Hitting the court and hitting the books

(Editor’s note: Dr. Laurel Vermillion, president of Sitting Bull College, is the guest author for this post.)

As a member of the Travois New Markets advisory board I believe in the connection between higher education and economic development. As a college president I see the connection between healthy campus communities and academic success. Vibrant athletic programs are an important part of a healthy campus community.

Now is a good time to reflect on these connections for two reasons: The first is that we have reached a milestone in the history of the Tribal College and University (TCU) movement. The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) turned 40 years old in 2013. The second is that basketball season is now tipping off across America. On TCU courts, this beloved game is bringing together student athletes with their friends, fans and families.

At Sitting Bull College and across AIHEC institutions, academics come first. We believe athletics — whether competitive, intramural or as part of a personal exercise and wellness regimen — can complement study. Much more important than win-loss statistics are the travel, experiences and lessons our students are exposed to through sports. TCU athletics are a major contributing factor to a healthy campus community that is so important to academic success.

As TCU leaders, my fellow AIHEC board members and I are always seeking access to new financial resources and tools to grow our campus communities. The Little Big Horn College Health and Wellness Center is a fine example of what can happen at the crossroads of education, athletics and economic development finance.  

AIHEC’s 40th anniversary is a good opportunity to reflect on the general success of the TCU movement and the specific success stories of the people who have come through our halls. We welcome TCU students and alumni to share a bit of your story in the comments section of this blog. Current and former TCU student athletes, please add your thoughts on the connection between athletics and academics. If you are just now learning about the TCU movement, I encourage you to learn more about AIHEC and the American Indian College Fund to see how you can support our organizations and our students.