Learning and Teaching with Fire: Lessons from HBCUs and Tribal Colleges

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What lessons can K-12 education in Minnesota learn from Historically Black Colleges & Universities and Tribal Colleges & Universities?

As is frequently noted, Minnesota has some of the nation’s largest gaps between student groups.   As public district and charter schools seek to close achievement gaps, what lessons can we learn from institutions that have been excelling in serving African American and American Indian students?  We aim to investigate lessons and strategies that could be learned from HBCUs and TCUs and applied to MN K-12 schools.


OUR GOAL FOR THIS CONFERENCE: Gather and share information about lessons from Tribal Colleges and Universities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities with state policymakers, educators, community members, and the general public.



Kim McGuire’s blog post for the Star TribuneGroup convenes in St. Paul to discuss what lessons K-12 can learn from black, tribal colleges

Beth Hawkins’s article on MinnPostEvent reveals disconnect between diversity goals and Minnesota’s teaching license policy

Minnesota Council on Foundations blog post by Kayla Yang-Best of the Bush Foundation: HBCUs Share Best Practices for Student Success

MN Association of Charter Schools blog post by Eugene Piccolo: K-12 Lessons from Historically Black and Tribal Colleges

Star Tribune Editorial: K-12 schools can learn from black, American Indian colleges

Article by Charles Hallman of the Spokesman-RecorderWhat do HBCUs know that MN schools don’t?

Column by our own Joe Nathan for the ECM group of community newspapers: Great ideas from tribal, historically black colleges, universities

Minnesota Council on Foundations blog post by Kyle Erickson of the Blandin Foundation: Learning and Teaching with Fire

Article by Fred Easter for Insight News: The Source of HBCU and TCU Success

Article by Marisa Gustafson for Twin Cities Daily Planet: MN Needs to better serve our American Indian students



We were thrilled to host this exciting conference Thursday October 9th at Neighborhood House in St. Paul.  We had many distinguished guest speakers, as well as amazing participants.  Thanks to our generous partners, who made this conference possible:

Grotto Foundation, UNCF (United Negro College Fund), General Mills, Target, Cargill, African American Leadership Forum, MIGIZI Communications, St. Paul Indians in Action (SIA), and Bill & Susan Sands.  Also thanks to Janice LaFloe, whose volunteer service was greatly appreciated!


Please see our agenda, guest speakers, and panelists below.

Agenda Oct. 9




Learning & Teaching with Fire: Drum Welcome (Part 1)


Learning & Teaching with Fire: Morning Speakers on HBCUs (Part 2)

Learning & Teaching with Fire: Morning Reaction Panel on HBCUs  (Part 3)

Learning & Teaching with Fire: Afternoon Speakers & Panel on TCUs (Part 4)



Four of our guest speakers prepared short papers to share on this topic:

Brian K. Bridges, Ph.D. serves as Vice President, Research and Member Engagement, for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).  He also leads UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute (FDPRI).  In this role Dr. Bridges serves as UNCF’s chief research officer, principal editor and contributor for FDPRI’s publications and the manager of internal and external projects involving capacity building, evaluation, and assessment.

Immediately prior to joining UNCF, Brian served as Vice Provost for Diversity, Access and Equity at Ohio University.  Brian has also served as the Associate Director for the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity (CAREE) at the American Council on education (ACE) and held various roles at the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), including Associate Director.  While at NSEE, Brian managed a million-dollar subcontract for the Building Engagement and Attainment of Minority Students (BEAMS) project, a national initiative funded by Lumina Foundation to assist minority-serving institutions’ use of NSSE results for institutional improvement.  In addition, he has served on numerous panels and advisory committees on issues related to HBCUs, learning environments at minority-serving institutions, and success factors for African American college students at predominately white institutions.

Brian earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Indiana University Bloomington, a Masters in Public Administration from UNC-Charlotte and a Bachelor of Arts from Francis Marion University.



Brian K. Bridges, VP at UNCF (left) shakes hands with Dr. Ivory Toldson from the White House Initiative on HBCUs [photo courtesy of Sharon Smtih-Akinsanya of UNCF]
Brian K. Bridges, VP at UNCF (left) shakes hands with Dr. Ivory Toldson from the White House Initiative on HBCUs
[photo courtesy Sharon Smtih-Akinsanya of UNCF]


Dr. Ivory Toldson is Deputy Director for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Prior to this role, Dr. Toldson served as an associate professor at Howard University, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Negro Education. He was also contributing education editor for The Root, where he debunked some of the most pervasive myths about African-Americans in his Show Me the Numbers column.
Dr. Toldson has more than 60 publications, including 4 books, and has made more than 150 research presentations in 36 US states, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Scotland, South Africa, Paris, and Barcelona. He has been featured on MSNBC, C-SPAN2 Books, NPR News, POTUS on XM Satellite Radio, and numerous local radio stations. His research has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Root, The National Journal, Essence Magazine, and Ebony Magazine.
Dubbed a leader “who could conceivably navigate the path to the White House” by the Washington Post, one of “30 leaders in the fight for Black men,” by Newsweek Magazine, and the “Problem Solver” by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education, Dr. Toldson, according to U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, is “a prolific young scholar and myth buster.” According to Capstone Magazine, “Toldson has spent a lot of time traveling across the country talking with teachers about misleading media statistics that invariably either link Black males to crime or question their ability to learn.” Dr. Toldson was named in the 2013 The Root 100, an annual ranking of the most influential African-American leaders.



Carrie Billy, JD is President and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. Ms. Billy is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and attorney from Arizona. She was appointed to this position in 2008. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Georgetown University Law Center. She is a member of the board of the American Association of Community Colleges. Her career reflects a commitment to public service and to protecting and promoting the cultures, rights and well being of American Indians and improving the quality of life and educational status of all Americans.



Dr. Don Day is President of Leech Lake Tribal College.  Day’s career in education spans more than 35 years, and has covered a wide range of roles including academic counseling, teaching, research, student services, curriculum development, and administration, including serving as president of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. One of his proudest accomplishments was gaining approval from the Higher Learning Commission for FDLTCC to offer its first ever four-year degree program – a big leap forward for any community college. Don earned a bachelor’s degree at Bemidji State University, Masters of Education at University of Minnesota Duluth, and his doctorate in education at the University of North Dakota.




Front: Dr. David Beaulieu, Mary Cathryn Ricker 2nd Row: Supt. Valeria Silva, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, Leslie Apple, Larry Anderson Back: Dennis Olson
The TCU Reaction Panel Front: Dr. David Beaulieu, Mary Cathryn Ricker
2nd Row: Supt. Valeria Silva, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, Leslie Apple, Larry Anderson
Back: Dennis Olson (moderator)


edited HBCU panel Oct. 9
HBCU Reaction Panel Front row: Jo Ann Clark, Supt. Bernadeia Johnson, Dr. Mitch McDonald, Nekima Levy-Pounds Row 2: Rep. Carlos Mariani Rosa, Bill Wilson, Fred Easter (moderator)