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“I really think the award is not about me alone. It’s about the individuals I work with who are improving the quality of American Indian education,” Tippeconnic said.
ASU has one of the highest American Indian student populations in the nation with approximately 2,000 Native American students currently enrolled at the university. A new American Indian Studies master’s program that Tippeconnic was instrumental in creating began this academic year, offering a comprehensive view of American Indian nations and peoples with the opportunity to work as researchers and leaders with tribes, colleges and universities and others in Indian country
A few highlights of Tippeconnic’s career in education include serving as the former director of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Indian Education and past director of the Office of Indian Education Programs for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior. He was a professor of educational leadership at Penn State University, director of the American Indian Leadership Program and was the co-director of the Center for the Study of Leadership in Indian education prior to coming to American Indian Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU in 2010. He was the former board president of the National Indian Education Association from 1983-1984.
“John Tippeconnic was chosen for his longstanding work in education and especially advancing excellence in education for all Native students,” said RiShawn Biddle, National Indian Education Association director of communications. “The award recognizes lifetime achievement in Native education and leadership.”
Teaching students is an essential endeavor for Tippeconnic, who realizes he is broadening the knowledge of American Indian students who will become the leaders of tomorrow.
“We see students as the leaders in the future. It’s a joy to work with them and see them develop and assume leadership positions while working on issues related to tribal sovereignty, Indian self determination and the cultures and languages of tribes,” he said. “Anybody can be a leader if they are a strong advocate and know and respect Native knowledge and life experiences.”
Tippeconnic, who is a member of the Comanche tribe and part Cherokee, was instrumental in bringing higher education to American Indian students in Oklahoma when he helped start a tribal college there. Emphasizing the tribe’s native language and culture, the Comanche Nation College was founded in 2002 and will become an accredited institution in November of this year.
Education has been part of Tippeconnic’s life since he can remember. With a father who was a school principal and teacher and a mother who was a school cook, education has always been valued in his family.
“I enjoy seeing students grow and develop while they make use of the knowledge that they have gained through education, especially when they use their knowledge to improve life for people,” he said.
The National Indian Education Association advocates for educational excellence, opportunity, and equity for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students through its mission of supporting traditional Native cultures and values, enabling Native learners to become contributing members of their communities, promoting Native control of educational institutions and improving educational opportunities and resources for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians throughout the United States.