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Online and In Tune: UMD's MTAG Program

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The Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG) program will be offered online when the 2014 school year begins, elevating it from a regional to a national program.

MTAG student at 2014 graduation
MTAG graduate Donovan Sather

Current MTAG students can still meet in person once every three weeks, with classes held on Friday evenings and Saturdays in order to accommodate their busy schedules, but they now have the option of participating entirely online.

New mom Maya Kwon lives in South Dakota and made the trip to Duluth for her MTAG classes when she could, but says she really appreciated the online opportunity. "Being able to attend classes online allowed me to take care of myself and my baby during our pregnancy. I felt confident knowing that I was still able to interact with my cohort and participate in group presentations while doing what was best for me and my family. Traveling to class was definitely a highlight in my experience with MTAG, but utilizing the online resources helped me stay connected when I was unable to make the long drive. The instructors, staff, and students that comprise MTAG are very considerate and supportive of families, which made the program a lot more manageable."

Donovan Sather graduated in the second MTAG cohort in May. He’s been the reentry program coordinator at Northwest Indian Opportunity Industrialization Center for two years now, helping clients who’ve been in prison merge back into society. He shares what he’s learned about Native American history and assimilation with his clients as a way of giving them some context. “I love federal Indian law, strategic planning, and leadership. MTAG has helped me know how to help my people at home.”

MTAG is the only graduate degree program in the U.S. that trains people specifically in the best management practices for tribal governments. Forty-seven people have graduated from the first two cohorts since it started in 2011, and most of the participants have been local tribal leaders. By adding the online option, UMD is inviting a national audience to participate.

Director Tadd Johnson says that MTAG is relevant to tribes across the country. “There are a number of common threads that run through tribal governance, topics like tribal sovereignty, federal Indian law, leadership, ethics, tribal accounting and budgets, and tribal management.” Johnson adds that MTAG offers students much-needed historical context on these subjects.

MTAG's necessity is rooted in this history. In the past, the Bureau of Indian Affairs administered tribal programs, but over the last few decades federal laws passed encouraging tribal governments to run their own reservations. Two years of extensive consultations with tribal administrators, tribal leaders, and tribal organizations at national conferences and throughout the Midwest affirmed that there is a need for partnership between tribes and a university to assist in training tribal administrators. “We did not start out with the ideas for MTAG, they came from Indian Country,” says Johnson.

Fall 2014 classes begin on Tues., September 2 and registration is accepted through August.

MTAG student at 2013 graduation
MTAG director Tadd Johnson and Rosa Francour of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin during the 2013 commencement
MTAG student at 2013 graduation
April McCormick, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa, at the 2014 commencement

Story by Lori C. Melton

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