O’Brien and Agoyo to serve on Cobell board of trustees

Jan 21st, 2014 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell recently announced that she has selected Dr. Jean O’Brien of the University of Minnesota and Pamela Agoyo of the University of New Mexico to serve as her appointees to the Board of Trustees for the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund. The five-member board will oversee the scholarship fund, which was authorized to provide financial assistance to Native students pursing post-secondary education and training.

“It is with great pleasure that I announce the selection of these two outstanding educational leaders whose accomplishments have opened the doors of higher education to all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Secretary Jewell stated. “Their experience and expertise will be exceptionally valuable to the Board of Trustees as the scholarship fund helps students across Indian Country access the higher education they need to succeed in today’s world. The fund will help strengthen Indian communities, advance tribal progress, and secure a better future for Native Americans, honoring Eloise Cobell’s vision and perseverance.”

An enrolled citizen of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Mississippi Band of the White Earth Ojibwa, Dr. Jean O’Brien is a professor of history and chair of the University of Minnesota’s Department of American Indian Studies, the oldest American Indian studies department in the country. During her 25 years with the university, she has published extensively on American Indian and United States history; taught American Indian history to scores of undergraduate and graduate students, both Native and non-Native; presented at numerous scholarly gatherings; and served as a member of several professional historical organizations. She co-founded and is a former president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, an academic organization that brings together Native American and Indigenous studies scholars from around the world.

Pamela Agoyo, of Kewa, Cochiti, and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo ancestry, is director of American Indian Student Services and special assistant to the president for American Indian Affairs at the University of New Mexico (UNM). She has 20 years of experience working with American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students in the area of scholarship and financial aid processing, review, selection, and awarding. She has held several posts at UNM, including director of scholarship outreach, working extensively in the area of scholarship administration. Agoyo will also serve as the incoming chair of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), the oldest and largest national organization of Indian education professionals. She currently serves on NIEA’s board of directors.

The scholarship fund that O’Brien and Agoyo will oversee is funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, which implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement. Providing a $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated interests in trust or restricted lands from willing sellers at fair market value, the program will operate within a 10-year period. Up to $60 million from sales will be designated for the scholarship fund, in addition to purchase amounts paid to individual sellers. Sales have already occurred on the Pine Ridge and Makah reservations with deadlines for initial offers falling in the next few weeks.

The scholarship fund will be administered by the American Indian College Fund in Denver, Colorado, with 20 percent directed to the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The College Fund also selected an additional representative, Carla Fredericks of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota to serve on the board of trustees. The board is responsible for the oversight and supervision of the activities of the fund’s administering organization and for developing and adopting a charter outlining its role and responsibilities.

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