Inauguration of Dr. Tomi Kay Phillips as New President of Sitting Bull College
Standing Rock Community College was established on September 21, 1973 and was well on the path to becoming one of the nation’s first Tribal Colleges. The road to accreditation was a lengthy process, however through hard work, the college was able to receive full accreditation in 1984. Then in 1996, a huge decision was made by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council to change the name of the institution to Sitting Bull College while maintaining the objectives set forth by the charter and began to grow even more as the years went on. This name change was made to honor Chief Sitting Bull, a renowned leader of the Lakota who was quoted as saying, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” This vision remains the same and the mission of the college is guided by Lakota/Dakota culture, values, and language. Sitting Bull College is committed to building intellectual capital through academic, career and technical education, and promoting economic and social development. During the past 50 years, Sitting Bull College has been under the strong leadership from Jim Shanley, Wayne Stein, Desmond Phillips, Dave Archambault, Ron His Horse Is Thunder, and Dr. Laurel Vermillion. With the recent retirement of Dr. Vermillion, Sitting Bull College prepared for another strong leader to join their ranks.
Developing her skills as an effective leader through her background as a U.S. Army Veteran, her education and the experiences she gained by working as an educator over the years, Dr. Tomi Kay Phillips is utilizing her valuable knowledge in her new role. On January 26, 2024, Sitting Bull College honored Dr. Phillips during an inauguration ceremony to signal the exciting change in leadership. As a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, her deep connection with the communities, families and students propel her to continue to further push the idea that attaining education is important. Dr. Phillips says, “Students that pursue higher education not only improve their own lives, but those of their families and future generations. They create a better future for themselves and their community. Sitting Bull College is poised to expand the human capital for the Standing Rock Nation”. Under the mentorship of former SBC President, Dr. Laurel Vermillion, Dr. Phillips was able to better understand the integral part that Sitting Bull College plays on Standing Rock and its importance as a leading tribal college in the nation. Sitting Bull College was recently granted another ten years of continued accreditation and will remain an open pathway institution which Dr. Phillips says is a wonderful outcome and is very proud of the strong foundation that makes SBC a great institution.
In its 50 years, Sitting Bull College has been able to offer degree programs that are beneficial to our communities. We offer 3 Master’s degrees, 9 Bachelor’s degrees, 16 Associate’s degrees and 8 Certificates at our 3 convenient locations in Fort Yates, ND, Mobridge, SD and McLaughlin, SD. We do have selective online courses available for some degree programs that will help you get on the path to attain your bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education Elementary Education, Business Administration and Criminal Justice. In addition to this, online courses are also available to earn your Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Business Administration. There is family housing and dorms available at the Fort Yates campus as well as dorms located at our Mobridge site. For students with children, the option of utilizing our Immersion Nest is highly encouraged. There are many resources available for students in addition to many scholarship opportunities. Most of all, there are enriching activities that help build a nurturing environment that add to the whole experience of attending SBC.
During the ceremony, Mr. Courtney Yellow Fat spoke of his connection to Dr. Phillips through education and times spent working for local schools. Doing an impressive job as MC for the event, Mr. Yellow Fat spoke of the important role that educators have on Standing Rock and surrounding areas. Veteran’s Post #239 posted the flags and the Grand River Singers were the host drum, singing the Flag and Honor songs for the ceremony. SBC Board Chair Sharon Two Bears welcomed guests and Mr. Elliot Ward was the eyapaha, and spoke for Dr. Phillips, sharing some of her history and accomplishments. He gave the announcement that Dr. Phillips was now the President of Sitting Bull College. During her speech, President Phillips detailed her background in education and her inspirations for wanting to give back to our communities through her service as an educator and leader. She also shared her vision, saying, “My vision for Sitting Bull College (SBC) is to continue to provide educational opportunities for the Standing Rock Nation. I believe that a strong educational background for the people of Standing Rock and the surrounding communities will contribute to the overall improvement of lives. I will continue the work and build upon the efforts that previous SBC presidents have strived for in making a better life for our people”. President Phillips was able to have family members stand with her during the Honor song and was gifted with a plaque to commemorate the occasion and was able to greet each guest. She also shared, “Most importantly, to our students, thank you for choosing Sitting Bull College. We will work hard to make your educational experience the best it can be. We are here because of you. This Tribal College is here because of our students, it was created for our people”.
Following the inauguration ceremony, guests were invited to share a meal with President Phillips, her family members and SBC staff, faculty and students. The traditional meal of soup, wojapi and frybread was provided by Joe McNeil Catering. As Lakota people, we appreciate leaders that spend time learning and growing with the people and feel connected to those who make the effort to get to know our communities. President Phillips has lived on Standing Rock for most of her life like the SBC presidents before her and the values she holds stem from her life and upbringing. We at Sitting Bull College are honored to welcome President Phillips on board!