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Nicolet College - Lac du Flambeau partners with Nicolet in ambitious education effort

Lac du Flambeau partners with
Nicolet College in ambitious education effort


Posted May 19, 2011
The largest employer in Vilas County recently entered into an innovative education initiative with Nicolet College in an effort to increase the number of people with bachelor’s degrees.

LDF StudentsThe Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Nation, with more than 1,000 employees working in a variety of enterprises, approached the college last fall with this ambitious plan to increase the skill level of its workforce as well as the overall knowledge base of tribal community members.

This past January more than 50 students enrolled in Nicolet classes currently being held in Lac du Flambeau, said Dianne Lazear, Business and Tribal Management instructor at the college.

“Right from the beginning there was a high level of commitment from the Lac du Flambeau tribal government and the college to make this happen,” Lazear said. “We’re off to a very strong start and hope that the project continues to grow in the future.”

The program is structured so that students will first earn their two-year associate degree from Nicolet and then transfer their Nicolet credits to a four-year college or university and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Currently, only about 7 percent of tribal members hold a bachelor’s degree, according to Joni Theobald, Lac du Flambeau education director. “We’re looking to increase that to at least 10 percent through this partnership,” Theobald said. “By doing so, we’ll add to the overall skills and knowledge base of the tribal community which will benefit all community members, tribal and non-tribal, in the future.”

One of the first steps Lac du Flambeau leaders took last fall was to identify academic disciplines offered at Nicolet that would support tribal goals. The result was to focus on business management, tribal administration, and natural resources management.

Nicolet, in response, began offering classes in January in Lac du Flambeau that lead to the college’s Applied Associate of Science degree in Business Management and the Associate of Science in Natural Resources.

Both of these degrees transfer seamlessly to numerous public and private four-year colleges and universities, including campuses in the University of Wisconsin System, Lazear explained.

“Nicolet has especially strong partnerships with UW-Green Bay, UW-Stevens Point and UW Madison and have found over the years that this is where many of our students transfer to,” Lazear said.

As an added incentive for tribal members to participate, the Lac du Flambeau tribal government has granted all employees taking Nicolet courses four hours a week of paid work time to attend classes and complete homework.

“That is a huge commitment on the part of the tribe,” Lazear said. “This clearly demonstrates how valuable they view education in terms of improving the skills of their workforce and the overall tribal community as well.”

Along with operating the Lake of the Torches Casino, the tribe also operates the Peter Christensen Health Center, a grocery store, gas station, smoke shop and electrical contracting company. Students enrolled in the program work at these enterprises as well as in tribal government departments.

Both Lazear and Theobald said they hope to build the partnership into a model that can be used by other entities looking to build their communities. The partnership has also caught the attention of other education institutions across the nation, including Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Arizona State University’s Native Nations Institute. Both institutions have been in consultation with Lazear and Theobald to develop tribal governance coursework.

“This is groundbreaking work that holds a lot of promise for building communities,” Lazear said.