Q&A with New President and CEO Joshua Arce

PWNA recently announced the appointment of Joshua (“Josh”) Arce as our new president and chief executive officer (CEO). We sat down with Josh to learn more about his upbringing on a reservation, his experiences with tribal communities and his vision for PWNA.

Q: What is your tribal affiliation?

A: My affiliation is the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas. We are a federally recognized tribe with approximately 4,500 members, 600 of whom live in Kansas.

Q: Can you share more about the realities for members of the Potawatomi Tribe?

A: A lot has changed in my lifetime, but I remember when we had mostly gravel roads. I remember living in a small trailer with no electricity and tribal council assessing how to pay a $9 light bill. I remember using my uncle’s outhouse when I would visit him. Gaming was introduced in the late 1980’s and helped improve many of these conditions, but we still face a poverty rate of about 20 percent.

Q: How did you first learn about PWNA?

A: I knew Nikki Pitre who was – and still is – on the PWNA Board of Directors. We had worked together through the American Indian Higher Education Consortium as my previous employer, Haskell, is one of only two federally funded tribal colleges with all-Native student bodies.

Q: What were you most proud of while serving on PWNA’s Board of Directors?

A: After I visited PWNA’s distribution center in Rapid City, I could see how well-organized and polished the operations were. Both in Rapid City and Phoenix, the staff’s dedication to the organization and its tribal program partners is evident.

Q: What influenced your decision to pursue the role of CEO & President?

A: It’s the dawn of a new decade, and it was a new position that seemed to align with my knowledge, skills and abilities. I evaluated it the same way I would any opportunity but felt I had tremendous support from existing staff, Board members and family to make the decision without hesitation.

Q: What skillsets do you think will be most valuable for PWNA in your new role?

A: Thanks to my experience in IT, I am agile in strategic planning and decision-making for critical infrastructure, such as the network and donor database, which can bring cost efficiencies.

Q: Where do you feel PWNA excels most?

A: Our distribution center operations (warehousing and deliveries) run like well-oiled machines. They process requests efficiently and maintain spotless audits year over year.

Q: What would you say is PWNA’s greatest accomplishment after 30 years of serving Indian Country?

A: Many organizations do not make the 30-year milestone – that in and of itself is an accomplishment. The tenacity of our employees and tribal partners, along with the leadership of our Board and senior team, has set the organization on the right path to continue being a meaningful resource for Native communities, partners and students.

Q: What’s the main thing people need to know about you?

A: Most importantly, I’m a solution-oriented person – it’s easy to identify problems but more important to find solutions. I’m very open, so I make time to listen to feedback or ideas and sort through opportunities.

Q: What is your hope for PWNA going forward?

A: I want to help PWNA grow so we can continue fostering connections to success and support real and sustainable change in tribal communities. From a humanitarian standpoint, I also want PWNA to continue to be recognized as a national Native nonprofit that serves the needs of Indian Country and guarantees a safe and impactful investment for donors.

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