Final Thoughts From Retiring Executive Director Gipp

May 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 19-4: Success by Accountability and Assessment
By Gerald E. Gipp, Ph.D.

GERALD GIPPDuring the 2007 fall board meeting I announced my retirement, effective in June 2008. For the past seven years I have been privileged to serve as the executive director of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), but it is time for new leadership. Therefore, this is my final note to you as I move on to pursue other interests.

I have always believed that any leadership role is only temporary, and there is a time to move on, a time for new ideas and thinking. As leaders we need to remind ourselves that we are just caretakers of the organizations we serve. We don’t own them; they belong to the people, the communities, and the students they were created to serve.

Today, educational leaders are often called upon to assess the status of Indian education, focusing on what remains to be accomplished. As a result, it is very easy to forget what has been accomplished. At times we become frustrated because we are eager to undo the years of marginal education for Indian people. We must keep our journey in perspective; we must occasionally stop and celebrate what has been accomplished in Indian education since the 1960s.

As I recall my personal K-12 educational experience attending a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) school on the Standing Rock Reservation, it is difficult to imagine that the glass was half-full. In those early days there were well-meaning teachers and administrators, but clearly the curricula and quality of teaching were lacking. Few graduates matriculated to mainstream colleges; the majority dropped out. I can count on one hand the number of Indian professional role models that I encountered during that era.

From the beginning of formal education, federal policies discouraged tribal and parental participation until the dramatic changes of the 1970s. New legislation mandated participation and allowed some control of the Bureau schools. Indian students were fully recognized in public schools because of the Indian Education Act of 1972, and for the first time Indian people had a voice in higher education with the creation of the first tribal colleges in the 1960s and 1970s. These were major achievements in the history of Indian education, which we must extend to all our communities.

The control of our schools allows our elders and community members to exercise the right to determine how tribal knowledge and language are to be used in the learning environment. The new challenge for our educational leaders is to assist our tribal communities in determining how to capture and document their Native knowledge base and how best to integrate it into the classroom along with Western science and thought over the next millennium.

Today, the glass may not be full, but it is at least half-full, because we have counted coup many times by overcoming barriers and realized major gains since the 1970s. We have seen the passage of key legislation and the mandates of presidential executive orders supporting Indian programs. We now have hundreds of highly educated Indian professionals in the areas of education, law, medicine, governance and a vast array of related fields. The tribal college movement has contributed to filling the void by growing a whole new cadre of outstanding leaders in Indian Country.

I have been honored to serve in several key leadership positions throughout my 46 years in Indian education and related programs. In my career, being part of the tribal college movement as a college president and leader of AIHEC has been among the most rewarding experiences. My goal has always been to create opportunities for change in Indian education.

As I depart the AIHEC organization, I thank the AIHEC Board of Directors for their support and guidance and for giving me the opportunity to work with them. I also thank the staff – Carrie Billy, Meg Goetz, Jay Phillips, Jean Foster, Al Kuslikis, Kay Heatley, and the many others that have come and gone for their dedication and quality work on behalf of AIHEC and the tribal colleges and universities. The organization, while small, is stable with an excellent staff. I also thank the TCJ staff of Rachael Marchbanks, Tina Deschenie, and Marvene Tom for their excellent work telling the stories of the tribal colleges. I am very proud of all of you and your work.

I thank my family for their support, their patience, and understanding of my professional responsibilities. As you finish reading this issue of TCJ, I plan to be kicking back in my rocking chair contemplating my future days of spending quality time with my family — my children and my grandchildren. I might try learning to hit a golf ball or looking for a new challenge by learning something new.

I will be thinking of you as you travel the road of the tribal college movement, and I wish you the very best in meeting the goals of providing culturally relevant education to your students. The new executive director of AIHEC will be announced in the next issue and on the TCJ website, www.tribalcollegejournal.org.

Thank you – Pilamayapelo

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