The first thing that is immediately apparent about Trisheena Kills Pretty Enemy is her grit. It is clear that she is hard working, tenacious and completely unapologetic of who she is. And one would have to be, to overcome even a fraction of the challenges Kills Pretty Enemy has faced in her pursuit of academic success.
Kills Pretty Enemy has been studying microbiology at MSU since fall 2014 with plans to graduate in spring 2018. After her graduation from MSU, she hopes to further pursue her education by attending graduate school or medical school, and finally realizing her dream of becoming Dr. Kills. She has been actively researching Clostridium Difficile Infection. C. difficile is a bacterium that can overgrow in the human gut causing severe symptoms. She has been involved in the research since summer 2014 alongside Seth Walk, assistant professor of microbiology. She is a current McNair scholar and the vice president of MSU’s chapter of American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). She is part Crow and part Lakota and a loving mother of two young boys.
Her former peer at MSU, Michael Ruiz, spoke highly of her saying: “[Kills Pretty Enemy’s] courage, strength and dedication to her degree program is immeasurable when compared to other MSU students. She is a true inspiration to first generation and underrepresented minority students at MSU that have been historically marginalized by the university.” She is a successful student with a wide range of involvement. However, all of Kills Pretty Enemy’s success is by no means an accident; everything she achieved she has earned through hard work and perseverance, and it has not been an easy road.
Kills Pretty Enemy grew up on the Crow Reservation in Pryor. Her Native American heritage has presented challenges at times, but more than anything, her roots are the motivation for her success. She developed a love for microbiology as a kindergartener when her sister, a fellow microbiologist, gifted Kills Pretty Enemy with her very first microscope. Her love for the subject and interest in research grew during a high school biology course. Kills Pretty Enemy’s father always pushed her to pursue an education, putting her and her siblings through a local private school while living on the reservation. It was his belief in her that motivated Kills Pretty Enemy to pursue higher education. She first graduated with an associates degree in biology from Little Big Horn College in 2014. Then with the help of of Bridges, an organization that helps with bridging students from small tribal colleges with bigger universities, she began attending MSU.
Being Native American, Kills Pretty Enemy has faced unique challenges. Many people she knew growing up struggled with alcoholism and other health problems. During her first semester at MSU, Kills Pretty Enemy lost her father to diabetes, and since that time she has had to say goodbye to many other family members and loved ones. These losses have had an immeasurable emotional impact on her academics and life. Additionally, she had to overcome the cultural shock of transitioning to a large, mostly white university all while balancing the responsibility of caring for her two sons.
Through this adversity, Kills Pretty Enemy had to work closely with professors, had to withdraw at times, retook classes and reached out to different campus resources for help when she has needed it. There were times when Kills Pretty Enemy herself might have given up, but when things looked darkest, professors she admired; like Scott Taylor, professor of anatomy and physiology, and her research mentor Walk; demonstrated their faith in her ability by nominating her to be a McNair scholar and for other scholarships as well.
By now Kills Pretty Enemy has truly come into her element at MSU. Though she has faced adversity, she has never used that as an excuse to hold her back. In her own words her time at MSU has helped her to grow as a student, as a mother; and as a person. To her, all these struggles and more are worth it to achieve her greater goal of gaining the experience necessary to better the health of her people on the Crow Reservation and Native Americans everywhere. Kills Pretty Enemy has received a lot of help and support during her time at MSU, and now she gives back daily, acting as a mentor to other AISES students, empathizing with and encouraging them. Her advice for students who face struggles while at MSU: “Don’t give up. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. It gets better through persistence and perseverance, and more importantly reaching out to people, because everyone here, from what I’ve seen, needs help every once and awhile.”