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Graduates have economic earning power
10 May 2005

2005 graduates
Lined up by program with nursing students in the foreground, the largest UTTC graduating class stretched almost the entire way around the perimeter of Lone Star Arena dance arbor on the college campus. UTN photo Dennis J. Neumann

BISMARCK (UTN) - The largest graduating class in school history was honored during a commencement ceremony at United Tribes Technical College. Friends, relatives and college officials gathered May 6 on the campus in Bismarck to congratulate 114 students who earned degrees and certificates in 16 different academic and vocational programs.

      "Because of you, we can wipe out poverty in Indian Country in 10 years," said keynote speaker Cecilia Fire Thunder, Oglala Sioux Tribal Chair. "As graduates you're going to contribute to wiping out poverty with your skills and knowledge. You'll be of service to your community and you'll take care of yourself and your family. So, for every graduate in Indian Country we're beginning the journey to ending poverty."

      According to a study prepared by the college, UTTC's 2005 American Indian graduates will earn a projected $184.5 million over their working lifetimes.

      The study identified the economic benefit of having American Indian students train for employment and graduate from college rather than drawing upon forms of assistance from the government. With reservation unemployment rates in the region hovering around 75 percent, job prospects are limited and earning power restricted for untrained workers.

      "Earning this degree opens a pathway of accomplishment," said David M. Gipp, UTTC President. "In the lives of these graduates, American Indians are contributing to the revitalization of Indian Country and the economic growth of the nation."

      UTTC's commencement ceremony marked the entry of students into new areas of academic achievement. Bachelors' Degrees were conferred for the first time on five students who completed a teacher-training curriculum in Elementary Education, offered in cooperation with Sinte Gleska University.

      Sinte Gleska President Lionel Bordeaux, a pioneer in the tribal college movement, told how early efforts to establish tribal colleges were met with stereotypical suggestions that Indians should "stick with arts and crafts."

Sheila Crow Ghost
Nursing graduate Sheila Crow Ghost congratulated by UTTC President David M. Gipp.

      "UTTC has made tremendous strides in developing Indian education," said Bordeaux. "Our calling is to redefine and restructure tribal education according to who we are and what we want to become... you [graduates] are evidence right here of what took a long time."

      For the last four years, UTTC's long-time federal funding has been deleted from the Department Of Interior budget. Gipp told the crowd of over 400 assembled at the school's powwow arena that Congress was already in the process of restoring the school's funding for 2006. The Interior Appropriations Committee reported the D-O-I budget out of committee May 10 with funding for UTTC, he said.

      "The value of a higher education cannot be overstated," said Gipp. "What we, as a nation, invest to provide an education has the effect of launching a lifetime of benefits. We know we're making a great contribution to society through the students we educate."

      Other honors during the ceremony included the first student to graduate in a newly created program, Elementary Education. The first crop of high-tech students graduated who earned their degrees by taking classes entirely on-line.

      The graduates represented 28 different tribal nations; some had completed their course of study at the end of the Fall 2004 term.

      The event concluded the 2004-05 academic year, the college's 36th year serving American Indian students and their families. College officials have anticipated a growing demand in tribal areas for higher education by planning for the renovation and expansion of campus facilities. The college plans to grow student enrollment from the present 855 to 2,000 in the next five years.


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