By Sharon Goldman
As part of the Native American Banking Group, one of the largest investment banking groups at financial giant Merrill Lynch, Dawson Her Many Horses has moved closer than ever to achieving his goals. But back in 1997, the Amherst College student and member of the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota was attempting to put his life back together after struggling with a drug and alcohol problem. He took four years off from his education, and while volunteering, he figured out what he wanted to do.
“I decided that I wanted to go to law school,” he says. “Tribes are like states or municipal governments, and a lot of young Native students are encouraged to go to law school to be stronger advocates for their people.” In the summer of 2001, he applied to Columbia and was thrilled to find out he had received a PALS scholarship. “I thought maybe it was meant to be,” he says. “It was completely unexpected.”
While the other PALS students came from a wide variety of backgrounds, he believes the group has a great deal in common. “A lot of us have the same characteristics,” he says. “We wanted to go back to school, we felt that education was important to achieving our long-term goals, most of us were students of color, and I think a lot of us had interesting experiences prior to Columbia.” He cherishes many of the relationships that he’s developed with other students in the program, including close friends and fellow alumni Carlos Barrezueta and Derrick Wilder.
Today, the 31-year-old lives in San Francisco and enjoys working with tribal clients in his position at Merrill Lynch—after deciding to choose business over law. “There’s definitely a need for more Natives with backgrounds in finance, and I’m focused on trying to get Merrill to recruit more Native students,” he says.