PABLO – Two people who have worked at Salish Kootenai College are among five finalists to become the institution’s next president.

SKC’s board of directors announced the finalists and scheduled public meet-and-greets for this Wednesday through Friday, May 29-31.

All five are members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

The candidates who have or do work at the college are former academic vice president Carmen Taylor and Steven Dupuis, who has taught at the college for 16 years.

The other finalists are Sandra Boham, currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Montana; Robert DePoe III, who has been education director for the Paiute Tribe in Utah; and Gyda Swaney, a faculty member with UM’s psychology department.

All are seeking to replace Luana Ross, who resigned abruptly on Oct. 12, less than two weeks into the 2012-13 school year, citing “irreconcilable visions” between herself and some members of the SKC board of directors.

Ross had served as president just over two years. She replaced the legendary Joe McDonald, who had helped build the college from the humblest of beginnings, when it offered a handful of college credits to four dozen students in borrowed classrooms on the Flathead Indian Reservation, into one of the most successful tribal colleges in America.

It now serves more than 1,100 students, both Indian and non-Indian, on its own 140-acre campus, offering bachelor’s degrees in several disciplines.

In her resignation letter, Ross said she anticipated “significant hurdles” following in the long-serving McDonald’s footsteps, “and this proved to be true.”

The board said it expects to name the college’s next president in early June.

The five hopefuls are:

  • Boham, of Great Falls, presently a candidate for a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at UM. Boham holds a master’s degree in adult and higher education and a bachelor’s in sociology. According to the board, she has 20 years of experience with American Indian education programs and has taught in K-12 and university settings.
    “She has a strong and lifelong commitment to the ideals of American Indian education, tribal sovereignty, language preservation, cultural sustainability and economic development for tribal people,” the board said.
  • DePoe, of Cedar City, Utah. The SKC board did not provide information on DePoe’s current status, but an Internet search indicated he had served as education director for the Paiute Tribe in Utah. He holds a master’s in professional communication from Southern Utah University and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in sociology.
    “He has worked in Indian education for a number of years and understands the important and dynamic role tribal colleges play,” according to the board. “He understands that the sustained growth of SKC is dependent on its cultural and ethical foundation. ... He has a great desire to return home and serve his community.”
  • Dupuis, of Polson, is in the final stages of completing a Doctorate of Management in Information Systems and Technology through the University of Phoenix. He holds a master’s in technology management from the South Dakota School of Mines and a bachelor’s in business administration, and has taught information technology and computer science courses. Dupuis has also represented the American Indian Higher Education Consortium on several national programs and initiatives.
    “His leadership philosophy involves innovation, transformation and cultural understanding,” the board said.
  • Swaney, of Missoula, holds doctorate and master’s degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Montana and a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology. Again, information on her current status was not provided, but she is listed as a faculty member on UM’s Psychology Department website. Swaney has also served on the board of directors for Nkwusm, the Salish language school in Arlee.
    “She shares the values articulated in the mission and vision of SKC (and) values the cultural traditions and customs of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people,” according to the board.
  • Taylor, currently dean of academic affairs at Aaniiih Nakoda College on Montana’s Fort Belknap Reservation, and SKC’s former vice president of academic affairs. Taylor holds a master’s degree in education from Montana State University and a bachelor’s degree in social welfare. She has directed an Upward Bound program at the University of Montana and was division chief in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Indian Education Programs, as well as having more than 20 years of experience with the National Indian School Board Association.
    “Taylor understands the mission and vision of Salish Kootenai College, along with the importance of retention and recruitment,” the board says.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at

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