Aside from the beauty of the area, UMD has found another benefit to its location:
It’s in the heart of Indian country.
Located in what some jokingly call “the Ojibwe Riviera” — with access to more than half a dozen reservations within a 90-minute drive — UMD has an American Indian presence unmatched by most other campuses in the region.
“It has become a natural center or hub” of American Indian culture and study, said Jeremy Rupp, an adviser at the university’s American Indian Learning Resource Center.
It has more than 200 American Indian students and close to two dozen programs. Campus officials say UMD has more American Indian faculty and staff per student than almost any other campus in the U.S.
Its medical school has among the highest numbers of American Indian graduates in the U.S., and its collections of American Indian literature and art is among the region’s largest.
Its most recent achievement: the nation’s first master’s degree in tribal administration and governance.
Conversations with faculty, staff and students show the UMD program has long made a priority the recruitment and support of American Indian employees and students. It has worked closely with tribes and maintained deep contacts in the community.
That has drawn students such as Gewaden Dunkley, a 22-year-old from the Bois Forte band of Chippewa Indians, and a junior majoring in psychology and American Indian studies.
“I wouldn’t think of going anywhere else to study anything Native American,” he said.