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University President Talks of Growth at Membership Meeting

By Joe Morey

News Editor


LCO Ojibwe University President Russell Swagger gave a report to tribal members at the General Membership Meeting held on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Sevenwinds Casino Convention Center and most of his report focused on the new name change from a college to a university and what that means going forward.


LCO Vice-Chairwoman Lorrraine Gouge introduced Swagger and stated this was an important step for our Tribe to have our own university.


Dr. Russell Swagger has served over 30 years in Tribal Education.


“So many things that have happened to our people over the years and we feel hopeless and that there is not a lot we can do about it, but through education, there is something we can do about it,” Swagger stated.


Swagger explained that when he first arrived at Lac Courte Oreilles, which has campuses on several other Reservations in northern Wisconsin, he went to those other Tribes and asked them what their needs were for education.


“We spoke with the Elders. We spoke with the students,” Swagger added. “We had conversations and people said that it was good to have an associate degree but the value in that was declining because the market was saturated. There are too many of those degrees and not enough jobs to go into. If you wanted something higher, you had to leave to get that education. So, we decided to create a program at an undergraduate level and programs at a graduate level to create a university, and to create vocational trades for those who want to work with their hands.”


Swagger said one issue was to have housing on campus to allow our people to stay close to home, on the Reservation, and allow our people to have that college experience. He explained that the current campus doesn’t have a lot of students who come right out of high school because they go somewhere a little bigger where they can play basketball, or do the kinds of things not offered at smaller colleges.


“So, over the last four years we’ve worked really hard to create that kind of environment so they can say this is a good safe place and grow into young adults,” Swagger noted. “We’ve all worked together to make this happen.”


Swagger said the existing campus goes North to Froemel Road after the LCO Tribal Governing Board approved an expanded lease for the University, and he announced the University just received a $5 million dollar grant to build a single-student dormitory.


“We hope to break ground next spring and the dorm should house 50 to 100 students,” Swagger said.


He added the University has three bachelor programs and two master degree programs. He said they are all fully functional and accredited.


“I am grateful and thankful to the TGB. You’ve passed and approved the name change,” Swagger said. “They’ve been 100% behind us and that teamwork has made all the difference.”


Swagger said LCO is now one of four tribal universities in the nation.


“You are breaking ground and making history!”