University of North Dakota
Dr. Leander (Russ) McDonald is the Vice President of Academics at Cankdeska Cikana Community College, in Fort Totten, North Dakota. He is an alumnus of both the UND Upward Bound and McNair programs. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in sociology from the University of North Dakota in 1998 and 2000, and a Ph. D. in Educational Foundations and Research from UND in 2003.
From 2003 until 2008, Dr. McDonald served as an Assistant Professor at the Center for Rural Health at the UND School of Medicine, and as the director of the National Resource Center on Native American Aging from 2006 to 2008. In this capacity he assisted 330 tribes in conducting needs assessments regarding the health needs of their local Native elder populations. The information gathered has assisted these tribes in their efforts to develop long-term care infrastructure and to strengthen grant proposals to address identified needs.
Dr. McDonald has been awarded university, regional and national TRIO awards in recognition of his educational and career success. In 2004 he was one of five people to receive a National TRIO Achiever Award from the Council for Opportunity in Education. In 2008 he was awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award from the UND College of Education and Human Development.
Although Dr. McDonald has achieved much success academically and professionally, he remains grateful for his cultural roots and for those who have helped him along the way. He is proud of the Dakota and Arikara cultures passed on to him by his Dakota father from the Spirit Lake Nation and his Arikara mother from the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, and is anxious to share elements of his culture with others. He has shown his appreciation for the support he received from TRIO by mentoring TRIO students, and by speaking out publicly on TRIO’s behalf. Upon receiving the National TRIO Achiever Award in 2004, he had this to say about his TRIO experience: “Upward Bound and McNair have provided the tools for me to complete and surpass my goal of receiving a Bachelor’s degree. I am the first person who graduated from our reservation high school and tribal community to receive a Ph.D. If not for the efforts of the TRIO people and their belief in me, I am sure I would not be where I am today.”