MSU alumnus works towards bettering Native American communities and reflects on his career cultivation

January 11, 2023 - Brandon Drain

Austin LowesAustin Lowes is a School of Social Work MSW alum who graduated in 2020. He is now the Tribal Chairman of the Sault Tribe of the Chippewa Indians.

Deep within the heart of every social worker is the undying passion, drive and determination to help and advocate for others – regardless of the size and magnitude of the task. For Austin Lowes, his time at MSU strengthened this passion and helped focus and direct it on a broader level than micro-level social work.

Lowes’s Spartan journey began after spending time as a child welfare case worker, where he felt the need to further his education to pursue a much broader goal.

“I knew if I was going to advance my career, I needed to also advance my education,” said Lowes.

MSU’s Master of Social Work program attracted Lowes because of its prestige and flexibility, allowing the father of two daughters – with the oldest being deaf from birth – a chance to further his education while continuing to build his family.


Lowes and his two daughters


“I had a young family, and it was a hybrid program,” said Lowes. “So, I knew that I would be able to have flexibility within my schedule to manage working full-time, being a full-time father and have my graduate studies taken care of. I was working 40 hours a week, doing 16 hours a week in my field placement and my second daughter was born.”

“It was going to be a short-term sacrifice for a long-term goal.”


Lowes was awarded a fellowship to the National Congress of American Indians for his commitment to addressing tribal issues – something that would become a turning point in his career trajectory. This fellowship granted Lowes an opportunity to meet and connect with government officials and tribal leaders in D.C., which, “created a spark in my head… I started to think about the good I could do in my community with this education.”


“That was an absolute inspiring opportunity!”


After a virtual graduation in 2020, amid the pandemic, Lowes immediately went to work as he was soon elected to the Sault Tribe’s council. He took his expertise in social work and applied it to the macro level. He identified the tribe community as a “client” and his focus was fixed on linking the tribe towards the necessary resources to meet their needs.


Lowes had his hands full, as the Covid-19 pandemic shook the foundations of the Sault Tribe, where he played in hand in various initiatives funded by the CARES Act 2020 as well as the AARP. Lowes and company worked to alleviate housing instability and substance abuse through the creation of several programs within the tribe. In addition, they worked towards purchasing more land, acquiring 560 acres of land and 7,000 feet of shoreline on Sugar Island – the Sault Tribe’s native lands – which they intend to use for hunting, fishing and practicing culture while also acting as a site for future housing.

 Lowes signing policy documents


Lowes was recently sworn in as the Tribal Chairman for the Sault Tribe, officially making him the youngest Tribal Chairman in Sault Tribe history at 34. His time at MSU proved to provide him with the roadmap to success by giving him the tools, resources and education necessary to advance his career.


“Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything different, because I firmly believe my time at MSU put me on track to where I am today.”