Haskell President Dr. Karen Swisher Retires

May 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 18-4: Health and Healing, Tribal College News
By George Diepenbrock

Former Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU, Lawrence, KS) President Dr. Karen Swisher accepted gifts and greeted well-wishers during a reception held in her honor last year. Colleagues, alumni, friends, and students lauded her as a skilled educator and gracious leader.

“She has been an exceptional leader in helping us through some very difficult times,” said Jackie Mitchell, of Mayetta, KS, a member of the Haskell Board of Regents and a tribal council member for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

Swisher, 63, announced in May 2006 her plans to retire. She said the timing was right as the school neared the end of a 5-year strategic plan.

Recently, university leaders have struggled with funding issues as the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the U.S. Department of the Interior sets its budget. The school has had to rely on more volunteer and adjunct faculty members and make other changes as records show its classroom budget stayed at $9.1 million for 2003 through 2005.

Faculty, regents, and alumni praised Swisher for her work during her 7 years as president.

“I know that she’s agonized over very real and very tough decisions that must be made when resources don’t match need. But she’s never been filled with such despair that she’s allowed herself to believe that we, Haskell, are defeated,” said Venida Chenault, Haskell’s vice president for academic affairs.

During the hour-long ceremony, Swisher received gifts from different university departments, students, and Lawrence community members. The Center for Indigenous Nations Studies at Kansas University announced that a scholarship that helps a Haskell graduate attend Kansas University would be named for Swisher.

Swisher is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and started on the Haskell faculty in 1996 before becoming president in 1999.

Haskell Interim Dean of Humanities Dr. Denise Low-Weso and School of Education Dean Russell Blackbird praised Swisher for her work on helping advance baccalaureate programs and the nationally recognized Elementary Teacher Education Program.

During a short speech, Swisher mentioned the tradition that allows graduating students to write their own messages to be read as they walk across the stage.

“In those statements, you hear sometimes of their struggles, but almost always about their hopes and dreams,” she said. “They’ve had an experience at Haskell, and more and more we hear, ‘I’m going on. I’m going on to get a graduate degree.’”

To reach George Diepenbrock, email gdiepenbrock@ljworld.com or call (785) 832-7144. Reprinted by permission from the Lawrence Journal-World.

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