LCO Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary

May 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-4: The Many Faces of Leadership, Tribal College News
By David Fleming

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College first opened its doors in Hayward, WI, 20 years ago with 30 full-time equivalency students.  The college now has enrollment of over 500 full time students and has outreach sites on the Red Cliff and Bad River reservations in northern Wisconsin.  The first classes were held in borrowed space from the LCO high school and tribal office and taught by volunteers from the community.  Since then the college has grown to a campus of over 20 class rooms, modern library, and seven computer labs. It recently acquired a new building on the Red Cliff reservation as well as space for classes at Bad River.

Like many tribal communities, the people on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation saw a need to educate and raise the standard of living in their community.  The college’s first president, John Anderson, recalls that the school started with careful thought and planning.  “We were planting seeds and wanted to see them flower.”

From the beginning the college emphasized community service and supplied staff and technical assistance in establishing The Anishinaabe Way, an annual alcohol and drug prevention conference.  The LCO college library provides a bookmobile to the community as well as hosting visiting artists and lecturers and sponsoring informational discussions and presentations relevant to the history of the area.  The college has become one of the major focal points on the LCO reservation and a beacon of hope to a people who have been denied the benefits of higher education for generations.

For 20 years now classes at the LCO College have been an effective blend of modern education and the traditional values held by the Ojibwa people.  As the class of 2001 received degrees and the congratulations of their teachers, relatives and friends at a commencement ceremony, LCO President Schuyler Houser remarked, “Anyone who comes to the tribal college is a survivor.  Anyone who graduates is a hero. We are grateful for your hard work, your discipline, your sacrifice, and your achievement. You inspire us.”

Houser acknowledged the contributions that the graduates’ family and friends made to their success. “We serve communities as a whole,” he said.  Last year the college awarded 35 associates of arts or science degrees, 11 one-year certificates, and 19 high school equivalency diplomas.

Recently, the LCO Community College broke ground for a 16,600-square-foot cultural learning and teaching center.  The facility is the 24th cultural learning center to be built at a tribal college in the U.S.  The American Indian Higher Education consortium Initiative creates repositories for art and culture at each member institution.

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