Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College commemorated the first 25 years of the college through creating a 22-minute video as part of a year-long celebration of events during the 2012-2013 school year. Even though a few years have passed since the video was produced, our story for those first 25 years remains unchanged. We think watching the video “Extraordinary: Celebrating 25 Years” is a great introduction to our history and some of the people behind our story. The video won the Silver Medal of Achievement in the 2013 Collegiate Advertising Awards, a national awards program.
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College is a unique institution, created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1987 and chartered as a tribal college by the Fond du Lac Band that same year. Its commitment to meeting the educational needs of a diverse population is reflected in its mission statement.
Prior to the 1987 opening, the Fond du Lac Band invited Mesabi Community College to hold college classes in the Ojibwe School on the Fond du Lac Reservation in 1985. In 1986, the Minnesota Legislature funded a feasibility study for a community college to serve the Fond du Lac Reservation, Cloquet and area communities.
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College opened its doors in the Fall Quarter of 1987, eight years after the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee first voiced the need for a community college as part of a comprehensive educational plan for the reservation.
The tribal community college idea gained momentum in the early 1980s as the Reservation Business Committee documented a need for higher educational opportunities among the residents of both Carlton and St. Louis counties in Minnesota.
In 1985, Mesabi Community College accepted the Reservation Business Committee’s invitation to hold college classes at the Ojibwe School site on the Fond du Lac Reservation. The collaboration was immediately successful and in 1986, the Minnesota Legislature funded a feasibility study for a community college operated as a joint venture of the Fond du Lac Band and the Arrowhead Community College Region.
In 1987, the Bureau of Indian Affairs determined that Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College were eligible for funding under the Tribally Controlled Community College Act (Public Law 95471), and the Minnesota Legislature appropriated money for the college’s first two years of operation. The college utilized classroom and office space in the Garfield Building in Cloquet.
In 1989, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College became a voting member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
In 1989, the Minnesota Legislature authorized the beginning of design development for a college campus. A planning committee representing tribal and civic government, business, the Arrowhead Community College Region, college students, faculty, and staff worked with architect Thomas A. Hodne, Jr. to produce a concept reflecting both American Indian and non-Indian cultural values. The Minnesota Legislature approved the plan later that year.
Architectural plans completed in 1990 called for a campus built in phases. Construction of the first phase began in July 1991. Plans included classrooms, library, computer labs, and student services, faculty and administrative offices. The new campus, able to accommodate the equivalent of 500 full-time students, opened its doors Fall Quarter 1992.
In 1994, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs reconfirmed Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College as a tribal college under the Tribal Community College Act. Congress passed legislation giving Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College status as a Land Grant Institution, and the Minnesota Legislature approved Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College as a full college by state standards with co-governance language between the state and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. (Minnesota Statute 136F.10) Additionally, legislators wrote into state statute the college’s unique mission to serve lower-division students in the immediate area, with a specific focus on serving American Indian students throughout the state, especially in Northern Minnesota. (Minnesota Statute 136F.12). The Minnesota Higher Education Board confirmed Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College as a full community college, according to state system standards for funding.
In 1995, planning funds were appropriated by the legislature for the development of phase two in the building program. Plans included the construction of student housing on campus, which were approved in 1996.
The on-campus student housing project moved forward during 1996 as the Minnesota Legislature appropriated funding for construction of the new housing complex at the college. Groundbreaking for the student housing facility took place in September 1998. The housing facility was completed in August 1999.
A satellite uplink was added in 1996, enabling the college to send and receive additional course offerings via a distance learning network. In 1997, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College celebrated its tenth year of operation. It was a decade of excellence, evident in the rapid growth and expansion of the college, and its acceptance by local, state and national governing bodies and education boards.
Starting with the new academic year in the Fall of 1998, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College changed from a quarter term system to a semester term system. In June of 1998, the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service partnered with the college to establish on campus a national Center of Excellence emphasizing soil science map compilation.
The final year of the century, 1999, was an eventful one at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. In May 1999, after an intensive self-study process and site visit evaluation, the college was recommended for ten-year accreditation by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In August, the new residence hall on campus was completed and the first students moved in for the Fall Semester. Enrollment reached a then all-time high with 937 students registered for Fall Semester classes. Since then, enrollment reached 1,714 students during Fall Semester 2003.
With the growing popularity of the college and the increasing enrollment creating extra demand for classroom and office space, the Minnesota Legislature approved a $4.5 million bonding request to expand the academic classroom building on campus. Combined with an additional $3 million of privately raised funds, the expansion project added nearly 40,000 square feet of classrooms, faculty offices, student meeting and casual space, tutoring center, conference rooms, and storage areas. Groundbreaking occurred in August 2002, and the building expansion was completed one year later in August 2003.
In 2003, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College also gained approval from the Minnesota Legislature and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees to develop and offer a baccalaureate degree program in Elementary Education. With this approval, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College is the only community college in Minnesota with the ability to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees.
In April 2003, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College had a successful Focus Site Visit on Student Academic Achievement by the Higher Learning Commission, with a subsequent monitoring report that was submitted and accepted in 2005.
In 2005, the Urban Outreach Program site in Minneapolis was closed, and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs discontinued funding to Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
Groundbreaking for the new Lester Jack Briggs Cultural Center and the expansion of the Ruth A. Myers Library took place in 2007. The two projects added approximately 37,000 square feet of space to the campus infrastructure. Both projects were completed in 2008.
Intercollegiate athletics were added in 2007, beginning with football in the fall 2007 season and women’s fastpitch softball in the 2008 spring season. Men’s and women’s basketball were added in the 2008-2009 season, followed by women’s volleyball in 2009 and baseball in 2011. The college is a member of the NJCAA, Division III level.
In March 2009, a new memorandum of understanding was signed between the Fond du Lac Tribal College Board of Directors and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees. The new agreement defined the governing relationship between the entities over Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
In October 2009, the Higher Learning Commission placed Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College on notice in four areas: administrative structure, finances, planning, and teaching and learning. In August 2011, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College successfully completed a focus visit on the four areas of concern. The next comprehensive self-study visit is scheduled for April 2015.
In August 2012, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College received the Excellence in Financial Management Award from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. The award recognizes administrative leadership and employee teamwork regarding significant contributions to increased efficiency and effectiveness of finances and administrative services throughout the institution.
With the start of the Fall 2012 semester, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College celebrated 25 years of success. A series of events were held, including a campus open house and a special premiere event of a historical video commemorating the first 25 years. The 22-minute video received national award recognition in the 2013 Collegiate Advertising Awards program.
In March 2013, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College received notification of continued full membership as a tribal college in the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), with continued Land Grant College status, Title III status, and National Science Foundation status. In August 2013, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College applied for additional accreditation of its American Indian Studies Associate of Arts Degree program through the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC). A letter of intent was submitted and approved by WINHEC.
During 2014, a facilities expansion pre-design report was developed and submitted to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system office, proposing future campus expansion of the East wing and remodeling existing student services space to better meet student and staff use.