American Indian Studies. She is now pursuing her PhD and is in a Graduate Assistantship position funded by the Udall Foundation, our 2018 Library Legend honoree.

Michelle will graduate this May and is working on her dissertation on Maori warriorhood in literature and film. She is the first member of her family to graduate with any college degree. She says: “Without tuition assistance, I would not have been able to finish my PhD, but the Udall Foundation offers students like myself with far more than financial assistance. They offer us the opportunity to love our job and help the communities we represent."

Michelle Boyer-Kelly speaking
Michelle speaking at the Library Legends dinner

As a Udall Foundation Graduate Assistant, Michelle has worked on the Stewart L. Udall and Morris K. Udall collections and has learned about their roles as both legislators and activists. As an American Indian Studies student, she was familiar with NAGPRA—the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990—but recently learned that Congressman Morris K. Udall introduced this legislation. She has also become familiar with Stewart L. Udall’s environmentalism and advocacy for natural resource protections.

During the event, Anne Udall, the daughter of Morris Udall, surprised Michelle with a gift after Michelle's remarks: a piece of legislation signed by Congressman Udall directly from a box of his papers and materials that Anne had recently gathered. 

In the past nine years, Michelle has processed various collections, such as the Jack Sheaffer Photographic Collection, and has been involved in a variety of projects with different archivists and librarians. She is currently working on the Alianza Hispano-Americana collection, which features the records of a Tucson fraternal organization that was founded in 1894 and offered insurance to Mexican-Americans when others refused to.

When Michelle is not working in Special Collections or on her dissertation, she raises and shows exhibition poultry, waterfowl, turkeys, pheasants and pigeons. She has traveled to shows nationally and has won awards as an exhibitor and breeder. Despite her love for birds, she admits: “I absolutely hate the taste of eggs, so I hatch them rather than eat them!”