Nestled gently in the woods of Cloquet, Minn., is a college unlike any other. Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FTCC) is the only tribal and state community college in the United States. This partnership of two nations serves a student body that embraces indigenous culture and welcomes students of all backgrounds for a transformational educational experience.

The college has created an environment that embodies its values and embraces the surrounding landscape as an extension of the teaching and learning environment. From the outdoor classroom where students and community members can learn under the sky to the medicine garden, expertly shaped like a turtle to cultivate traditional medicines and preserve traditional teachings, each step on campus offers more surprises. The rotunda is an architectural beauty that is also deeply spiritual in meaning. Beams fashioned from trees on the land frame the space, and the walls allow light and nature to flood the room—and your imagination.

What struck us most was the many generations of students who engaged one another and learned together. The Ojibwemowining Digital Arts Studio, led by an FTCC alum, is an epicenter of bridging the gap between language preservation, storytelling, and hands-on experiences for students in the multimedia program. From the apiary where beekeepers tend to the campus hives to the mushroom walk, where faculty, staff, and students explore the many varieties of wild mushrooms that grow throughout the campus—the plants, the soil, and the sun work in concert to create living lesson plans that challenge the learner to embrace the environment.

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College epitomizes the meaning of college brand promise. Yes, they work to implement and expand data-driven solutions and holistic student services, but they don’t have to tell you—you can see it. Places and spaces welcome a diverse range of students as flags of tribal nations, artwork, and artifacts displayed throughout the college celebrate the rich heritage of the land and community and welcome students from across the country into this special college. Their goal is to welcome students, celebrate them as they graduate, and help them reach their full potential.

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