Native American Student Success

Grand Traverse Band Tribal Councilors All NMC Alumni

2019 pow wow on NMC campusTraditional pow wow on campus, 2019Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians tribal councilors bring a variety of perspectives to their positions, but are unanimous in at least one thing: their NMC alumni status.

All seven members of the tribal council either attended or graduated from NMC, as far back as 1969 and as recently as 2019. (NMC considers anyone who has taken a for-credit class to be an alumnus.)

Due to its location NMC might, at first, be an automatic choice. But councilors said it’s all about having the right opportunities in the right place at the right time.

Tribal council vice-chair Mark L. Wilson“NMC being there when I needed it was probably life-altering,” said vice-chairman Mark Wilson (left). Though he dropped out of high school, he earned his associate degree from NMC in 2007 and then went on to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s from partner universities at NMC’s University Center.

Beyond NMC’s convenience and accessibility, there’s financial incentive. Citizens of federally-recognized tribes are entitled to a tuition waiver from the state of Michigan to attend public Michigan institutions. This is due to the treaty of 1836, in which tribes ceded two-thirds of the land that now comprises the state of Michigan, and allowed for statehood in 1837. The Grand Traverse Band increases the incentive by offering its 4,200 members a stipend per credit, up to 12 credits.

“I just utilized that to treat education as a part-time job. In the end, I wound up getting a master’s degree,” said Wilson, 41, who first came to the college with his mother, a genealogist, tagging along on her research trips to Osterlin Library.

2018 NMC graduation photoNMC graduation, 2018Councilor Brian Napont also went on to the University Center after earning his NMC associate degree in freshwater studies in 2014. He completed a master’s certificate in project management through Ferris State, and has been accepted to the MBA program. Now in his second term on the tribal council, he sees his education and leadership as a circle.

“To take my work experience into the classroom, to share with other students, and to bring the education back into the work environment has benefited my position for the tribe,” Napont, 50, said.

Wilson hopes his children, now 14 and 18, take advantage of NMC as well. So does tribal chairman David Arroyo, father of a high school sophomore and an eighth grader.

“I’m going to encourage them to go the NMC route, and then go to a four-year college,” said Arroyo, 48, who’s attended off and on himself, most recently an IT class. Arroyo added that NMC’s workforce preparation programs are also good options for those who don’t want to transfer elsewhere.

“You don’t have to look at NMC as a stepping stone. It can be some place you go to obtain a degree and have a good career,” he said.

“NMC’s really special to me,” Wilson said. “I can’t give it enough praise.”

Mailing List Change Requests

To be added to or removed from NMC mailing lists for print publications like Nexus, or to update your mailing address, please send an email with your name, address and request to, or call (877) 922-1021 or (231) 995-1021.