News Release

U of M launches unique, senior-level tribal affairs role; selects Karen Diver as inaugural appointment

A Maroon banner with "University of Minnesota, Driven to Discover" written on it in Gold letterings, hangs on a light post on the Northrop Mall, with the famed Northrop building in the background

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel today announced that Karen Diver will be the institution’s inaugural Senior Advisor to the President for Native American Affairs. Diver will assume this newly created position—an uncommon role in higher ed with only a few comparables nationwide—on May 28.

“Karen is an accomplished leader that has broad experience with federal and state governments and with the Tribal Nations of Minnesota, experience that positions her to excel in this unique role” said Gabel. “As a land-grant University that was built within tribal lands, we remain deeply committed to rebuilding trust with Minnesota’s Tribal Nations. We aim to form mutually beneficial partnerships, research, policies and practices that respect tribal traditions, languages and governance. We know Karen’s lived experiences, coupled with her professional expertise, will help us take important steps toward fulfilling our University’s mission and our commitment to working collaboratively toward reconciliation.”

“I’m excited to be able to work with President Gabel and her team to advance its institutional relationships and capacity to work with Minnesota’s Tribes. I am hopeful we can acknowledge the University’s past with Tribes, while simultaneously meeting their current day research and workforce needs,” Diver said. 

Diver will join the U of M after serving as the University of Arizona Native American Advancement Initiative’s Business Development Director for the past two years. Prior to her time in Tucson, Diver was the inaugural Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence for Native American Affairs at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. Diver has served on faculty at both St. Scholastica and the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) since earning her undergraduate degree in economics with a minor in communications from UMD. Diver also earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

In addition to her work as a university academic and administrator, Diver was appointed by President Barack Obama to be a Special Assistant to the President on Native American Affairs, a job she held from November 2015 to January 2017. Prior to that she served as Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. As Chair, she expanded the land base of the Fond du Lac Band, grew the employment base from 1,600 to 2,200 and led the investment of more than $13 million in Duluth’s Center for American Indian Resources. 

As Senior Advisor at the U of M, Diver will report directly to Gabel and serve as a member of the President’s senior leadership team. Diver will work closely with Senior Director of American Indian Tribal Relations, Tadd Johnson, and the University's Office of Equity and Diversity in this systemwide role.

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