NWIC president nominated for county business person of the year

Northwest Indian College (NWIC) President Cheryl Crazy Bull is one of three finalists being considered for Northwest Business Monthly Magazine’s Business Person of the Year award.

Crazy Bull was nominated by the magazine’s nominating committee and was later selected as a finalist, according to Tony Larsen, the magazine’s publisher. The other finalists are Jim Baron of the Northwest Washington Fair, and Jeff Kochman of Barkley Company.

“Cheryl was nominated because several on the nominating committee believe that she deserves special recognition for her leadership, acumen and value she brings to our community,” Larsen said.

The winner will be announced at the Business Person of the Year 26th annual awards banquet on March 28.

Dave Oreiro, NWIC’s Vice President for Campus Development, was happy to see Crazy Bull nominated for the award.

“Cheryl deserves the accolades and awards that have been bestowed upon her; they are indicative of her character, leadership and dedication to American Indian higher education,” Oreiro said. “She has been a very progressive and solid leader at our institution over the past nine years. She has brought the college to a place where we have grown from a community college to one that has one bachelor’s program with several more in the future to be implemented.”

Lummi Indian Business Councilman, Bernie Thomas, who also serves on the NWIC Foundation Board, said he sees Crazy Bull’s nomination as recognition of how well she demonstrates the importance of having positive and reliable relationships.

“Cheryl does so with a forward looking approach and decidedly understated intensity that each of us recognizes whenever we meet her,” Thomas said. “If Cheryl were in business for herself, I believe she would be successful in any endeavor she applied herself to.”

Thomas also said Crazy Bull’s outreach and understanding of the business community has greatly benefited the college by increasing visibility of NWIC's mission and purpose.

NWIC’s growth

One of Crazy Bull’s greatest achievements in the past year, according to Thomas, is the opening of a $1.3 million building, which is one of several NWIC facilities to open in recent years.

On Dec. 22, Northwest Indian College’s Cooperative Extension Director, Susan Given-Seymour, cut a red ribbon marking the official opening of her department’s new building. NWIC has experienced significant growth in recent years; this was the eighth facility to open in the past seven years.
Crazy Bull has been president of NWIC for more than nine years. In her time at NWIC, the college has implemented and nearly completed a $44 million capital campaign to support its growth and, thus, its students. The campaign has led to the construction of eight facilities in the past seven years.

Funds raised in the capital campaign also include new endowments. Recently, for example, NWIC awarded the first 10 scholarships to students from a $500,000 scholarship endowment established by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, located in California.

The college has experienced impressive growth in Crazy Bull’s time as president. Still, it wasn’t the new buildings or increased enrollment levels she identified as her most significant accomplishment. 

“My greatest achievements are the students who walk in the doors of a tribal college like NWIC and who leave walking across the stage with their diplomas,” she said.

Expanded services

In addition to creating more space, the college has also created more options for students under Crazy Bull’s leadership. In 2008, NWIC began offering its first four-year degree, a Bachelor of Science in Native Environmental Science.

The college is in the process of developing more four-year degrees in the areas of Native Studies, Tribal and Business Leadership, Human Services and Teacher Education.

The college has also begun offering more workforce education to prepare community members for jobs that are in demand locally. 

The college established the NWIC Center for Health and conducts community-based research in areas of priority to Indian Tribes, including maternal and child health, alcohol and drug abuse prevention strategies, and alcohol and drug use issues among tribal colleges. The college also operates a women’s health program out of the center.

Bachelor of Science in Native Environmental Science students work with NOAA scientists at an interactive algae workshop at Northwest Indian College. NWIC began offering the Bachelor of Science degree in 2008 and is working on steps to offer more bachelor’s degrees. Photo by Preston Kendrick
Increased student success

Most students who come to NWIC are not well prepared academically and socially for the college experience, but NWIC leaders, including Crazy Bull, are determined to help them succeed.

The college’s focus on student success has resulted in increased financial support for programming and scholarships, including NWIC being selected as the only tribal college in the 2010 cohort of community colleges involved in Achieving the Dream, a national initiative to improve college completion.

The college is beginning to develop data to show the impact of its initiatives, and initial reports show improvements.

For instance, the 2008 entering freshman class had a 50 percent retention rate from fall to winter quarter. During the same period in 2010, the number of students who stayed in school at NWIC increased to 72 percent.

“Our greatest achievement is the positive impact of our expanded teaching and learning initiatives, which affect the success of our students,” Crazy Bull said.

About Crazy Bull

Crazy Bull has worked in tribal education for more than 30 years, in both higher education and K-12.

She began her educational career as a faculty member at Sinte Gleska University on her home reservation, Rosebud, in South Dakota. Her dream at the time was to work in economic development for her tribe, Crazy Bull said, but after several years of teaching, her plans changed.

“I made a commitment to stay in Indian education,” she said. “I strongly believe as a Native person that we are called upon by the Creator to do the work that is most needed by the people who surround us. I am inspired by the many students I have worked with over the years who overcome tremendous adversities to accomplish their educational goals.” 

Crazy Bull has worked with many students who are the first in their families to graduate from high school and even have the opportunity to attend college. She said she is inspired by those students, and by the elders and community people whose support and hopefulness has helped tribal colleges and educators overcome incredible obstacles to keep the institutions open. 

“I believe tribal college students and graduates bring skills for restoration and transformation to tribal communities suffering from the ravages of poverty and its attendant symptoms such as poor health, inadequate housing and broken families,” Crazy Bull said. “Tribal colleges are truly placed-based, grassroots institutions and I feel privileged to be able to offer my leadership and support to their success.”