After three years, Tribal Colleges and Universities demonstrate their commitment to their students and Tribal communities. Board members and presidents from twenty-three (23) Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) around the country actively participated in a two-day governance institute focused on data-informed decision making and student success in Orlando, Florida, October 7-8, 2017. Sponsored by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the GISS-TCU was the third institute for the Tribal Colleges and Universities funded by the Lumina Foundation.


During the institute, attendees included trustees and regents, chancellors and presidents of the 23 TCUs present, AIHEC leadership and other TCU staff such as vice presidents, institutional researchers, and other college or tribal community members or executives. For two days, they worked together and pledged continuing learning and sharing good policy ideas with each other to improve their colleges and universities.

Participating colleges included both two-year and four-year colleges from 11 different states including:

  • Alaska: Ilisagvik College, AK (4-year)
  • Arizona: Diné College, AZ (4-year), Tohono O’Odham Community College
  • Michigan: Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College,
  • Minnesota: Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Leech Lake Tribal College, Red
  • Lake Nation College, White Earth Tribal and Community College
  • Montana: Chief Dull Knife, Fort Peck Community College, Little Big Horn College, Salish
  • Kootenai College, Stone Child College
  • Nebraska: Little Priest Tribal College, Nebraska Indian Community College
  • New Mexico: Institute of American Indian Arts, NM (4- year), Navajo Technical
  • University (4-year)
  • North Dakota: Sitting Bull College (4-year), United Tribes Technical College (4-year),
  • Oklahoma: College of the Muscogee Nation, OK
  • South Dakota: Oglala Lakota College (4-year)
  • Wisconsin: Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College



Attendees engaged in a variety of activities including identifying success strategies for specific students, taking a board self-assessment, exploring decision making and planning for student success policies. Participants learned about the critical aspects of being a high performing board, how to monitor their student success data, and reported out their findings when working collectively.

Katherine Page, AIHEC’s Research and Policy Associate presented each college’s data, highlighting the Scorecard developed for the TCUs and the five agreed upon key AIMS indicators for measuring student success:

  • First-year retention
  • Successful completion of Developmental Math
  • Successful completion of Developmental English
  • Successful completion of College Math
  • Successful Completion of Native American Studies

Much of the data had mixed results for the colleges but also showed that there have been gains in students successfully completing developmental math, previously a low point for many students.

Accreditation and Student Success

This particular TCU institute promoted looking at solutions to improve student success. During the institute entitled Future Forward, Dr. Robert Bible, President of the newly accredited College of the Muscogee Nation (CMN), and Dr. James King, Regents Director of Institutional Effectiveness for the College, spoke about lessons learned as they became accredited.

Additionally, Dr. Robert Martin, President of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) addressed questions and accreditation guidelines. He has served on national accrediting boards.


On the second day of the institute, Pearl Brower, President of Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska, shared successful retention strategies regarding cultural competence fostering student success that have helped her college move the student success needle. Through external partnerships and community connections, institutional indigenization prioritizing Inupiaq culture, language, values, and traditions in the curriculum and administration became part of the College’s strategic plan.

According to one trustee participant:

“All the material covered will help me as my duty as a Board member.”

Significantly, a few attendees assessed the overall impact of the institute, and noted that “gaining personal growth as a trustee” and discovering that the Tribal Colleges were “moving in the right direction.” Most indicated a great deal of learning about board roles and responsibilities. One person even indicated that “Everything that was presented was a learning tool.”

Word Diagram

At the end of the institute, participants were asked for one word that summarized the institute for them. The word diagram to the below collects the results of their comments.


Next Steps

ACCT and AIHEC are currently collaborating to procure funding for future GISS institutes.