Growing up in France, Caroline Laurent first became interested in American Indian Studies her senior year of high school, where she had a teacher who incorporated the topic into all of his lessons. She went on to college at University of Orléans to study English, recieving her masters there. She then taught English for 11 years, and returned to college at Paris-Sorbonne University in 2011 with her interest in the topic of American Indian Studies even more apparent. “Every time I had a choice of topic for an assignment, I always found myself choosing American Indian Studies,” she said.
According to Laurent, many people in France are interested in American Indian studies, but there is a lack of professors to teach the subject. Because of this, she decided to study and do her research in Minnesota because of the large Indian population here, so she could get a better understanding of the topic. “I knew people in Minnesota and they have taken me on trips here to places like Hinckley and Red Lake,” she explained. “It was natural for me to come here and study American Indians and Minnesota.” Laurent first looked at Minnesota schools in general to work towards her masters, and then heard of UMD’s Master of Tribal Administration Governance (MTAG) program and felt it was the best choice for her.
MTAG is a relatively new program at UMD that seeks to train future American Indian tribal leaders and managers. The program is designed to improve the knowledge of Indian law, sovereignty, tribal management, and ethics. One of the factors that encouraged Laurent towork towards another masters through this program was the fact she would be able to meet current and future Native leaders. "The presence of Tadd Johnson, the head of the Indian Studies Department, also encouraged me to study here because he knows many people in the community and can open many doors for me," she said.
Laurent emphasizes the MTAG program is a very innovative program. “The program is very useful and can hopefully develop even more in the future,” she said. The program has limited face-to-face meetings and does a majority of their work through Moodle, but Laurent says every time they meet it is a blast. “There is a real cohesion in the group,” she explained. “We all respect each other and learn most from one another.”
After she finishes her Master’s Degree here in America and her PhD in France, Laurent hopes to return to France and teach American Indian Studies at a major university. “I hope to get as much feedback and information in America as possible so I can have a more global perspective on the topic of American Indian Studies,” she said. Laurent also hopes to network enough here, so that if there is a Department of American Studies developed in France, some partnerships can be created.
For more information, visit the Master of Tribal Administration Governance.
Written by Riley McLaughlin,. February 2013