St. Regis Mohawk chief elected Clarkson University trustee

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POTSDAM, N.Y. – James W. Ransom, chief of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the newest member of the board of trustees of Clarkson University.

Ransom was nominated and unanimously elected to the board May 9.

A Clarkson alumnus, Ransom earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and graduated in 1988. He also holds an A.A.S degree in civil technology from Canton Agricultural and Technical College.

“Many of the Clarkson board of trustees’ members are Clarkson alumni so they like to keep ties to their alumni. I am honored to be on the board of trustees. I hope to learn from the other board members and contribute to the future success of the university,” Ransom said.

Ransom is serving his third term as chief of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and has worked for the tribe and Akwesasne community for the past 28 years in various capacities.

He has extensive experience in environmental issues, and in 1978 helped to start the tribe’s environmental program, serving as its director through 1990.

His experience in environmental issues is a big plus for the university, said Kelly Chezum, assistant secretary of the board.

“Chief Ransom’s clear record and expertise in environmental issues is so critical at this time in our university both because it’s a key research focus area of the institution, but also because we are entering a master plan phase. We have construction going on and our goals are truly to think much more environmentally for our build out of those facilities. I think he’ll be able to add that expertise to the project.”

Prior to his election as tribal chief, Ransom was the first director of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, helping to develop environmental programs for the Cayuga, Tonawanda Seneca and Tuscarora nations.

Ransom also serves on the New York State Environmental Board, which oversees the operation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He is also a member of the board of directors for the Onake Corporation, a nonprofit board promoting the culture of the Mohawk people.

Ransom is the first American Indian to join Clarkson’s board of trustees.

“We’re a self-perpetuating board so various members make nominations and Chief Ransom was just a universal choice,” Chezum said. “He also has just a tremendous background and record in terms of education issues and so, as an alumnus, that is very important.”

Ransom has a strong interest in tribal education issues and serves as chairman of the tribe’s education committee, which is developing a 10-year strategic plan that includes the development of a tribal college. He also recently served a five-year term on the Salmon River Central school board and was previously involved with the parent committee for the Akwesasne Freedom School.

“Akwesasne has a great need for staff skilled in the health and science fields. Clarkson can play an important role in helping us develop and improve the skill level of our community members. Being on the board will help in bringing these goals to reality,” Ransom said.

Clarkson has been a big part of the Native community. It was the first college in the country to open an American Indian Science and Engineering Society chapter back in the 1980s.

“I am aware of several members of our community who have Clarkson degrees, including Mike Cook, the executive director of the United South and Eastern Tribes. Unfortunately, over the past few years, there has been a drop off in Native Americans attending the university. I hope to work with Clarkson to change that,” Ransom said.

Ransom lives in Akwesasne with his wife, Karla. They have two adult children, Beynan and Kyrie.

Clarkson University has a sterling record in launching leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni is a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company.

Clarkson’s placement rate is just over 98 – among the highest in the nation – and new graduates land first jobs with starting salaries averaging more than $50,000.

The university’s proximity to Akwesasne lends itself to collaboration with the community, Chezum said.

“We share many of the same issues in the North Country in terms of wanting to advance economic development opportunities for the residents that live up here, so we share those kinds of issues and hopes that we can have an impact on the community.”

The board of trustees meets formally three times a year, but its various committees meet frequently.

Ransom will serve on the academic affairs and student affairs committees.