The American Indian College Fund announced on Thursday it named Dr. Michael Oltrogge, President of Nebraska Indian Community College as its 2022-23 Tribal College and University Honoree of the Year. He has been president of the college since 2004.
Nebraska Indian Community College, located in Macy, Nebraska, has a student enrollment of just over 400. The college primarily serves students from the Umonhon and Santee Nations.
“We are so honored to recognize President Oltrogge for his many years of service to his college and to the tribal college movement. We often hear of people who are dedicated but I can personally attest that Dr. Oltrogge’s heart is focused on the well-being of students and their families," Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, "His perseverance and creative approach to educational success and access makes it possible for tribal citizens to take full advantage of their college. We join his community and his family in celebrating his contributions.”
Dr. Oltrogge’s work focuses on the good of the community. In addition to making sure students graduate without debt, he worked with superintendents at the local K-12 schools and other officials to bring people together for a project to increase broadband access for two reservations, the Santee Nation and Umonhon Nation. He also identifies students who want to stay in the community after graduation and tries to hire them to fill roles at the college. The human resources director, registrar, chief financial officer, and many more are all past graduates hired by the college.
When he became president of Nebraska Indian Community College, Dr. Olrogge was very familiar with the institution because he was once a student there. He took a full-time job as a peer mentor and tutor, and working with students sparked an interest in education as a career. That led to roles as a program coordinator and eventually the director for the Student Success Services program at the college.
“I fell into the educational workplace,” he said. He was the first in his family to get a bachelor’s degree. He earned an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts and an Associate of Science degree in general science before earning a bachelor’s degree in management from Bellevue University. From there he earned a master’s degree in education administration, a doctorate degree in higher education, and a post-graduate certification in nonprofit administration from Capella University.
“When I started working at the college, it was tough the first year,” he said.
But after his first year, he said there was a deluge of people wanting to work with him. It took a long time to build trust because people often came and went from the tribal college. Having grown up near the reservation and been a student at the college, he said one person told him people figured Oltrogge was in it for life and termed him a “lifer.”
“Working with students was and is the most fun part of my job,” Dr. Oltrogge says. Knowing the challenges students face when graduating with large college debt, he has made it his mission to use resources to make sure students graduate from Nebraska Indian Community College with no bills.
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