Student Spotlight: Tom J. Butler, Sr.

Major: Accounting and Native American Studies

About you:

I am a Lac Courte Oreilles tribal member and I was born and raised on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation. I was raised by my parents and have two siblings 8 and 10 years my senior. I have kept my traditional roots and culture a focal point of anything I do, and I believe maintaining that has greatly impacted my life for the better. Lastly, I am a single father of three; when I am not furthering my education and career, I’m dedicating all of my time and resources to them.

Why did you decide to pursue a college degree with Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College?

I moved away for a few years and upon returning, I decided that the most important thing I needed to do was continue my education. My only regret is starting my education when I was in Minnesota and not here because I could have gained so much more overall.

How is Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College different from other college options?

The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College’s biggest attention grabber for me was the strong sense of cultural connection I attributed to it. Not just cultural, but in the community aspect as well. It helped establish a secure grounding that I never experienced anywhere else. Once enrolled, I found the staff very appealing and willing to help out. At my old campus, people were helpful, but there wasn’t the “friendly, willing to help anyone” vibe that our community displays.

What has been your favorite class so far?

My favorite class to date has been Intro to Personal Finance. Intro to Personal Finance came at the right time in my life and it either taught or reinforced critical lessons that stuck with me. It’s a class everybody should take to benefit their selves. My Speech class is another one that deserves an honorable mention. I love writing and creating stories, but I have severe anxiety and could not do any forms of public talking. In Speech, the classroom was packed, but it was full of like-minded individuals who shared some of the same community and individual struggles as me. This really helped bring the best out in me and encourage others to do the same.

What student organizations are you a part of? Why?

I was formerly a member of the Student Senate. It was a temporary position that lasted half of a school year. Being a Student Senator helped me learn and develop critical thought processes and community planning skills. I am also a current member of the Rocket Team. I work two internships at the college as a Business Tutor and as the Business Department Intern. My internships have done a lot to help mold myself into the type of professional I plan to become.

What advice would you give someone who is undecided on starting college?

If somebody is undecided, I tell them to at least check out one semester of general classes at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College. I explain the best I can everything newcomers are partial to. I try to include TRiO, The Learning Center, the extremely helpful staff, and my abilities to help people with whatever they need to help make their experience easier.

What will you do after you complete your degree with Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College?

I plan on utilizing my degrees immediately and want to take on a business role within the Lac Courte Oreilles community. I am confident in my business skills and want to help make things easier for my tribe.

What does it mean to you to attend college in our local community?

I take a lot of pride in where I attend school because this is my tribe’s college. I’m glad I have the opportunity to attend school so close to home. I’m even happier for all the help I can get with my studies if I’m ever in need.

What does it mean to you to attend a Tribal College?

I want to help make statistics for tribal colleges better to help spread the word and vision amongst our youth. More success means more recognition and funding, things Indian Country needs to help advance the future leaders of our culture.

What else would you like to share?

I think we should consider developing an Intercultural Communications class. With the current state of the world, it’s never bad to study and analyze how other cultures act for the benefit of collaboration. I took a class like this when I first lived in the Cities. I was closed off to the rest of the world and ignorant to other cultures’ behaviors, I never knew this was even a topic. After taking it, I told people it was like my eyes were opened for the first time and I understood more about my surroundings and life in general as a result. For someone who had never left the Reservation or their local area, it gave me thousands of answers on why people did certain things and just to be mindful in general.

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