Wednesday, June 22, 2011

UMD Master of Tribal Administration readies for inaugurial year

More than two years in planning mode, the first-of-its-kind Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG) degree program at the University of Minnesota Duluth is ready for its inauguration next fall.

American Indian leaders from tribes across the country will have the opportunity to pursue coursework in various classes that include tribal sovereignty, tribal accounting and finance, federal Indian law, leadership and ethics. In addition, tribal language and cultural elements will also be weaved into coursework throughout the program. The UMD Board of Regents approved the program in February, 2010.

“This program will prepare students to apply their skills to manage the daily realities of tribal governance,” said Tadd Johnson, chair of the American Indian Studies Department and MTAG program director at UMD. “There is no program exactly like this. To me this is designed by the tribes.”

What makes this program unique, Johnson explains, it that virtually all of the tribes in Minnesota provided feedback to program coordinators at UMD that emphasizes a “hands-on approach” versus a more traditionally academic theoretical method.

An enrolled member of the Bois Forte
, Johnson worked in Washington D.C. for Sen. Mo Udall (check) and with the Clinton Administration on Indian gaming issues before becoming tribal attorney with the Mill Lac (check)
He is also a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School.

University of Minnesota Duluth graduate and Fond du Lac (check)
Tribe Chairwoman Karen Diver provided input into the process of establishing the program, Johnson said. A graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Public Management (check) at Harvard University, Diver and other tribal leaders persuaded the MTAGH administration to take the exponential approach in designing the degree program.

With tribes positioning themselves to provide a wider range of programs and services for their members, Johnson says the partnership between the tribes as sovereign nations and the university has been one of collaboration.

“The tribes wanted an applied program that dealt with practical things,” Johnson said.

Other leaders agree with the premise.

“We know talented young people who would like to work in tribal government,” said Billie Mason, commissioner of education of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. “This new degree program will provide the training and development students need to effectively serve their people and build a career.”

The two-year, master’s degree program will begin in late August 2011 and will feature weekly online meetings and face-to-face weekend meetings at the UMD campus every three weeks. The curriculum and schedule will allow students to continue working while pursuing their degree.

The curriculum includes classes on principles of tribal sovereignty, tribal budgets, finance and accounting, principles of tribal management, federal Indian law and leadership and ethics.

Students in the program may already serve as tribal administrators, council members or tribal leaders. The curriculum is based on the roles that tribal administrators, leaders and professionals play in formal and informal situations that support tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Traditional language and culture is an important thread throughout the program.

The two-year program, which begins in Fall 2011, features face-to-face meetings at the UMD campus once every three weeks. Interaction with experts in each area of the curriculum will include special guests as well as UMD faculty, staff and students. The classes at UMD are offered from Friday night until Saturday afternoon. In order to accommodate working professionals and support existing commitments to families and home communities, a portion of the program will be offered online.

"The low-residency schedule was essential to allow American Indian tribal members from throughout the Midwest to attend," Johnson said.

Brian McInnes, assistant professor in the Department of Education, played a significant role by designing the Leadership and Ethics course, which he will teach. UMD is the only university in the country to offer this unique masters program focused on tribal leadership development. Dean Paul Deputy and former Associate Dean Tom Peacock of UMD's College of Education & Human Service Professions played a key role in the early meetings of the concept.

Tribal Collaboration

The program scope was developed by UMD through extensive consultation with tribal governments throughout the Midwest from 2009 through 2010. Johnson and Rick Smith, director of the American Indian Learning Resource Center, spent months meeting with leaders of American Indian tribes.
College of Liberal Arts Dean Susan Maher also has been actively involved in the development of this program. She is especially impressed by the support from the American Indian community.

"In October 2010, the 35 tribes of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes passed a resolution specifically supporting the program," Maher said. "All of the tribal governments from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa are advocates for this new offering."

Input on Program Development

On Feb. 10, 2011 the University of Minnesota Board of Regents instrumental in the development of MTAG.

On Feb. 10, 2011 the University of Minnesota Board of Regents Many approved of UMD's approach.

Chief Executive Marge Anderson of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe said, "UMD developed this program by asking tribal governments what was needed."

Barb Brodeen, executive director for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, agreed: "The Bois Forte Band is pleased that the degree program reflects our ideas and wishes."

Assisting the tribes and students was an important goal.

"Many of our talented young people would like to work in Tribal Government," said Billie Mason, commissioner of education of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. "Thanks to UMD's collaboration with Indian leaders and educators, this new degree program will provide the training and development both current employees and students need to effectively serve their people and build a career."

Smith noted that the elected leaders of tribal governments frequently come from the ranks of the tribal administrators: "UMD may be training some of the next generation of tribal leaders under this program."

Johnson also noted that the collaboration between UMD and tribal governments "will continue in the days and years ahead as the needs of Indian country change."
Most importantly, Johnson believes that an increasing focus on American Indian Studies is vital.

"UMD was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the country to recognize that American Indian studies was a unique discipline," Johnson said. "Since 1972, UMD has taught generations of students the importance of the history, language and culture of Native Americans. Now, we are taking another bold step."

About the Program Director

Tadd Johnson, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Bois Forte Band is a 1985 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. He has served as a tribal administrator, a tribal attorney, a tribal court judge and has taught numerous courses on Federal Indian Law and American Indian History. From 1990-1995, he served as counsel and staff director to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources in the Office of Indian Affairs

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