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Bismarck to host tribal colleges national conference
31 March 2011

BISMARCK (UTN) - American Indian students attending the nation's tribal colleges and universities will converge on Bismarck in April for their annual student conference.

      The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) Student Conference is set for April 16-19 at the Bismarck Civic Center. It attracts 1,200 students, faculty and administrators involved in American Indian higher education.

      The gathering features a series of friendly competitions that test the level of student accomplishments in the range of learning offered at the nation's three-dozen tribal colleges, located in 14 states primarily in the western part of the nation.

      Keynote speakers include Jodi Gillette, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs; Hattie Kaufmann, National TV News Correspondent; Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, and actor Val Kilmer, who will make a special presentation as the author/raconteur Mark Twain. Kilmer's Twain presentation is set for 8 p.m. Sunday, April 17 in the Bismarck Civic Center Arena.

      The conference is headquartered at the Bismarck Civic Center Exhibit Hall, where the majority of the student competitions will take place.

      A welcoming powwow is scheduled for the exhibit hall beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 16. Archery competition will take place at the Nishu Bowmen Complex on Riverwood Drive. Volleyball will be played at the World War Memorial Building. Some other events are scheduled for the United Tribes Technical College campus.

      The gathering also includes two days of professional development workshops starting Sunday, April 17 with a session about cultural strengthening as a core component in suicide prevention. Other topics include native health, student retention, transfer to four-year colleges, and career planning. Workshops will take place at the University of Mary's Butler Center for Lifelong Learning, located near the Civic Center at 505 South 7th Street.

      Conference details, including a daily schedule, lodging, and vendor information are posted at http://aihec.sittingbull.edu/.

      The event is hosted and planned by the member colleges of the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges: Cankdeska Cikana (Little Hoop) Community College, Fort Totten; Fort Berthold Community College, New Town; Sisseton Wahpeton College, Sisseton, SD; Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates; Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt; and United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck.

      Registered participants will receive a packet of information containing a conference booklet that lists schedules and locations for all activities and events.


Jodi Gillette, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs for Policy & Economic Development, US Department of Interior

Jodi Gillette

Jodi Gillette is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. She was appointed January 10, 2011 as Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs for Policy and Economic Development in the U.S. Department of the Interior by Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk.

Prior to joining the Assistant Secretary’s staff, she had served since February 2009 as the Deputy Associate Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Associate Director of Public Engagement, where she was responsible for the communication and interaction between tribal nations and the President of the United States. She was responsible for pulling together the White House Tribal Nations Conference in 2009 and 2010, where the President hosted tribal leaders from across the U.S. to identify actions to fulfill his commitment to strengthening the nation-to-nation relationship with American Indian and Alaska Native tribal communities.

Ms. Gillette came to the White House after serving as state director of the Obama Campaign for Change’s First American Vote initiative in North Dakota.

Prior to that, Ms. Gillette had served as executive director of the Native American Training Institute in Bismarck, a non-profit offering technical assistance and training to tribal, state and local governments in the area of human service delivery systems. She also had served as an economic development planner for her tribe in Fort Yates, N.D.

Ms. Gillette holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and Native American Studies from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. (1991) and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Policy in Minneapolis (2003).

Ms. Gillette has held and received numerous awards and honors during her career including the Tucker Fellowship, Rockefeller Fellowship, Lawrence Marx, Jr., Award and the Mellon Minority Academic Fellowship from Dartmouth. She also served as president of the Native Americans at Dartmouth, a student organization (1989, 1990) and was a Bush Foundation
Leadership Fellow (2002-2004).

She also has authored and co-authored a number of publications on American Indian child welfare research and Native American family service curricula.


Hattie Kauffman, National News Correspondent

Hattie Kauffman

Hattie Kauffman is the National News correspondent for The Early Show based in Los Angeles. Kauffman's is a familiar face to viewers of morning news programs. On CBS This Morning, she was senior correspondent for more than two years, and frequently filled in for vacationing anchors. She first joined This Morning as a correspondent in March 1990.

Her unique style of reporting human interest stories has earned her acclaim throughout her career. As national correspondent, she headed up the broadcast's consumer affairs unit, providing viewers with useful information to assist them in making better consumer choices. In that capacity, she has investigated a sunken treasure hunting firm, gone to a women's shooting range for a series on home security and taken part in a federal sting operation on an auto service station that did unnecessary repairs.

An Emmy Award-winning reporter, Kauffman has covered a variety of subjects from breaking news to features on newsmakers to stories on people and places that don't often make headlines. She has reported on the residents of the Hawaiian leper colony of Kalaupapa and a woman in Holland who wanted to be a candidate for euthanasia. During the War in the Persian Gulf, she reported on the human side of the crisis from major military installations around the United States.

Kauffman has also shown her adventurous side during her reporting on unique vacation ideas. As a part of her five-part series, "Something Wild," Kauffman went rock climbing, white-water rafting and race car driving. Her second series that featured venturous escapes, "Something Wild," showcased Kauffman scuba diving with dolphins, ski jumping and luging in Lake Placid, New York and riding rodeo-style in Texas.

Prior to joining CBS Kauffman was a reporter for "Good Morning America" from May 1987 to March 1990. Previously, she was a reporter and anchor at KING-TV in Seattle, Washington. She joined KING-TV in 1981 as a reporter and was promoted to weekend anchor in 1983. During her tenure in Seattle, Kauffman earned four Emmy Awards for her work.

A Pacific Northwest Native, Kauffman became the first Native American journalist to report on a national broadcast in 1989.


Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, USDA

Kathleen A. Merrigan

Kathleen A. Merrigan works with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and oversees the day-to-day operation of USDA’s many programs and spearheads the $149 billion USDA budget process.

She serves on the President’s Management Council, working with other Cabinet Deputies to improve accountability and performance across the federal government. Merrigan brings a wealth of knowledge to USDA from a decades-long career in policy, legislation, and research related to the many missions of USDA.

Deputy Secretary Merrigan has managed the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort to highlight the critical connection between farmers and consumers and support local and regional food systems that increase economic opportunity in Rural America.

In November 2009, she made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Recognizing that most employees work outside of Washington, D.C., Merrigan has visited USDA field offices nationwide to ensure top-flight program delivery that meets constituents’ needs. Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time magazine named Dr. Merrigan among the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010.

Before becoming Deputy Secretary, Merrigan served for eight years as Assistant Professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts.

Under an appointment by President Bill Clinton, Merrigan was Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999 to 2001. She served for six years as a senior staff member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, working for Senator Patrick Leahy (VT).

Merrigan has also been engaged in agricultural policy in positions at the FAO, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Massachusetts State Senate.

Merrigan holds a Ph.D. degree in environmental planning and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas, and a B.A. degree from Williams College.

She and her husband Michael Selmi have two children in elementary school.


Val Kilmer, Actor

Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer is one of the most prolific actors of his generation. He has worked with many of film’s most respected directors and actors. He adds to that impressive list with two new films: Millennium’s Bad Lieutenant, with Nicolas Cage, directed by Werner Herzog, and Streets of Blood, with Sharon Stone and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. He recently completed photography on the new Francis Ford Coppola movie Twixt Now and Sunrise.

Other recent projects include the Ric Roman Waugh’s Felon, an action-thriller produced by Jerry Bruckheimer Films for Touchstone Pictures in which Kilmer stars with Denzel Washington and Jim Caviezel; and Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang, written and directed by Shane Black, co-starring Robert Downey, Jr.

The youngest student ever admitted to the drama department at Juilliard, Kilmer made his feature debut in the comedy Top Secret, which he followed up with Real Genius and his breakout role as the Iceman in Tony Scott’s Top Gun, opposite Tom Cruise.

Kilmer’s other memorable roles include Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors, the title character in Batman Forever, Doc Holliday in Tombstone and Simon Templar in The Saint. His other starring roles include Michael Mann’s Heat, with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino; True Romance, directed by Tony Scott; Ron Howard’s Willow; At First Sight; and Thunderheart. He won the 2003 Prism Award for his work in The Salton Sea, and appeared in the 3-D epic Wings of Courage, as well as voicing the character of Moses in the animated film The Prince of Egypt.

Kilmer’s films also include Oliver Stone’s Alexander, Renny Harlin’s Mindhunters, the animated feature Delgo, Ron Howard’s The Missing and Wonderland. He most recently starred in MacGruber, a comedy based on the SNL spoof sketch of ‘MacGyver’.