By Stephanie Hammitt, President of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
Miigwech for allowing me time to spread the word about the wonderful work being done at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC).
FDLTCC is a unique campus. We are the only tribal and state community college organized as a partnership between the two sovereign governments of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the State of Minnesota. We have been in existence for 35 years and still enjoy opportunities for sharing our story of creation and that special partnership.
We value the strength of this partnership: Although not always easy to navigate, it is an important relationship grounded in the faith that we can each become better by walking together toward a future of our own making. A future whose history will demonstrate that by choosing what may be the more difficult path, we have created something better for those that come to the college, and all those that follow. We learn and prosper through a better understanding of each other, which has always been one of the college’s goals.
Shortly before my appointment as president in 2018, FDLTCC’s work with ATD began. From the start in 2017, our collaboration with ATD has been invaluable to the college and kept us focused on the goals we established to reduce equity gaps and improve retention for our students. The college has broadly absorbed a commitment to improving outcomes for our diverse student body with a renewed sense of intentionality. This focus has helped staff and faculty deeply connect to their shared work.
The mission of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has always been the same: to provide higher education opportunities for its communities in a welcoming, culturally diverse environment.
Grounded by our mission, we have always been mindful of the educational opportunity gaps that some of our students face, in particular our Native American students. Through our work with ATD, we have drilled down into our data to determine where our attention should be focused and we have reviewed outcomes of our work to determine whether we have moved the needle and shown improvement.
At each fall and spring duty day, we have presented data to our employees regarding improvements we were making and the challenges we were still seeing in our student success outcomes and retention data. Keeping data on everyone’s mind has allowed momentum to grow among employees, which has helped FDLTCC to keep moving and progressing with our work.
From 2017 to 2019, a big part of our growth and ability to understand our data was due to our two ATD coaches, Shara Davis and Dave Pelham. They took the time to learn how we do things at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, to help us determine measurements for review, and to support our work by helping create specific goals and initiatives. Most importantly, they gained the trust of our staff and faculty.
In the past two years, our holistic student supports coach, Shara Davis, demonstrated great leadership and expertise by supporting the college’s continued academic progress reporting, providing guidance as we restructured our new student orientation and advising redesign, and helped with the implementation/configuration of Starfish (rebranded on campus as NorthStar). Bobbie Frye, strategic data coach with ATD, supported our successful participation in the National Student Clearinghouse Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP). She helped the college efficiently navigate formatting files and understand data fields that otherwise would have proven difficult. Finally, Cindy Lopez, executive director of network engagement, deserves special recognition for advocating for the work of our college. Cindy encouraged us to apply for the Leader College status and invited us to spotlight our work over the past couple years at various ATD events.
We have seen improvements in closing equity gaps and boosting achievement for first-time college, Native American, Black, Pell eligible, developmental learner, and AA-Degree seeking students. As a result of our work, high rates of F/FN (failure and failure—non-attendance) have declined while completion rates have risen. Campus discussion and project work is focused on elevating data and as a result, our campus has deepened our alignment with our mission and infused staff and faculty with a fuller sense of energy in their work.
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has laid strong foundations of transformation to support students and increase college-wide success.
Fall-to-fall retention for all first-time students in 2019 (increased from 42% in 2017)
Fall-to-fall retention for Native American first-time students in 2019 (increased from 45% in 2017)
College-level English success rate for developmental learners since co-requisite model was implemented in 2017 (increased from 30% in 2014–2016)
College-level math success rate for developmental learners since co-requisite model was implemented in 2020 (increased from 24% in 2014–2018)
Transformation in action
As a result of the college’s improved outcomes, FDLTCC was the first Tribal College to receive the designation of ATD Leader College. This honor came in spring 2022 and the award recognized the improvements being made at the college in relation to student success and closing equity gaps. This is one result I am most proud of. The college’s reform efforts came at a time when the pandemic was in high gear (2020). Despite the initial impact and stressful start of the pandemic, FDLTCC staff and faculty pulled together and implemented several operational changes. The results proved our employees believe in our mission and the work we do to help students reach their goals and find success in the classroom.
Our collaboration with ATD over the years has been greatly appreciated. We have learned many lessons and been able to grow as well as learn from our successes and mistakes. We have also been encouraged to present our projects and outcomes on a national level which we otherwise may not have had the opportunity to do. What works for us may not necessarily work for others but the sharing of ideas amongst other colleges has helped us along our journey.
Chi Miigwech, a big thank you, again for this opportunity and for your continued support.
ATD works with Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, as well as 32 other Tribal Colleges and Universities through Project Success, an initiative administered by Ascendium Education Group on behalf of its partners and the U.S. Department of Education.