One of the University of North Dakota’s biggest proponents of American Indian young adults was honored recently as a distinguished alumnus of the University’s Department of Educational Leadership.
Leigh Jeanotte, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, was recognized Tuesday, April 7, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Grand Forks, surrounded by family, friends, UND students and faculty.
Jeanotte has served as the director of American Indian Student Services at UND for nearly 40 years. One of the strongest advocates and contributors to improving and promoting American Indian education, he has spent his entire career working to increase the number of American Indian students successfully pursuing and earning higher education degrees.
“Leigh was one of the first people Marcia and I met when we came to UND,” said UND President Robert Kelley. “Leigh has played a key role in working with many of our students, American Indian and non-American Indian students, and developing and nurturing many of our American Indian related programs, especially — in addition to American Indian Student Services — the Department of Indian Studies. He is a shining example of who we want working at this university and who we want our students to look up to.”
Jeanotte completed his education at UND, earning a doctorate in educational administration in 1981, a master’s degree in school administration in 1974, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1972.
In his position, he promotes the development and implementation of a wealth of programs designed to positively impact the historically low nationwide retention rates of American Indian students pursuing higher education opportunities and degrees.
“Not only is Leigh one of our graduates,” said Sherryl Houdek, associate professor and chair in the department, “he is a strong supporter of our program. Because of his commitment, there are more principals and superintendents in schools on the reservations.”
In 2006, Jeanotte supported the “Principal Leadership for American Indians in Native Schools” grant that resulted in 15 students coming to UND’s Department of Educational Leadership to prepare for the principalships and complete a master’s degree. The grant was a collaboration with United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. The students were supported through the UND American Indian Student Center, with great encouragement from Jeanotte.
As a result of Jeanotte’s commitment to students, the number of American Indian students who have realized and continue to realize success at UND is ever increasing, resulting in significantly more American Indian students graduating with bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate and professional degrees in a wide array of disciplines.
Jeanotte advocates for American Indian students, promotes programs that assist students with all aspects of their University experience, advises the University administration concerning campus climate and cultural sensitivity, chairs American Indian Related Programs meetings, mentors the UND Indian Association student organization (UNDIA) and maintains relationships with the American Indian tribes and tribal colleges of the region. He has contributed to numerous grants designed to serve American Indian students and help them meet the needs of the state’s tribal communities. He also has served as a grant evaluator for several grants administered at the tribal schools of the region.
The UND college of Education and Human Development has more than 1,700 undergraduate students in five departments, including Counseling Psychology and Community Services, Educational Foundations and Research, Educational Leadership, Physical Education and Wellness and Teaching and Learning. The College’s mission is fosteri9ng healthy human development and learning across the lifespan.
Director of Alumni Relations and Development