Leander “Russ” McDonald is the new president of UTTC

Nov 1st, 2014 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive
By Dennis Neumann

RUSS MCDONALDUnited Tribes Technical College (UTTC) has named Dr. Leander “Russ” McDonald (Dakota/Arikara) as its new president. He succeeds David M. Gipp, who served as UTTC president for 37 years before being named chancellor of the college last spring.

McDonald is an enrolled citizen of the Spirit Lake Tribe in North Dakota and served as the tribe’s chairman. “We were very deliberate in conducting a national search to get the best qualified candidate,” said Tex G. “Red Tipped Arrow” Hall, United Tribes’ board president. “It came down to five who were qualified with post-doctoral level certification.”

The 51 year-old McDonald is no stranger to higher education. He has taught, administered grants, and conducted research at the University of North Dakota, and he served as vice president of academic affairs at Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC). A product of tribal colleges, McDonald began his education at CCCC, while earning graduate and post-graduate degrees at the University of North Dakota. His Ph.D. is in educational foundations and research. Much of the published research he has conducted focuses on Native health care on the Northern Plains, including traditional foods, quality of life, diet and exercise, health risks and disparities, cancer screening, and barriers to health care.

McDonald’s leadership background includes experience in national Native organizations. He has served as the Great Plains area vice president for the National Congress of American Indians and was instrumental in budget formulation for Great Plains tribes. “The future of the college needs a president that is tuned-in to the budget process,” said Hall. “He really stood out in the interview process having that skill as a former chairman.”

Most recently McDonald served as chairman of the Spirit Lake Tribe, during which time he lobbied for child safety legislation, pursued reforms in the organizational structure of tribal government, strengthened the tribe’s human resource policies, and pushed for equity in the tribe’s compensation system. “I think we’re going to see a hard-working, ethical individual who brings family and spiritual values to the college,” says Hall. “He’s someone who cares for all the students and staff. He’s going to represent the college well in the Bismarck/Mandan community.”

McDonald’s selection by the United Tribes board was unanimous. He accepted the position and is expected to begin in the coming week. “I think everyone will be excited once he takes the reins,” said Hall. “I think it’ll be real quick when he puts his mark on the college and people will feel as excited about him in the position as the board does.”

UTTC is an intertribal college with elected representatives from Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, the Spirit Lake Tribe, the Standing Rock Tribe, the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara Nation, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. The entire board was actively involved in the national search for a new college president. The board also extended its thanks and appreciation to UTTC vice president Phil Baird who served as interim president. Baird will continue as the college’s vice president of academic, career and technical education.

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