Message from the Office of the President: Inaugural Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs

May 4, 2021

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

I am delighted to announce that UMD alumna Karen Diver will become our inaugural Senior Advisor to the President for Native American Affairs on May 28, 2021. Ms. Diver is an accomplished leader with broad experience at the federal and state levels and with the Tribal Nations of Minnesota. Her experience and expertise will deepen and accelerate our work and commitment through MPact 2025 to strengthen the University’s partnership with the 11 sovereign Tribal Nations of Minnesota, including Native American students, and all of our constituencies.

As Senior Advisor, Ms. Diver will report to me, serve as a member of my senior leadership team, and work closely with that team and the Senior Director of American Indian Tribal Relations, Professor Tadd Johnson, who we hired in fall 2019 to serve as our first tribal relations liaison. She will have systemwide responsibility, and will represent the University, along with Professor Johnson, in any tribal issues as required or requested.

Ms. Diver comes to us from the University of Arizona where she was the Director, Business Development, Native American Advancement Initiative. As a faculty member at UMD and The College of St. Scholastica, she supported Native American affairs in general while also teaching in the Masters of Tribal Administration and Governance Program. She was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the Special Assistant to the President on Native American Affairs issues, a job she held from November 2015 to January 2017. Prior to that she was Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. As Chairwoman she expanded the land base of the Fond du Lac Band, increased the workforce from 1,600 to 2,200, and led the investment of over $13 million in Duluth’s Center for American Indian Resources. She earned her undergraduate degree in economics with a minor in communications from UMD, and a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

We acknowledge that the University of Minnesota’s founding as a land-grant institution came at a great cost to the Dakota and Ojibwe people. In recognizing this painful past, we honor the Tribal Nations’ history on this land, sovereignty, and continued contributions to our region. We recognize that our Tribal Nation partners, whose cultural, spiritual, and economic practices are intrinsically woven into this landscape, hold this land sacred, as original stewards.

As a University, and with Ms. Diver’s active and engaged leadership, we are committed to rebuilding trust, forming mutually beneficial partnerships, research, policies, and practices that respect tribal traditions, languages, and systems of governance. We are confident that Ms. Diver will help us take important next steps to fulfill our University’s mission, and to fulfill our commitment to working collaboratively toward reconciliation.

Please join me in welcoming Ms. Diver back to the U of M.

With warmest regards,
Joan Gabel