College Governance

Strategic Plan

  • Institutional Core Values
  • Core Institutional Goals
  • Vision and the Strategic Plan Process
  • Strategic Planning Process Model
  • Strategic Imperatives
  • Strategic Goals
  • Goal One: Provide Higher Education Programs that Contribute to the Economic and Social Development of the Lake Traverse Reservation
  • Goal Two: Increase the Number of Students on the Lake Traverse Reservation Pursuing and Completing Programs in Higher Education
  • Goal Three: Enhance the Fiscal Stability of SWC to Support Future Growth
  • Goal Four: Increase Leadership, Professional Capacity, and Accountability throughout the Institution

Institutional Background

The Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC), a tribal college located in Agency Village, South Dakota, was established to serve the Lake Traverse Reservation. The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (SWO), formerly the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, granted the charter to create the institution in 1979 to serve the educational needs of tribal members and the people of the surrounding communities. Tribal leaders realized that education was critical in addressing the high unemployment rates, poverty, and other social and economic conditions affecting the reservation. Education provides the opportunities, knowledge, and skilled workforce required for community-based economic development.

In 1980, SWC began receiving federal funds under the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act. With this limited funding based on the Indian Student Count (ISC), the college was able to establish a few basic programs. Although the college receives no financial support for non-tribal members from the federal government or the State of South Dakota, SWC maintains an open-door policy and low tuition rates for anyone seeking an education. Over the course of its existence the college has been successful in securing both federal and private grants. As a 1994 Land Grant Institution, the college has access to additional financial resources from the federal government, including the USDA Endowment that provides funding each year to SWC in lieu of the grants of land given to the 1862 institutions. Additionally, other grants from the federal government, notably the Department of Education’s Title III TCCU Program, have been transitioned to a more stable formula-based format.

In 1983, SWC was granted educational candidacy by the North Central Association’s Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, and received its initial accreditation in 1990. Since then SWC has made major strides in improving its academic programming and degree offerings. During this time the college has also greatly increased the services provided to its students and the community, especially in K-12 outreach programs.
The driving principle governing the advancement of SWC has been, and will remain, the meeting the higher educational needs of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and the greater community of the Lake Traverse Reservation. To meet this vital and evolving goal the college must have faculty, staff, and leadership that is talented, dynamic, inspired, and dedicated. The purpose of this document is to develop a framework, which will provide a consistency of vision in the future development of the college to meet this goal.

Mission Statement

Sisseton Wahpeton College provides extensive, relevant and varied educational programs and opportunities for the intellectual, cultural and personal growth of all its community.
The college values its role as an educational leader, embracing change and responding to the complex needs of those it serves.

Institutional Core Values

BRAVERY – Wowaditake

Bravery was basic and it was highly valued by traditional Dakota people. Living in an environment that could be hostile required a steadfast human character. The Dakota cultivated bravery early in life and it was one of the most coveted values. Courage was necessary for the survival of the individual and the village. The wolf symbolizes this value. The wolf hunted alone and sometimes with a pack, bravely providing for and protecting his family.

WISDOM – Woksape

Wisdom for the Dakota was that ability to see beyond the normal range of vision and understanding. True wisdom is always accompanied by humility. Wisdom thrives in the heart of a humble person. The Creator is the source of all wisdom and this wisdom is revealed through the creation. Wisdom was often associated with age and a thing to be desired as the true quality of an elder. An eagle has a vision that is said to be four times that of man and sees without being seen and thus symbolizes wisdom.

FORTITUDE – Wakisakapi

The Dakota lifestyle was not established in pursuit of material wealth or human comfort. They learned to endure physical and emotional hardships. If a person lacked fortitude, they would most likely succumb to the elements. The buffalo, which symbolizes this value, was an animal that could endure extreme physical elements and survive.

KNOWLEDGE – Wosdonye

Knowledge was necessary to a people who lived in close harmony with nature. The Dakota had to be able to read and understand nature’s signs. Intuitive knowledge is gradually being replaced by intellectual knowledge, but intuitive knowledge is still needed when one needs to see beyond the material world in order to make more sense out of it. This is a natural means for getting at the real causes that are commonly observed in forms of symptoms and behaviors on the outer surface.

Core Institutional Goals

To fulfill its purpose the Sisseton Wahpeton College must offer high quality educational programs, engage in relevant research, and support the public outreach necessary to meet the diverse and changing needs of the individual student, the tribal community, and society at large.

Instruction  – SWC shall provide instruction in undergraduate curricula through traditional, extended-day, distance learning, and other appropriate delivery systems in the liberal arts and professional disciplines that culminate in an associate degree, or to prepare students for baccalaureate and other advanced degrees.

SWC shall provide instruction in vocational/technical education leading to certifications and Associate of Applied Science degrees that enhance student employability and provide the SWO with a skilled workforce.

Research – SWC shall encourage and support those forms of research which support the institution’s commitment to excellence in instruction and the needs of the students, faculty, and community at large.

Public Service – SWC shall make available various resources and capabilities of the institution for public service activities supporting the tribal community, when consistent with the mission of the institution.

Support Programs  – SWC will provide support programs which effectively and efficiently fulfill and promote the primary mission of the institution.

Vision and the Strategic Planning Process

During this planning process ideas were gathered from a variety of relevant stakeholders, which included current and former students, community members and policy-makers, college personnel, and the Board of Trustees (BOT). A range of tools were utilized to gather these stakeholder inputs, including surveys, public meetings, and interviews.

At the college, each department conducted SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analyses of their programs. Members of the Executive Committee, and other institutional leaders, completed detailed questionnaires and participated in both individual and group interviews. The members of key institutional committees and the BOT participated in modified SWOT/PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological) analyses. While these sessions created a detailed assessment of the current environment at SWC, they also served to outline areas that should be targeted, both for improvement and for future development at the college. This model helped ensure that any vision for the future was anchored to present realities, and that a reasonable roadmap could be designed to achieve it.

The members of the BOT were asked to provide a snapshot of how they envision the college in twelve years (2025). With the difficulties of accurately predicting a multitude of future events, more latitude was given regarding their planning assumptions. Based on the answers provided by the BOT through a questionnaire and working sessions, and in conjunction with the other sources mentioned above, the following vision for SWC emerges:

Student Population
Given their knowledge of the surrounding communities, the Trustees believe that there could be significant demographic changes in the student population by 2025. It is also their belief that a substantial number of potential students are not being effectively reached by current recruitment strategies.
• Size: it is reasonable to project a sustainable average enrollment of 325 to 350 in the future. With the addition of a limited number (3 or 4) of baccalaureate degree programs the potential of approaching the 400-student mark envisioned by the BOT is significantly increased.
• Age: the assumption is that the trend of a younger student population will continue. However, the BOT predicts that the majority will continue to be older than the traditional college student with an average age in the mid-twenties.
• Race/Ethnicity: an open-enrollment policy, serving everyone in the community, is incorporated into the mission and values at SWC. The college believes this diversity benefits both the students and the community.
o The ten-year average is slightly over 80 percent Native American, with a low of 71 percent and a high of 90 percent.
o The BOT indicated an approximate average of 75 percent as desirable, and most financial projections have been made on this basis.
• Residence: the BOT believes there is a significant market, particularly of SWO members and other groups of Dakota, that is largely untapped due to the lack of student housing. The BOT is projecting dormitory-style housing for 20 percent of the student population by 2025.

Core Functions/Priorities
The BOT was requested to establish priority levels for the roles outlined in the Mission Statement. Although a general consensus emerged, there is a small degree of variation between the rankings by individual Trustees. The scoring was based on a five-point scale, with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest score. The ranking of priorities, shown below, reflects the averages of the scores provided by individual Trustees.
1) Workforce Development (4.0): includes associate or vocational degrees and certificate programs that target immediate job placement;
2) Transfer Programs (4.0): includes degree programs, primarily AA or AS, that prepare students to pursue baccalaureate and other advanced degrees at other institutions of higher education;
3) Professional Programs (3.7): includes the development of a few select baccalaureate programs to be offered at SWC to meet the needs of the SWO in targeted professions;
4) Community/Continuing Education (2.3): includes both the traditional forms of community education and specialized training sessions or certifications for teachers and other professionals;
5) Research (1.0): includes institutional, educational, and behavioral research aimed at improving the operations of the college and student success rates. In addition, there is a desire to conduct other scientific research that would benefit the people of the Lake Traverse Reservation and promote economic development.

Educational, Operational, and Structural Elements
While the BOT is providing an outline of its vision for the future development of SWC, it is entrusting the college administration with a great degree of latitude. College administrators, especially the President, are expected to fully utilize their expertise and judgment in order to take advantage of opportunities and overcome challenges as they arise.
• Online Instruction: the college should begin to offer courses online, including the potential for entire programs.
• Satellite Campuses: another method to support the learning needs of the non-traditional students and to extend the service area is the use of satellite campuses.
• Evening and Weekend Courses: while the BOT encourages increasing the number of evening courses, it questions the value of a major trend towards weekend scheduling.
• Workforce Development and Transfer Programs: the BOT believes these programs are the core of SWC’s mission, and should remain SWC’s primary focus.
• Baccalaureate Programs: there is strong support for the development of a limited number of baccalaureate programs. A program must be able to demonstrate a high probability for long-term sustainability and need within the community. Prospective programs should also align with the existing strengths of the college. The BOT believes that programs in Elementary Education and Business Information Systems are likely candidates.
• Staffing Levels: the staffing levels of departments or function areas should be correlated to variations in the size of the student population and the required (or preferred) services they provide.

Fiscal Considerations
The BOT expects that the strategic planning process will establish mechanisms that continue to ensure the long-term financial stability of the college. The following recommendation should be incorporated within the Strategic Plan.
• Secure Base Support: the BOT will seek a resolution from Tribal Council to provide regular monthly payments to SWC from casino revenues
• Establish Contingency and Deferred Maintenance Funds: the BOT will work with the college administration to develop policies supporting the creation and utilization of these funds.
• Negotiate an Indirect Rate: the BOT recommends that the college administration establish and maintain a negotiated indirect rate for federal awards with the appropriate federal agency.
• Establish an Office of Institutional Advancement: the BOT endorses the administration’s recommendation to establish a new department at the college focused on fundraising and developing capital campaigns.

The BOT is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities to ensure the continuing success and growth of SWC. In order to accomplish their duties properly the BOT has participated in a series of workshops conducted by outside experts. Given that membership on the BOT is based on public (Tribal District) elections, it is recommended that future workshops be provided. SWC should develop a mandatory orientation program for new members of the BOT.

Strategic Planning Process Model

Strategic Imperatives
In order to fulfill its mission, SWC has identified the following as strategic imperatives. Due to the changing requirements of the Lake Traverse Reservation and its people, SWC must continue to develop and evolve to meet the needs of the community it serves. As a result, these five (5) imperatives will provide a foundation to establish the strategic goals within this planning process.

I. Identify and meet the higher educational needs of the students and the communities of the Lake Traverse Reservation

II. Ensure that there is a highly qualified workforce to support the continuing economic development of the Lake Traverse Reservation

III. Ensure the institutional stability required for the continuing development of the Sisseton Wahpeton College to fulfill its Mission

IV. Maintain a high degree of quality controls for the products and processes at the Sisseton Wahpeton College

V. Increase the infusion of Dakota culture and values throughout the curricula and operations of the Sisseton Wahpeton College

Strategic Goals
Goal One:  Provide Higher Education Programs that Contribute to the Economic and Social Development of the Lake Traverse Reservation
Objectives and Actions
A. Develop and implement an Academic Strategic Plan.
1. Please refer to this document for additional information and details regarding Goal One.
2. Identify three or four programs to be targeted for additional development or major revisions; this will occur on five year cycles.
3. Identify programs that should be removed or closed
B. Intensify academic program evaluations to conduct regular studies of:
1. Staffing level requirements and instructional resources;
2. Course and program standards;
3. Completion rates and placement of graduates.
C. Ensure SWC has strong transfer programs to 4-year institutions.
1. Strengthen partnerships with regional universities in order to establish course competencies which will improve student preparedness when transferring to more advanced degree programs.
2. Expand the articulation agreement with the South Dakota university system to include specific program articulation agreements.
3. Establish articulation agreements with North Dakota and Minnesota universities, with an initial focus on course-to-course agreements.
D. Strengthen and realign vocational programs and job preparedness programs.
1. Increase the use of External Advisory Councils composed of regional employers to identify, improve, and evaluate academic and job readiness programs.
2. Realign the Vocational-Education Department to offer job preparedness programs. Increase the focus on high-tech and specialist degree programs.
3. Develop a number of short-courses in the Vocational & Community Education areas to better accommodate full-time or seasonal workers seeking to upgrade their job skills.
E. Develop a limited number of baccalaureate programs in targeted areas and that meet certain criteria: demonstrate a strong potential for long-term sustainability, build upon existing institutional strengths, and fulfill an important need within the community.
1. Identify three or four academic programs for further development and potential submission to HLC for accreditation.
2. The Elementary Education and Business Information Systems programs are currently being intensively evaluated to determine if they are suitable candidates.
Goal Two:  Increase the Number of Students on the Lake Traverse Reservation Pursuing and Completing Programs in Higher Education
Objectives and Actions
A. Develop and implement a Student Recruitment and Retention Plan.
1. Coordinate and strengthen the Academic Resources and Support Systems available to recruit students.
i. Coordinate all recruitment activities under one cognizant college official.
ii. Institute recruitment strategies that better target high school students and non-traditional students throughout the community.
2. Conduct studies targeting:
i. Student enrollment and demographics trends, including student surveys addressing why they selected SWC;
ii. Student retention rates, including reasons for leaving the college;
iii. Student completion and transfer rates.
3. Establish target enrollment numbers and implement strategies to achieve these benchmarks.
i. 2018 – 300 students; approximately a 9% increase annually.ii. 2023 – 350 students; approximately a 3% increase annually.
iii Expand peer recruitment strategies.
iv. Use more aggressive recruitment models similar to those used by athletic departments at other colleges.
v. Target Flandreau Indian School for intensive recruitment activities, including dual credit options.
B. Enhance the Student Experience on campus and in the community, including the awareness of the opportunities provided by a higher education.
1. Address student housing needs.
i. Construction of dormitories to house 20 percent of the student population by 2025.
ii. Partner with SWO and others to address the housing needs of students with families and/or dependent children.
2. Pilot an expansion of café service into the afternoon, evaluating student satisfaction and financial sustainability.
3. Foster the creation and the variety of student organizations, clubs, and extra-curricular activities – including intramural sports.
4. Collaborate with tribal, county, state, and private businesses to address student transportation and daycare concerns.
5. Assign responsibility for career counseling for students, and to provide community outreach in this area.
6. Formulate a comprehensive retention strategy, including earlier identification of high risk students and more focused interventions.
C. Evaluate and realign the Student Support Services Department based on the requirements outlined in the Student Recruitment and Retention Plan.
1. Secure the services of a (personal) counselor for the students, and better coordinate student access to social services.
2. Broaden focus beyond TRiO students and allowed activities.
3. Extend/increase service to students enrolled during the summer.
4. Pilot expanded professional tutoring services and professional development for peer tutors.
D. Design and implement outreach programs that help address the Academic Preparedness of potential students.
1. Continue and expand professional outreach activities with local K-12 schools, especially in the areas of STEM and English.
2. Develop community education programs in the areas of STEM and English targeting potential non-traditional students, including basic computer skills.
3. Develop short-courses for incoming freshmen with low Compass scores in mathematics, reading, and/or writing.
Goal Three:  Enhance the Fiscal Stability of SWC to Support Future Growth
Objectives and Actions
A Establish a Department of Institutional Advancement focused on private sector fund-raising and public relations.
1. Increase alumni activities
2. Initiate a Capital Campaign for the construction of student dormitories.
3. Examine the possibility of creating endowed faculty positions.
4. Initiate a public relations and advertising campaign to increase enrollment and to promote a positive public image of the college.
B. Increase the quality and use of institutional research to perform cost/benefit analyses, assign project priorities, and identify efficiencies.
1. Gather data and formulate preliminary studies to support institutional decision making processes.
2. Initiate evaluations of departments and function areas to determine:
1) optimal staffing levels tied to student enrollment numbers;
2) potential collaborations that would reduce expenses or increase efficiencies;
3) potential cost savings, including possible actions that would reduce overhead expenses such as utilities.
C. Establish an indirect rate with the federal funding agencies.
D. Assess the value of implementing a unified accounting and records management system, to include:
1. student records;
2. point-of-sale;
3. human resources;
4. payroll;
5. accounts payable/receivable.
E. Increase base support (unrestricted funding) by having the BOT secure a commitment from the SWO to provide regular monthly payments, based on Gaming Revenues, to the college.
F. Increase the coordination between the Business Office and the Offices of Institutional Advancement, Institutional Research (Planning) and Sponsored Programs to ensure the alignment of all funding sources with the overall objectives of the college.
1. Establish regular monthly meetings.
2. Develop and implement strategic plans for all major departments and/or program areas at the college.
3. Require the submission of monthly or quarterly reports by departments and/or programs outlining both current and future activities and needs.
4. Strengthen the role and use of the Grants Committee to better coordinate activities and resources.
5. Project a combined (unrestricted/restricted) three-year budget for planning purposes, including foreseeable contingencies.
G. Increase the college’s cash reserves and endowment funds to help counteract short-term fluctuations in student enrollment, Indian Student Count (ISC), and grant funding levels.
1. Establish a reserve fund (unrestricted) for faculty/staff members whose salaries are currently covered by grants.
2. Establish a deferred maintenance fund (unrestricted) to cover costs related to the upkeep of the campus.
3. Establish a technology and communications fund (unrestricted) to cover costs for consumables and for monthly or annual fees, including service, maintenance agreements, licensing, and upgrades.
H. Develop or review and revise business plans for revenue generating areas at the college to ensure long-term sustainability of services, these include:
1) the Café;
2) vending agreements or services, which will include conducting a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether SWC should operate its own vending services;
3) the Bookstore;
4) rental of facilities, such as the Log Cabin and Auditorium.
Goal Four:  Increase Leadership, Professional Capacity, and Accountability throughout the Institution
Objectives and Actions
A. Improve communications throughout the institution.
1. Empower faculty and staff by their inclusion on key committees and in decision-making processes.
2. Require regular monthly meetings for all departments and primary function areas at the college.
3. Utilize Moodle, or another online platform, to serve as an institutional forum and clearinghouse to disseminate information and archive monthly reports, committee meeting minutes, memorandums, and other documents.
B. Ensure departments have the appropriate staffing levels, skill-sets, resources, and clarity of mission to achieve expected outcomes.
1. Empower departments to think strategically by requiring: identification of goals, short-long term objectives, proposed budgets, staffing requirements and justifications, and measureable outcome reports.
2. Research and identify appropriate staffing levels based on needs, efficiencies, and overall effectiveness.
3. Research and identify potential collaborations that would reduce expenses or increase efficiencies.
4. Research and identify potential cost savings and/or growth opportunities within the department or program.
C. Support professional development and educational assistance programs to expand the professional capacity within the institution.
1. Improve the alignment of professional development resources, including the Education Assistance Program, to support targeted objectives/goals and identified leadership needs (short/long term).
2. Develop a strong second tier of leadership by empowering faculty and staff members by providing appropriate professional development opportunities.
D. Establish an Office of Institutional Research and Planning.
1. Expand the databases.
2. Develop the techniques needed to synthesize the information necessary to support research-based decision-making at the college.
E. Review and Revise policies and procedures to streamline processes and to ensure accountability for quality control.
1. Develop, consolidate, and revise policies and procedures to create a single comprehensive Security, Natural Disaster, & Recovery Plan.
2. Appoint compliance officer(s) to ensure policies/procedures are being implemented properly, including the proper postings and/or notifications.
3. Address in a systematic manner issues related to working environment and expectations throughout the organization.
F Ensure all elements of Governance, Policies, and Procedures are in alignment and are properly implemented by the appropriate personnel, officials, and/or bodies.
1. Develop and implement a required orientation for new Board of Trustees (BOT) members.
2. Develop and implement annual or semi-annual professional development sessions for the BOT and the President.
3. Conduct annual reviews of SWC policies and procedures with the BOT and college administrators.
4. Conduct training sessions for college administrators and other key personnel on issues related to policies, procedures, and strategic planning.
5. Assess the implementation of the SWC Strategic Plan, including related documents, on an annual basis.
6. Initiate a new strategic planning process no later than January of 2019.


Board of Trustees

Long Hollow District:  Izola Flying Horse – Vice-Chair

Buffalo Lake District:  Heather Larsen – Member

Big Coulee District:  Mary Jo Keeble – Member

Enemy Swim District:  Janell Williams – Board Chair

Lake Traverse District:  Jessica Redthunder – Secretary

Old Agency District:  Joey Bird – Member

Veblen “Heipa” District:  Marie Renville – Member

Tribal Council Rep:  Curtis Bissonette – Ex-Officio