History-making alumna retires from Kansas House of Representatives

Jan 10, 2023
Dr. Ponka-We Victors-Cozad (Courtesy photo)

Alumna Ponka-We Victors-Cozad ‘05, who made history as the first Native American woman in the Kansas House of Representatives, retired Jan. 9, after serving 12 years and six terms in office.

Her primary goal throughout her 12 years of work was simple: “To be a voice for the voiceless.”

During her time in office, Victors-Cozad helped pass critical laws that support veterans, tribes, domestic violence victims, schools and the environment, among others. 

“I also helped bridge a relationship between the state government and the four tribes of Kansas,” she said. “I learned that my colleagues and I might not agree on everything but we can meet each other halfway on other issues.”

Victors-Cozad’s role allowed her to grow closer to her community and more connected to her constituents — two results that wouldn’t have been possible without the formation she received at Newman University.

“Representation matters and it’s important to have a variety of legislators from different backgrounds at the table when important issues are being debated and voted on,” Victors-Cozad said. “As a Newman student, I learned how to work with everyone from various backgrounds and viewpoints.”

Ponka-We Victors-Cozad (center) introduces members of Newman University, including past president Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D., (right of stand) on the House floor. (Courtesy photo)

Using her degree of difference to empower others

Born and raised in Kansas, Victors-Cozad is part of the Tohono O’odham nation from Arizona and the Ponca tribe from Oklahoma. 

“Each tribe has its own separate language, traditions, dances and culture,” she explained. “I am proud of my heritage and who I am. Therefore, it is important to educate others about my rich heritage and what it means to me.”

She was drawn to Newman University by the scholarship opportunity and small classroom setting. 

As a Newman student, I learned how to work with everyone from various backgrounds and viewpoints.

Ponka-We Victors-Cozad

“I didn’t want to feel like a number, but a student,” she said.

Victors-Cozad’s experience as a biology major did not disappoint. 

She learned how to be dedicated to her school work, to ask questions and to work with individuals from all walks of life.

She credits Professor Emeritus Surendra Singh, Ph.D., for playing an integral role in her growth as a student and empowering her to transform society for the better.

“Dr. Singh made a huge positive impact on my experience at Newman University,” she said. “He was always so nice and kind to me as a student. I always felt like I had someone to talk to and who would help me if I needed it.”

In 2008, Victors-Cozad earned a Master of Public Administration from Wichita State University and was elected into office following the 2010 Democratic primary election.

Now that Victors-Cozad is retired from the Kansas House of Representatives, she looks forward to spending time with her 1-year-old daughter and watching her grow.

She added, “I am feeling blessed and honored to have served District 103 for the past 12 years and as the first Native American woman. I’m very thankful to my constituents and the state of Kansas.”

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