It was a year of firsts at the 2013 UMD graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies. The first graduate class to earn masters degrees in UMD’s new Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG) program received their diplomas on Thursday, May 16 in the Romano Gymnasium. On Saturday, May 18, AMSOIL Arena held over 10,000 people as 1,348 undergraduates crossed the stage during two separate ceremonies. This first-ever arrangement eliminated the need for tickets, making it possible for all family and friends to witness their graduates’ special day.
At this year’s graduate program ceremony, 22 students made history as members of the first Master of Tribal Administration and Governance class. This is the only graduate degree program of its type in the United States. It trains people specifically in the best management practice for tribal governments. It focuses on tribal sovereignty, federal Indian law, leadership, ethics, tribal accounting and budgets, and tribal management (including strategic, operations, project and human resources.) Uniquely, MTAG was designed for tribes by tribes.
“We did not start out with the ideas for MTAG, they came from Indian Country,” says Tadd Johnson, director of graduate studies and chair of the American Indian Studies department at UMD.
The MTAG program began in the Fall of 2011, after two years of extensive consultations with tribal administrators, tribal leaders, and tribal organizations at national conferences and throughout the Midwest. These meetings affirmed that there is a need for partnerships between tribes and a university to assist in training tribal administrators.
Brian McInnes, an assistant professor in the Department of Education, said, “I really see the program as a good way in which UMD has been responsive to the community. It is a product of tribal consultation.”
The MTAG graduates are an accomplished group, consisting of tribal members from throughout the Midwest. This group includes three executive directors of Indian tribes, the tribal liaison for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and several managers running programs on area reservations. Johnson said, “These students are the leaders of Indian Country.”
In the past, the Bureau of Indian Affairs administered tribal programs, but over the last few decades federal laws have passed that encourage tribal governments to run their own reservations. Johnson explains that tribes can now pair up with universities to better educate tribal administrators, putting UMD’s MTAG program on the cutting edge. “The Master of Tribal Administration and Governance program is a stepping stone that shows we have the capacity to do this,” said Tiger Brown Bull. He is an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. When asked about his 12-hour drive to UMD, he said it was “totally worth it.” Brown Bull will be starting law school at Michigan State University this fall.
At the same time, MTAG graduate Joseph Nayquonabe admits that his jump to CEO of the economic development arm for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe occurred largely because of his participation in UMD’s MTAG program. Nayquonabe has 10 years of experience in the marketing department of Grand Casino and received an MBA from the Carlson School of Management.
For the first time, UMD hosted two bachelor degree ceremonies in one day, both on May 18 at AMSOIL Arena. UMD’s Chancellor Dr. Lendley C. Black presided over both commencements. The two ceremonies were divided with the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) and the Swenson College of Science and Engineering (SCSE) graduates conferred in the morning, and the College of Education and Human Service Professions (CEHSP), the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), and the School of Fine Arts (SFA) graduates conferred in the afternoon.
The Class of 2013 consisted of 2,028 students earning undergraduate degrees from UMD with a total of 1,348 students marching in both ceremonies.
University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler delivered the commencement address at both ceremonies during which he ran down a list of the Top 10 things the Class of 2013 will remember from their days at UMD, which included celebrating several NCAA National Championships and experiencing campus closures for floods in June and blizzards in April.
Tricia Nielson was the student speaker at the 10 a.m. ceremony where she received a bachelor of accounting degree, summa cum laude, in addition to graduating with departmental honors from LSBE. Taylor Kosey was the student speaker at the 3 p.m. ceremony where she received a bachelor of science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, summa cum laude, from CEHSP.