Success prompts AIHEC to review mission statement

Nov 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 17-2: Sustainability
By Gerald E. Gipp, Ph.D.

GERALD GIPPSince the first tribal college opened its doors 37 years ago, tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) have been changing. Some of the more obvious changes are demonstrated in the contents of this issue: Many of the colleges are building beautiful new, energy-efficient campuses.

Seven tribal colleges existed in 1973 when they chartered the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Today AIHEC has 37 members, and enrollments at the individual colleges continue to grow. Created as 2-year colleges, today more than eight offer bachelor degrees, and two offer graduate degrees. All are accredited by the same accreditation agencies as other colleges and universities. They are more accepted by other institutions of higher education.

To respond to these changes, the tribal colleges and universities are revising the strategic plan for our organization, AIHEC. The strategic planning process is designed to assure that the staff’s work is perfectly aligned with the needs of the tribal colleges.

At our meeting in Denver in October 2005, the AIHEC Board of Directors (the presidents of the 37 member colleges) took the first step and reviewed a new mission statement:

AIHEC is the collective spirit and unifying voice of our nation’s tribal colleges and universities. AIHEC provides leadership and influences public policy on American Indian higher education issues through advocacy, research, and program initiatives; promotes and strengthens indigenous languages, cultures, communities, and tribal nations; and through its unique position, serves member institutions and emerging TCUs.

Much of the strategic planning process will be directed toward making the organization more self-sustaining. A long-time supporter of the tribal college movement, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has provided a generous grant to support AIHEC’s sustainability efforts, including strategic planning. Kellogg understands the importance of assuring the viability of AIHEC Central Office.

Kellogg also understands the importance of making sure that AIHEC’s programs and activities respond to the current needs of tribal colleges and universities, students, and tribal communities. The process will also study how to meet the needs of the TCUs’ partnering organizations, federal agencies, and Congress.

The 5-year plan that we adopted in the 1990s served us well, helping us to make the transition from a small advocacy-oriented organization into a more professional and sophisticated membership organization. We helped initiate and advocate for programs that resulted in a six-fold increase in federal funding for tribal colleges and universities, from $30 million in Fiscal Year 1994 to nearly $200 million in 2004.

We expect to reap similar benefits from this planning process, nurturing the growth of the tribal colleges and universities that you, the readers, have come to care so much about.

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