Phillips Appointed as First USDA Liaison

Nov 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-2: Land is Life, Tribal College News

USDA Secretary Dan Glickman (right) and Deputy Secretary Richard Rominger (left) present John Phillips (center) with the Secretary’s Honor Award.

In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) appointed John Phillips as the USDA tribal college liaison position in Washington, D.C. This is a new position in the department. This position culminates several years of negotiations between the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and USDA officials. AIHEC and USDA leadership plan to continue expanding the USDA tribal college liaison program, eventually creating a regionally based network of liaisons serving the tribal colleges.

The liaison is responsible for representing the tribal colleges’ interests and priorities throughout the department’s programs. USDA programs include not only traditional agrarian interests but also areas such as youth development, family and nutrition services, marketing and export development, rural development, food safety, and research. Phillips also will help educate USDA personnel on the tribal colleges’ strengths and capabilities.

Phillips comes to the position after several years in the tribal college movement. Prior to September, he worked at AIHEC as the director of USDA international programs and organized an international conference (see related story).

In June, he received the USDA Secretary’s Honor Award for his efforts on behalf of equal opportunity. The secretary recognized his “significant efforts in developing new tribal extension initiatives for Native Americans living on reservations.” For two years, he directed the cooperative extension program at Si Tanka College in South Dakota. His work encouraged home gardening, improved diet and nutrition, and youth development (see TCJ, Vol. XI, N.2, pp. 34-35). Some of his award-winning efforts benefited other tribes and colleges, including smoking prevention curriculum, food preservation curriculum, and bison internships.

Phillips also served as a Peace Corps volunteer for the Ministry of Finance in Swaziland, Africa. He earned his master’s degree in environmental systems-international development in 1997 from Humboldt State University.

At the ceremonies in June, Secretary Glickman also honored two other people associated with tribal colleges. Henry Old Horn was honored for his contributions to building a strong natural resources partnership between Little Big Horn College and the USDA. Thedis Crowe, who attended Blackfeet Community College, was honored for her work to enhance tribal lands’ natural resources by increasing participation of American Indian tribes in USDA programs. Both work for the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, Old Horn in Crow Agency, Mont., and Crowe in Bozeman, Mont.

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