Through a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC) in Cloquet, MN, and Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) in Cass Lake, MN, are excited to work together to build sustainable educational and experiential systems that prepare Tribal college students to enter agricultural and STEM workforces. The $9 million grant is part of the USDA’s inaugural From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program (NextGen).

“Our tribal colleges have served their Anishinaabe communities by providing higher education opportunities based in Indigenous values,” shared Courtney Kowalczak, Director of the Environmental Institute at FDLTCC, “We are excited that this USDA funding allows us to have the opportunity to work with Leech Lake Tribal College. Our partnership leverages the unique program strengths at each campus to increase student interest, access and success in future food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences careers.”

The project from FDLTCC and LLTC is titled “Development of Enhanced Education and Training (DEET) in FANH (food, agriculture, natural and human sciences)” and brings together two Tribally chartered colleges to build sustainable educational and experiential systems for preparing Tribal College students to enter the agricultural and STEM workforces.

The DEET project offers holistic support for students to successfully achieve academic and career goals through scholarships, experiences and community engagement. The project will result in greater capacity to deliver FANH classes and activities at both Tribal colleges, increased student retention and matriculation rates, stronger partnerships with USDA and project collaborators, increased capacity for outreach and experiential learning opportunities, and as a result, more students prepared for and interested in careers in food, agriculture, natural science, and human health.

“DEET strengthens our ability to serve the whole student, beyond just their academic success,” shared Melinda Neville, Director of Sponsored Programs at LLTC, “Focus areas include traditional foods, food sovereignty, sustainability, and community well-being, which reflect the Anishinaabe land ethic of reciprocity and responsibility. At Leech Lake Tribal College, we are launching our DEET program with new demonstration gardens on campus that will provide learning, nutrition, and research opportunities to our community.”

FDLTCC and LLTC fulfill the land grant mission through teaching, research, and service with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. For more information on FDLTCC, please visit For more information on LLTC, please visit

NextGen is part of the USDA’s investment in institutions of higher education to foster the next generation of diverse agricultural professionals across the nation. Eligible institutions included: 1890 Land-grant Universities, 1994 Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSI), Alaska Native-serving and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions and institutions of higher education located in the insular areas, as well as their partners.

A full list of the NextGen awards is available here:

For more information on the DEET program with FDLTCC and LLTC, please contact Courtney Kowalczak, Director of the Environmental Institute at FDLTCC, at courtneyk*AT*, or Melinda Neville, Director of Sponsored Programs at LLTC, at melinda.neville*AT*


It is awesome here at the FDLTCC Education Program because it is like a family here, if you need help or are struggling with anything, you have quite a few people who will help you out.

I chose FDLTCC because of its size and the curriculum. When I first came here in 2019, I was just looking for what I needed to volunteer, perhaps in a crisis shelter. I met with Don Jarvinen, and the rest is history.

My favorite thing about FDLTCC is the people. I’ve met fantastic students, faculty and staff who go above and beyond what I expected.