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Ground breaking starts new housing complex at UTTC
2 June 2006

BISMARCK (UTN) - United Tribes Technical College took another step to expand its services to the growing numbers of American Indian students seeking higher education. The college broke ground June 2 for a family apartment complex to be built on the college campus in Bismarck.

      The ceremony included prayers in Lakota, speeches from dignitaries, the ceremonial shoveling of soil and traditional drum honor songs.

SHOVEL AWAY: Making the earth fly June 2 at the ground breaking for an apartment complex for students with families at United Tribes Technical College are, from left, North Dakota Congressman Earl Pomeroy, Senator Kent Conrad, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Chairman Ken Davis and UTTC President David M. Gipp.

      It was all part of the college's long range expansion and renovation plan to serve more students.

      "More than 50 percent of our American Indian population is under the age of 25," said David M. Gipp, UTTC President. "In North Dakota, the Indian population is the fastest growing segment of our state population. These young people need more facilities like this to meet their needs in the 21st Century."

      When completed, the $2.7 million apartment complex will address the chronic shortage of affordable housing, which remains the most critical infrastructure need at the college.

      A single co-educational dormitory constructed in 2003 was a welcome addition to the campus for single students, supplementing two other dorm buildings that were built over 100 years ago as part of a military post that became the college.

      Sixty-seven family residences on campus meet only a portion of the growing need for family housing. UTTC enrollment more than doubled over the past three years to 1,118, causing many students and their families to be placed in apartments off-campus and even motels for short periods of time.

      The new 26,400 square foot complex will provide two-bedroom apartments for 24 families, allowing the entire family to live on campus in a safe and culturally meaningful environment. Experience has taught that students attain greater educational success when living on campus. The campus community environment promotes the formation of relationships typical of support systems found at home. Family and community support, and cultural value systems are deemed critical to the academic success of American Indian students.

      In the last two years the college has turned to the temporary and costly solution of leasing housing units off campus to meet student needs.

      "Our priority, and our commitment, is to have as much housing on campus as possible," said Gipp. "Here, in this 'home away from home,' we provide more than just an education. With our childhood development center, the elementary school, and our support services, we educate and help raise the entire family."

      The new apartment complex, consisting of two 12 unit buildings surrounding a commons area, will be centrally located on the 105 acre main campus, close to the cafeteria, post office, security office, transportation stops, day care, and playgrounds.

      The primary source of funding is a $2 million housing tax credit awarded through the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency. UTTC formed a limited partnership with Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc., an investment firm involved in developing affordable housing properties nationwide.

      North Dakota U. S. Senator Kent Conrad was instrumental in securing approximately $500 thousand dollars in two grants from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The remainder of funding is provided by UTTC and a private sector investor.

      Capitalizing on the availability of a trained labor force among students on campus, the units will be constructed by students and staff members of the college's Construction Technology Department.

      "Our students receive top quality training," said Construction Technology Director Michael Matheny, the project manager. "We've built other buildings on campus and we're confident in the outcome of this project. In fact, this one will help launch the careers of some as construction contractors."

      The college has also drawn on the professional expertise of private sector contractors to package the funding and prepare for construction: Prairie Engineering, Swenson and Hagen Company, Ulteig Engineers Inc., Ritterbush-Ellig-Hulsing, Ohitika Designs, and Travois, Inc. United Tribes is the project's general contractor.

      "We are creating an environment of independence and accomplishment as we pursue our expansion goals on campus," said Russell Swagger, UTTC dean of Student and Campus Services. "We know that we can't do these projects alone. So, we are continuing to partner with funders, consultants and professional organizations in the community and then rely on our own students and staff to build the project."

      Students will be paid for their work on the project. Construction begins June 6 and is expected to be completed in early 2007.

      "This gives students the opportunity to put their training and knowledge to work," said Swagger. "This is what they came to school to learn and this puts that education into action."

      The work also helps UTTC build experience and capacity for future campus building projects as the college plans for the growing population of American Indians who are seeking higher education.

      Attending the ground breaking event: U. S. Senator Kent Conrad; North Dakota Congressman Earl Pomeroy; representatives of North Dakota's tribal nations that govern the college: Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation, Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; North Dakota Governor's Chief of Staff Bill Goetz; North Dakota Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Mike Anderson and Housing Credit Coordinator Jolene Kline; North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead; North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Cheryl Kulas; University of Mary President Sr. Thomas Welder; BSC President Dr. Donna Thigpen and Provost Dr. Wayne Bokes; Bismarck Mayor John Warford; Mandan Mayor Ken LaMont; Bismarck Public Schools Superintendent Paul Johnson and Assistant Superintendent Rick Buresh; Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce President Kelvin Hullett; and a group of Chamber Ambassadors.


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