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First days at AICF – being present and remembering

This was my first week at the American Indian College Fund and I want to celebrate being in this really wonderful place in my life. Alex and I like living in this area – we are fascinated by the Rocky Mountains – they really are rocky and filled with all kinds of interesting trees and plants. Their roads are winding and you will come up on lovely streams and open grassy areas. I have been considering taking up fly-fishing just svan an stand on rocks in water. Last week we went for a drive up the mountains because we followed our GPS, which we have discovered has its own sense of what is the appropriate direction to go. We were a little intimidated but ended up in Gilpin, which is where my assistant, Carrie, lives so that was an unexpected treat – now I know what she has to do to get to work. The areas we can walk in are very nice open spaces – the park near me is natural grasslands with ponds and great views of both the sunrise and the mountains.
Transitioning from an academic environment into a development organization certainly has an impact on the way we “calendar” ourselves. We are not preparing for the start of the fall quarter although Alex has lots of requests for student scholarship letters. I am not doing any faculty pre-service activities or getting updates on course schedules. I can tell that I am going to have to get to the tribal colleges regularly in order to get my personal fix of student enthusiasm. I figure I should become a real Facebook junkie of TCU students so I can keep my stories of students and their successes and challenges alive and fresh for myself.
I realized this week just how diverse the Fund is – with everything from direct mail to the development of major gifts. Recently the Fund transitioned to a regional development model with development officers focused on raising funds from individuals, corporations and foundations in a geographic area. That will be challenging but allows our staff to develop closer personal working relationships with supporters and potential supporters of tribal college students and the TCUs themselves. It will encourage closer relations with the TCUs in the regions being served by Fund staff to ensure collaborative fundraising.
Being here has caused me to reminisce about my early days at Sinte Gleska University. When I went to work at SGU as a faculty member in the business department in 1981, SGU was still a very young institution and many of the founders of the tribal college movement were still living. When I think back to those early days, I remember being both happy that I had a good job and very naïve about what it meant to have a tribal college on my home reservation. I didn’t realize that the tribal colleges were such unique institutions. I didn’t know that without tribal colleges many of our people would never have been able to go to college. I learned this by observing my relatives and friends as they took classes and when they walked across the stage at graduation. I came to understand this by listening to the founders, Stanley Red Bird, Isadore White Hat, Bill Menard and so many others. I paid attention to the words and actions of Lionel Bordeaux and other tribal college presidents, board members, and educational leaders. All of them taught me that a tribal college is a special place where remarkable education takes place, where traditional knowledge is the foundation of all learning and where Indians can go to school together.
So I am happy to be here at the Fund, I get to support the amazing students at all the tribal colleges and I get to help all of our TCUs be stronger and more viable – with the team at the Fund and with the support of all the TCUs and the Fund’s Board and many friends, tribal students will continue to have access to higher education and our communities will continue to restore our knowledge and ways of living as tribal nations.

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