Josie Hoien

I’m motivated by color, people, and motion, and somehow the Center of the American West checks all my boxes.

My name is Josie Hoien, a graduating senior Spring 2020 with a Geography degree & certificates in Native American and Indigenous Studies and the American West.

My family pokes fun at my nomadic tendencies. “We never know where Josie is,” my older brother tells anyone who asks. I grew up in Okoboji, Iowa, and I moved to Boulder in 2015 for undergrad. After my sophomore year, I bailed school and traveled to southern Chile to complete a NOLS course in Patagonia for 5 months. I stayed for 2 more months, preparing rations and repairing mountaineering gear for expeditions. During my time off, I learned the value of experiential education and intergenerational conversation. I came to appreciate how technical outdoor education lends itself to character development. After, I was eager to return to classes in Boulder.

Will, a noteworthy friend, activist, athlete, and professional photographer/journalist, first mentioned the Center in Fall 2018. “If I could change one thing about my college career, I would have been more involved,” he told me. His words carried weight, and I ended up at a Center event led by Patty shortly thereafter.

The Center brought my entire collegiate career to a head. The glaciers of the South Patagonian icefield redirected my studies into general geography; Greg Johnson, who taught the impressionable “Native American Religious Traditions,” looped me into CNAIS with his deep-seated passion for Indigenous community health and expressions; and, somehow, I ended up at Patty Limerick’s house on the hill, drinking wine among people aged 21-70+, discussing water, adventure tourism, and the resilience/challenges/status of Indigenous nations.

My parents threw dinner parties throughout my childhood, and I helped them prep and execute the events. We set the table, selected records, and entertained. I took pride in refilling our guests’ glasses and clearing the table. To participate in a similar format at a professor’s home was, needless to say, indicative of my home. Grace Kempton gatherings are charged with the question, “so what?” – i.e. what do we do?, how can it be better?, why is this relevant? The vibe of Patty’s home was similarly fostered in the Center office in Macky and every West-related class.

CAMW offered me an explosive education, and in splattering learnings across contexts, I’ve learned to perceive a world that offers something everywhere. While the material was about the West, the experience was about community, collaboration, and action.

If COVID-19 allows, I will depart on a bike trip through Southeast Asia come September. Whether or not I plant myself in the West, I do not know; whether education or sustainable development are on the docket, it is unclear. However, I plan to lead a lifestyle inspired by my experiences at the Center.

Whatever it looks like, I hope to do it while dancing, learning, growing, and strategizing among good food and friends.


“Embark on a conversation with Josie Hoien, and you know you are on your way to a destination that you didn’t expect to visit but are sure to enjoy. Josie moves through life observing, questioning, intuiting, and interpreting up a storm. Every moment in her company brings to mind the advice that the novelist Henry James gave to a young writer: “Be one on whom nothing is lost.” It seems unlikely that she has ever passed up an opportunity worth taking, but if she did, it was only because a multitude of other opportunities had pushed their way to the front of the line. While the Center of the American West does not have the authority to require Josie to keep us informed on her adventures, we do have the right to make that request!”

– Patty Limerick, Faculty Director and Chair of the Board


“She brings such an infectious energy and enthusiasm to every interaction I’ve had with her. Whether it was in the introductory course on the American West or her independent study of dance in the West, she dives in deep and considers all the complexities of an issue. And she’s a wonderful writer of emails and essays. I’m excited to see where these qualities lead her in life!”

-Brooke Neely, Research Fellow