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Pease appointed to regents

HELENA, Mont. – Janine Pease, a member of the Crow Nation, has been appointed to the Montana Board of Regents. She began serving on the regents in June.

Pease, currently vice present for planning and American Indian affairs at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, is the third American Indian to ever serve as a regent in the state. She was appointed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer following a resignation on the board.

Pease was president of Little Big Horn College for 18 years and was a delegate to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. It is unusual for a past or sitting president, or a vice president of a college, to be selected to the board of regents.

“This announcement is truly an honor for me to make. There are few people in this country with the level of dedication to education for all than Dr. Pease. She has shared her talent in so many capacities and I know she will continue to work hard for the students of Montana in this role,” Schweitzer said.

Pease said she was interested in how accessible higher education is in Indian country today and how affordable higher education is for low-income families, especially American Indians.

“How ready are the campuses to serve American Indians; how accessible and how affordable are they?” she said.

Relevance to what Native American students want in American Indian studies and other fields that apply to American Indians that will apply to their home nations will be a focus of Pease’s work on the regents.

“Equally as important is to build Montana. The higher education system should be relevant to life and times of Montana as we find it,” she said.

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The higher education system in Montana used to be open to all comers, but entrance requirements have been raised and, she said, “a lot of people are not applying.”

“Raising the floor leaves people out. Lots of people were not serious in high school, some did not have the GPA to get into college, yet they become serious people.”

Earning a living in Montana without a college degree is difficult and higher education has to play a role in solving that situation, she said.

“As a member of the regents, I will step into that dialogue and see the university system has a role in bringing that income level up. We are looking in the basement in looking at per capita income. Montana shouldn’t be there,” she said.

Rocky Mountain College has partnered with tribal colleges and is providing environmental health instruction by bringing television classes to participants on the ground at the reservations.

Technology can be a solution to serving the rural communities with higher education because not all people can get to the larger cities to receive services that would benefit the communities.

Pease said she wanted the technology opened more to better serve the American Indian communities.

The only four-year tribal college in Montana is Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead reservation. To help serve the other tribal colleges, Pease advocates for partnerships with state schools and technology to strengthen the benefit to the communities.