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Leadership fellowships awarded by United Tribes
21 May 2010

BISMARCK (UTN) - Two outstanding college students at United Tribes Technical College received the David M. Gipp Leadership Fellowships for 2012 . The honorees are business student Laramie Plain Feather, a member of the Crow Tribe in Montana, and teacher education student Billi Jo Gravseth from the Standing Rock Tribe in North and South Dakota.

The recipients were honored May 2 during a ceremony and dinner. Each received a recognition plaque from United Tribes President David M. Gipp, for whom the award is named. Gipp is a nationally recognized leader in American Indian higher education. He has led the college for 35 years.


Dr. David M. Gipp, left, fellowship recipients Laramie Plain Feather and Billi Jo Gravseth, and Rick Williams of the American Indian College Fund, rear right.
DENNIS J. NEUMANN<>United Tribes News

"These young people point out very clearly what United Tribes is all about," said Gipp. "The college was and still is about providing good support and training to help build them up for success."

One hundred friends, staff members and college supporters attended the fellowship recognition event held at Apple Creek Country Club. Included were North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple, North Dakota State Senator Ryan Taylor, North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission Director Scott Davis, and Bismarck attorney Sarah Vogel, who was thanked and recognized for her outstanding support of United Tribes.

Referring to the western North Dakota oil boom, Gipp said “we especially want Native Americans to contribute and be involved in the development and have an equal share in the future benefits.”

The audience was treated to an entertaining keynote talk by Richard B. “Rick” Williams, President & CEO of the American Indian College Fund. Ceremonial and honoring songs were rendered by the drum group Tatanka Nagi.

The David M. Gipp Native American Leadership Fellowship is a privately funded award for students who demonstrate leadership potential in their home communities and at United Tribes. Recipients receive a $1,000 award and participate in leadership development and mentorship activities.

For more information about the fellowship or to contribute, please contact Suzan O’Connell, Development Director, United Tribes Technical College, 3315 University Drive, Bismarck, ND, 58504, 701-255-3285 x 1533, soconnell@uttc.edu.

Laramie D. Plain Feather

Laramie D. Plain Feather is an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe in Montana. His tribal name is Owner of Many Fine Things, given to him by his uncle. He belongs to the Big Lodge clan and is a child of the Bad War Deeds Clan. His parents are Mardell and Leo Plainfeather, Billings, MT. He and his wife Cabbrina, also a UTTC student, have two children: Cyra and Hadrian.

"I’ve witnessed tremendous growth and development in Laramie during the academic year," said Kathlene Thurman, chair of college's Business Department, introducing him during the award presentation. "His development came not only in the area of academic achievement and leadership, but in maturity and character as well."

Laramie’s academic work earned him a place on the United Tribes President's List during all five semesters at the college. As the elected vice president of the UTTC Student Senate, he was instrumental in motivating students. He is a member of the United Tribes Power Lifting Club and the Big Brother Club. Recently he was named the 2012 United Tribes/American Indian College Fund Student of the Year.

As part of his leadership responsibilities and mentoring, he visited Washington, DC in March. There, along with UTTC President Gipp, he testified about the challenges and successes of tribal college students.

“I want to thank United Tribes for this opportunity to make my family’s life better,” said a nearly speechless Laramie accepting the award. “I want to thank my wife Cabbrina. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be standing here now. She’s the rock of this family and she encourages me to do well and try to succeed.”

Laramie graduated May 4 with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Small Business Management. His educational goal is to earn bachelors in Business Administration at UTTC.

Billi Jo Gravseth

Billi Jo Gravseth is from the Standing Rock Tribe. She was raised in Kenel, South Dakota, a small community near the North and South Dakota border. She is the oldest child in a large family and a first-generation college student. After graduating from Standing Rock High School, she attended college in both the United States and Canada on basketball scholarships. She continues to play independent basketball and is a powwow dancer. She is also a military veteran, having served in the Army National Guard, where she met her husband, Anthony. They have one son, Carter. She continues to maintain a close relationship with her extended family and reservation community.

“Billi has maintained a level of excellence as a full-time student while being a wife and mother, athlete and part-time worker,” wrote Lisa Azure, Teacher Education Program Director, in the award nomination. “She is a leader and role model for her peers on campus, her friends and family on the reservation, and American Indian women in general.”

Billi earned an AAS degree at UTTC and continued work on a bachelor degree, maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.82. She will graduate in May 2013 with a BS in Elementary Education and an endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education.

She has been a member of the Student North Dakota Education Association; participated in the Yale Child Study internship on the campus of Yale University; completed over 200 hours of field placements in area tribal, public and private elementary schools; completed a summer practicum in the Special Needs classroom for the Bismarck Public Schools; and was featured in a marketing video on the American Indian College Fund website.

"Billi is a natural teacher and is at ease in front of an audience, whether children in the classroom or adults at a conference," wrote Azure. “She is going to be a leader in education.”

Her goal is to become the teacher who can teach all children, particularly those from culturally and ability-diverse backgrounds.

“I wasn’t going to cry,” said a teary-eyed Billi Jo accepting her award and acknowledging her biggest supporter, her Unci (grandmother) Maxine White Bull of Kenel, in the audience. “I humbly receive this with thanks to Dr. Gipp and the college.”

Billi Jo thanked her mentors, peers and husband, and closed with the Mohawk proverb: “Our children aren’t ours; they are only lent to us by the Creator.”

For more information about the fellowship or to contribute, please contact Suzan O’Connell, Development Director, United Tribes Technical College, 3315 University Drive, Bismarck, ND, 58504, 701-255-3285 x 1533, soconnell@uttc.edu.

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