The Board’s Role in the Changing Worlds of Work and Learning: The Future is Now!

Thirty (30) participants from seven (7) Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) attended the GISS-TCU 5.0 – Arizona held December 6-7, 2018, at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Arizona. Of this number, 22 were trustees and six (6) were Tribal College presidents. The remaining two (2) participants were top administrative staff members from the colleges. The institute was the fifth GISS institute sponsored by the Lumina Foundation as part of its four-year TCU grant to ACCT.

Key partners in the event included the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), and ACCT’s former Board of Directors chair, Roberto Zarate.

The seven TCUs participating came from five Midwestern and Western states and included:

  • Chief Dull Knife College, Montana
  • Diné College, Arizona
  • Leech Lake Tribal College, Minnesota
  • Little Priest Tribal College, Nebraska
  • Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Michigan
  • Red Lake Nation College, Minnesota
  • Salish Kootenai Tribal College, Montana.

Special Session on Board Basics

Highlights of the two-day event included a special three-hour session on Board Basics moderated by Roberto Zarate who focused on the importance of data for board decision making. He detailed his talk on boards’ basic roles and responsibilities for three primary areas: policy, fiscal oversight and student success.


Zarate, a long time board member and former board chair, both of Alamo Colleges and ACCT, reviewed characteristics of effective boards, enaged participants in a discussion about The Role of the Board Chair, an ACCT booklet on the topic that was distributed to participants.

Effective Board Functioning – Policy Manuals and Codes of Ethics

Director of GISS, Dr. Norma Goldstein, reviewed Board best practices and the Board’s role in student success. Topics included updating board bylaws and policy manuals and the board code of ethics. An ethics quiz and samples of board manuals were made available to the group. Attendees then assessed their performance and their board’s as related to student success and the use of data for measuring and monitoring student success.

Data-informed Governance: Using Data to Tell your Story

Katherine Cardell, Research and Policy Associate for AIHEC, provided detailed data reports on five student success indicators for each attending college. Participants had time to review their reports and identified data points that engendered more questions, and which possibly related to new or current policymaking.

TCU Legislative Update by AIHEC

On the second day, a major highlight of the program was a presentation by AIHEC’s CEO & President, Carrie Billy who gave both a history of AIHEC’s policy and educational goals and a review of past and upcoming legislative issues related to the TCUs.

Changing Worlds of Work and Learning

Dr. Goldstein gave a review of the Board’s role in the changing worlds of work and learning, which provided attendees opportunities to think about both the upcoming changes in higher education and the changes in their own lives. She also reminded participants to send in their student success stories as soon as possible for a special monograph on the TCUs celebrating their successes to be published in February 2018.

WICHE Collaboration

Following a break, Demaree Michelau, the new incoming president of WICHE, spoke about The Importance of Collaboration. She gave a history of WICHE’s interstate compact formed 65 years ago and shared information about several initiatives in which the TCUs could be involved.


Evaluation Summary

The following summary provides key highlights from the 21 evaluation surveys returned at the end of the GISS institute. The table below shows survey respondents’ average rating of GISS’ overall effectiveness, meeting its purposes, balancing presentation and interaction and effectiveness of materials. On all four questions, average ratings were well above average, ranging from 4.1 to 4.6, on a scale of 1 to 5.

Open-ended questions:

Survey participants responded to the open-ended question about how to improve future learning events. Many indicated that two days was insufficient for so much information and wanted a three-day institute to discuss more solutions.

  • So much information for 2 days; extend to 3 days and let out earlier in the day.
  • Break it into 3 days. Less information each day.
  • Our table talked about a focus and discussion on solutions for our challenges.
  • TCU Board of Directors’ issues and solutions sharing
  • Add another day. Provide an opportunity for in-depth collaboration with other colleges’ best practices.

Other comments included:

  • I have new information and learned that a board chair can be more assertive.
  • Have presidents trained to be on the board.
  • More small and large group activities using AIHEC and college data
  • Train Board Members how to examine crucial data to ask questions.

Topics that participants learned at the institute that they could implement to sustain a student success agenda at their institution centered around using more data to make decisions and to view trends:

  • Creating a stronger sense of community
  • Strengthen advising
  • Evaluate our student success practices
  • More communication and more student support programs
  • Retrieving data
  • Having that data implementation across the whole institution
  • Use Effective Boards handout at every board meeting to remind board members
  • Data –what it really tells us about; examining persistence, retention and completion
  • Data-data-data!
  • Develop an alumni program
  • Online early alert systems – we didn’t have that
  • Better engage local high schools in professional certification programs
  • Funding, sustainability, going forward
  • How to be an effective board
  • How to help students

Final comments for the future:

  • Thank you for putting on the valuable presentation and trainings.
  • Could a TCU host a training like this?
  • Please host future conferences at TCUs when possible.