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United Tribes approved for four-year degrees
Accreditation renewed, baccalaureate and online programs approved and underway
19 September 2011

BISMARCK (UTN) - United Tribes Technical College is now a four-year college.

      The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and School has granted UTTC permission to offer baccalaureate education in three areas: Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

SITE VISIT: Members of the Higher Learning Commission review team were thanked April 20 at the close of their site visit to United Tribes Technical College. From left, Dr. Robert G. Martin, President of the Institute of American Indian & Alaska Native Culture & Arts Development, Santa Fe, NM; team leader Dr. Michael W. Westerfield, Vice President & Dean of Graduate & Adult Studies at William Woods University, Fulton, MO; Dr. Kristin L. Mallory, Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs at Bridgemont Community & Technical College, Montgomery, WV; Dr. Cynthia E. Spiers, Executive Director, Institutional Effectiveness/Assist to President, Planning at James A. Rhodes State College, Lima, OH; and Dr. Michael R. White, Director of Bachelor’s Programs, Dunwoody College of Technology, Minneapolis, MN. At right, United Tribes Counselor Julie Cain. DENNIS J. NEUMANN<>United Tribes News

      These are the first advanced-degree programs offered entirely through UTTC in its 42 year history. The college has already begun enrolling students, providing financial aid and offering coursework in these areas.

      “This is a major accomplishment for us,” said David M. Gipp, United Tribes President.

      The commission also renewed UTTC’s authority to offer associate’s degrees and expanded the college’s approval to provide all degrees in an online delivery format.

       “We started out as a training institute and have graduated up the line,” said Gipp. “This step is further proof of our dedication to meet the demands of the job market and open the door for our students to gain the skills and education they need to create a better world for themselves and their families. We’re not just standing in one place. We’re building a place that’s better. A place of opportunity.”

David M. Gipp

      The commission issued its formal approval in July following a comprehensive site visit to the campus in April by representatives of the commission. A five-member team reviewed and evaluated all aspects of the college’s capacity and capability.

      To prepare, UTTC had completed a five-year planning and development process conducted by a committee of the faculty and staff. The resulting self-study document, “Sharing Our Stories,” provided factual representation and evidence demonstrating that UTTC meets the stringent standards for accreditation at the baccalaureate level.

      “This is the kind of milestone that isn’t easily accomplished in higher education,” said Russell Swagger, UTTC Vice President of Student and Campus Services and head of the self-study committee. “Everyone – from the board of directors, to staff, faculty, and students – contributed to the process. And the proof of their dedication and spirit is in the results.”

Dr. Russell Swagger

      Under Swagger’s leadership, the UTTC self-study followed the college’s long-term strategic plan. The plan reflects the values and desires of the college’s board of directors for how UTTC needs to grow to meet the training and educational needs of the five governing tribes: Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Spirit Lake Tribe, Standing Rock Tribe, Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara Nation, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

      Members of the visiting team told Swagger that they were impressed with the amount of interest expressed by students, staff and faculty.

      The team said they had participated in lots of visits that have open forums where only one or two people typically show up. But at UTTC, over 30 people attended the forum. They felt that was evidence of a high degree of involvement from all areas of the campus and a high degree of commitment, said Swagger.

      “If there’s anything to be learned from this, you can’t do it alone. It requires a team effort,” he said.

      UTTC has been an NCA-accredited institution since 1982. In 2003, it became the first tribal college in the nation to offer accredited degree programs exclusively online.

      The new level of accreditation offers students opportunities to complete a bachelor degree in one of the three newly approved bachelor programs, associate’s degrees in 17 programs, and one certificate program. UTTC currently has six online associate degree and certificate programs and is in the process of developing several more.

      UTTC had previously graduated students in bachelor degree programs through a cooperative program with Sinte Gleska University in South Dakota. The unduplicated enrollment for the 2011-12 academic year is expected to exceed 1,200 students.

      As part of its new authorization, UTTC is required to submit a monitoring report by the end of 2013. Unless there are changes that affect the college’s accreditation relationship, the next accreditation visit will occur during the 2020-2021 academic year.

      “Approval of the bachelor’s degrees is clearly a singular and historic achievement,” said Swagger. “I see it as a step toward master’s and PhD programs and new levels of educational offerings for future generations of learners and leaders. It underscores the need for tribal colleges and the role they serve for tribal communities and the larger society.”


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