Fort Peck Offering E-Commerce Training

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

Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, MT, is jumping into cyberspace with a new associate arts degree in Internet commerce. The U.S. Department of Education provided start-up money with a $377,575 Native American vocational-technical grant. The three-year grant will also help fund expanded coursework in other computer technology, heavy equipment operation, truck driving, various building trades, surveying and other fields, said Deborah Little Sun, the college’s academic vice president.

The e-commerce program, which began last semester, is being directed by Shawn Crawford, a Fort Peck tribal member who previously served as executive director of the Counting Coup Indian Arts Cooperative in Missoula. The Fort Peck program will be expanded in the fall to include courses on e-commerce law and ethics, legal issues, financing and marketing, Crawford said. A main focus will be on teaching entrepreneurs how to navigate on the often-confusing Internet and expand their businesses into national and even international markets.

“The whole idea for e-commerce is ideal for reservations and rural Montana in general because of the isolation,” Crawford said. Starting up a business on the Internet requires a much smaller investment than opening a traditional storefront, she said, and Internet retailers can potentially reach a huge audience of consumers.

Crawford, who recently earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Montana, is teaching the first course and developing the degree curriculum. She’s also organizing a series of community workshops to teach area residents how to set up web pages and perform other technical tasks. The workshops will have a “shorter-term, more-intense” format than the college courses, said Little Sun.

“We have a lot of talented people in the area who want to expand their businesses.” Many newcomers to the Internet find it too intimidating. The workshops and classes will help beginners feel at ease, as well as sharpening the skills of those already familiar with the basics.

President Bush signed legislation last fall that gives another two-year extension to the ban on Internet-related taxation, a move that Crawford said will likely fuel e-business expansion. Once fully developed, the degree program will allow students to earn a two-year certification in online commerce. It will be designed for students who either want to set up their own businesses or manage firms owned by others.


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