The United Tribes Technical College of Bismarck — a college devoted to educating Native Americans — chose a suitably symbolic place to announce Thursday that it will open a new student center in downtown Rapid City.
College officials came to the Lakota Nation Invitational sports and academic competition in Rapid City to deliver the news that it will open a new technical learning center on the National American University campus at 321 Kansas City St.
“We’re coming to the Black Hills,” said Phil Baird, vice-president for academic, career and technical education for the college.
The fully accredited college has an enrollment of about 1,400 students. Its Bismarck campus offers three bachelor of science degree programs, 12 associate of applied science degrees, 13 certificate programs and six online associate of applied science programs.
Rapid City area students could have the opportunity to tap into those online programs as early as this summer, Baird said. At the latest, the property will be ready for students in time for the fall 2013 semester.
The learning center will provide students computer access, technical support and financial aid assistance, Baird said.
United Tribes already has memorandums of understandings to work with the South Dakota School of Mines &Technology, Western Dakota Technical Institute, and with the Department of Interior for its criminal justice system.
Baird said the school’s intention is not to compete with existing educational programs, especially Oglala Lakota College, but to broaden educational opportunities for Native American students.
“We intend to find our niche,” Baird said. There are opportunities in Rapid City for programs in hospitality, the fine arts, criminal justice and teacher education, he said.
The college also intends to offer dual enrollment for Native American high school students. “We want to create opportunities to get them more prepared for college,” Baird said.
Eventually, United Colleges may develop a full-service satellite campus in Rapid City. That campus could be the beginning of a much-discussed American Indian University serving Native American students from across the nation, Baird said.
“It would be a university without walls and the beginning of creating a very unique educational experience,” he said. “The seeds of that vision are being planted.”
Dream Design International is working with the college on its Rapid City expansion. Hani Shafai, Dream Design president, said the development firm would serve as the college's "landlord" for the satellite location.
Shafai underscored the importance of quality higher education options for Native American students. "They don't get a good post-secondary education," he said Thursday.