New College President Introduced at Membership Meeting
By Joe Morey
The new Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College President, Dr. Russell Swagger, was introduced by the tribal governing board at the LCO General Membership Meeting on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Dr. Swagger, a St. Croix tribal member who grew up in the Gaslyn community, was introduced by LCO Vice Chairman Jason Schlender, who said Swagger has been traveling around LCO visiting elders and receiving feedback. He said Swagger’s family still remains in Bismarck, ND, where he comes to us from.
“We appreciate having him here to show us his expertise in higher education,” Schlender said.
Dr. Swagger said he believes there is a real opportunity for healing, “Both at the college and the community. There have been people who feel they’ve been chased off, but there is no place for that in higher education.”
Swagger was referring to comments in the community about a trend towards non-Native instructors and some locals feeling pushed out of participation in the college.
“This is your college,” Swagger stated. “I invite you all to come through and see all the changes taking place. A lot of things are available to you. The college is a great gift to the community and we’re going to do everything we can to lift it up and make the change to a better place for you.”
Swagger said the college had an incredible staff and amazing students.
“I am challenging our staff to be the very best they can be in customer service,” Swagger said.
Swagger believes the college can be a great partner in other areas as well, such as the fight against drugs in the community, “By bringing our resources and making them available.”
Swagger shared his vision for the future of the college which included student dormitories, family housing and a four-year degree program.
Swagger discussed how the tribal college movement has come so far since its inception 50 years ago. He said some of those original leaders are still here celebrating.
“It started out so that we could get an education from our own people. We could lift ourselves up,” said Swagger. “Our young people could learn a good life and live a good life. It’s important our young people can stay around their language and their culture while they get an education.”
Swagger explained how he first went to school for criminal justice and soon realized he wasn’t going to deal with ‘ornry drunks,’ and he wanted to help people in other ways. After receiving his Bachelor in criminal justice he went on to get his Master’s Degree in management.
He served 17 years at United Tribes Technical College as vice president where he oversaw 130 employees, 25 programs and a $16 million budget.
In 2010, He graduated from Capell Univesity with a PhD in human services. In 2014, he took a job for several years at a shelter in Grand Forks, ND called Northlands Rescue Mission. Following that, in 2017, Dr. Swagger went to Fond du Lac tribal college to serve as Dean of Students.
“This position at Lac Courte Oreilles came available and I competed for it and it’s a job that I really wanted,” Swagger said. “That’s the journey that brought me here to where I am today.”