Randy Estrin, a 2017 Ketchikan High School graduate, has been earning academic awards, taking charge as a leader in business and is preparing to graduate in May from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.
Estrin, who described himself as of Tlingit and Haida heritage, spoke about his successes and plans for the future in a phone call Thursday morning.
Estrin will earn his Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree upon graduation, he said. On March 5, he was honored as student of the year at the university for “academic excellence,” reflecting on his 4.0 GPA as well as the other work he has accomplished.
When asked how he accomplished such an impeccable academic record, Estrin said it really came down to focus and hard work.
“Learning through experience, I would say, is what helped me to develop into a better student,” he said. “Going through the first couple years of college, that’s when I kind of learned how to manage my time and also figure out how important task management is.”
He added that “staying disciplined and having faith — no one knows what the future is going to hold for them, but you have to hope for the best that all of the work you’re putting in is going to pay off.”
Estrin has garnered other honors, as well.
He was one of 12 students nationwide selected to attend the Native American Finance Officers Association leadership conference, and also was selected to attend the Native American Indian Science and Engineering Society leadership summit.
He plans to attend the Finance Officers Association conference in Washington, D.C. later this month, and the Science and Engineering summit the next week in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Estrin said what he hopes to gain at the events is more knowledge about developing a business, networking skills, tribal economic development tools as well as policies that impact tribal economic development.
He said the Finance Officers conference will feature professionals and tribal leaders who plan to present the information and guide the attendees.
“There’s 160 different tribes that are part of the association,” he noted.
“I’m really just excited for the whole thing, but if I had to narrow it down a little bit more, it would be the networking opportunities and also the certain part of graduate school that they’re going to be talking about.”
He explained that a part of his plan in the next few years is to attend a graduate program to earn a Master of Business Administration degree.
He added that the Finance Officers conference “perfectly aligns with my goals, because not only is it a leadership summit, it’s a leadership summit about business, it’s a leadership summit about management and networking as well, and that’s exactly what the school I’m currently in contact with is looking for in students that they want to recruit, is leadership skills.”
He is planning to apply to Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, he said.
Estrin said he also is the vice president of marketing for Haskill’s American Indigenous Business Leaders chapter. He was preparing to travel to Las Vegas this past weekend for a conference held by that organization that offers business education and networking opportunities.
As part of his AIBL role, Estrin said he has been working with a newly opened Mexican restaurant in Lawrence.
“I’m kind of running that whole project where we’ll be finding ways to market and increase their customer base for that restaurant,” he said, and that led to a newspaper story in Lawrence featuring him and his work.
Other notable accomplishments Estrin has earned include a big win for his “business bowl” team on which he served as captain at an American Indian Higher Education Consortium in New Mexico. The team took first place among 14 teams in that competition, he said.
Estrin also serves as one of 11 2022-2023 American Indian College Fund ambassadors, he said. According to information at collegefund.org, “Student ambassadors help the College Fund create greater visibility about higher education and the work the College Fund, Native students, and tribal colleges are doing to create a better future for Native peoples and communities. College Fund student ambassadors represent the College Fund and their institutions in media interviews, at cultural events, in their communities, and on their campuses. Student ambassadors also receive advocacy training to help them spearhead action for issues impacting Native communities.”
Estrin also explained what motivated him to major in business.
“I like money,” he said, chuckling. “That’s what business is all about. For as long as I can remember I’d be managing my money and spending money frugally even though I was a teenager. Also, I would say a lot of the influence came from my older brother. He was always good with money and he was always really good with business as well, so I think that kind of rubbed off on me.”
Originally, Estrin said, he didn’t plan to study business, but rather computer science. He quickly realized computer science wasn’t a good fit, and briefly considered majoring in mathematics, a subject he very much enjoys.
When he began to attend Haskell, they did not offer computer science or mathematics as majors, so he decided business was the closest area of study he could choose to his interests and skills.
As he delved into his business studies, he said he realized he was more compatible with business than he’d expected.
Estrin said he has plans to formally start in a business career about four years from graduation, and those four years will be full of service to his tribe and more education.
“After I graduate this May,” he said, “I’m taking a year off from academics and getting either a full-time job or a really good internship. Also, taking some other things on the side, like being a part of some certain organizations or being involved in organizations I’m currently involved with, and then also probably doing something with my tribe.
“I’m currently running for the Emerging Leader for my tribe,” he added, “so, if I get that, then I would serve a whole year, which would work out perfectly because I’d be serving the whole year, which would be my year off. So, I’d be traveling with the president of the tribe and I guess, just learning more about how that works.”
Estrin said he’d like to keep his ties to Ketchikan and his tribe in the coming years.
“The people that live there are always going to be my people, so I do plan on being very involved in the community in the future,” he said.
Estrin said he would like to give a shout out to his parents, Carrie and Daniel Dodson; his grandparents, Sarah and Jim Allard; and his girlfriend, Hannah Poorman. Poorman travels to most of Estrin’s conferences with him, and they enjoy spending much time hiking and enjoying the outdoors together as well.
“Those five people kind of keep me doing what I’m doing,” he said. “Keep me sane.”
Looking further ahead — maybe 30 years or so, he said — he envisions moving back to Ketchikan to serve as an elder in his tribe who would offer support and advice for the younger generation.
“I owe it to the community,” he added.