On February 10, 2011, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved a new UMD graduate program, the Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG).
The program seeks to train future American Indian tribal leaders and managers through coursework grounded in ethics. It focuses on tribal governance and the management issues encountered on a reservation as well as the complex relations among tribal, state and the federal governments. The curriculum includes classes on principles of tribal sovereignty; tribal budgets, finance and accounting; principles of tribal management; federal Indian law; and leadership and ethics.
Students in the program may already serve as tribal administrators, council members or tribal leaders. The curriculum is based on the roles that tribal administrators, leaders and professionals play in formal and informal situations that support tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Traditional language and culture is an important thread throughout the program.
The two-year program, which begins in Fall 2011, features face-to-face meetings at the UMD campus once every three weeks. Interaction with experts in each area of the curriculum will include special guests as well as UMD faculty, staff, and students. The classes at UMD are offered from Friday night until Saturday afternoon. In order to accommodate working professionals and support existing commitments to families and home communities, a portion of the program will be offered online.
Tadd Johnson, professor and chair of the Department American Indian Studies, will direct the graduate program. He said, “The low-residency schedule was essential to allow American Indian tribal members from throughout the Midwest to attend.”
Brian McInnes, assistant professor in the Department of Education, played a significant role by designing the Leadership and Ethics course, which he will teach. UMD is the only university in the country to offer this unique masters program focused on tribal leadership development. Dean Paul Deputy and former Associate Dean Tom Peacock of UMD's College of Education & Human Service Professions played a key role in the early meetings on the concept.
The program scope was developed by UMD through extensive consultation sessions from 2009 to 2011 with tribal administrators, tribal elected officials, and tribal organizations in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest. Johnson and Rick Smith, director of the American Indian Learning Resource Center, spent months meeting with leaders of American Indian tribes. Tribal governments shared their ideas and affirmed that there is a need for partnership between Indian tribes and a university to assist in training tribal administrators. Tribal input led UMD to the conclusion that tribal governments need and want an applied degree -- one that deals with the daily realities of reservation life.
CLA Dean Susan Maher also has been actively involved in the development of this program. She is especially impressed by the support from the American Indian community. “In October 2010, the 35 tribes of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes passed a resolution specifically supporting the program,” she said. “All of the tribal governments from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa are advocates for this new offering."