The board of trustees at Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) recently named Dr. Erma Vizenor (Gaa-waabaabiganikaag) as the college’s new president. Vizenor succeeds the interim president, Dr. Ginny Carney, who graciously came out of retirement to serve the college after holding the role of LLTC president from 2009–2012.
Vizenor is an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, serving her tribe in numerous capacities for more than 40 years. She spent the past 12 years as the White Earth tribal chair, the first woman in the history of Minnesota’s largest tribe to hold that leadership position. In addition to a master’s degree in guidance and counseling, Vizenor has a degree in education administration from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. A Bush Leadership fellowship later provided her the opportunity to complete an additional master’s degree in community decisionmaking and lifelong learning, opening the door for her to obtain a doctoral degree in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University. Vizenor brings her lifelong passion for education to LLTC, as well as an extensive history of expanding tribal infrastructure, growing relevant programming, and improving opportunities for positive change.
Dr. Vizenor’s consideration of the presidency was not a flippant one, nor did it come without sacrifice. Securing her role at LLTC meant relinquishing her seat on the board of trustees with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, a position that came by special appointment from the governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton. “I valued that experience so much, though,” Vizenor says. “I served on the finance and facilities committee, the diversity committee, and the audit committee. It was a very valuable experience.”
LLTC’s decision to select Vizenor was based on her combined employment background, academic credentials, and tribal community relationships. “I’m looking forward to a wonderful experience here. Education is my passion and it’s always been my highest priority,” she says. “I know tribal colleges have limited funding, so I want to stabilize that as much as I can and create a healthy environment for learning.”
With a mission to provide quality higher education grounded in Anishinaabe values, LLTC was honored to announce Vizenor’s presidency at the college’s recent 25th anniversary celebration. “I’m learning the system right now and acclimating myself,” she says. “I’m going through the policies…I’m really looking forward to seeing and meeting the students.”