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Finalists named for associate vice president for Wokini Initiative

The search committee for the associate vice president for the Wokini Initiative at South Dakota State University has named two finalists.

The selected individual will provide vision, leadership, coordination and direction for the Wokini Initiative, SDSU’s collaborative and holistic framework to support American Indian student success and Indigenous Nation-building, offering programming and support to the citizens of South Dakota’s nine tribal nations in pursuit of higher education.

Each candidate will spend one day interviewing and meeting with university leadership, faculty, students and staff. There will be open forums for each candidate to engage with other key stakeholders, including community and university members.
The finalists are (by interview date):

Lane Azure headshot
Lane Azure

Lane Azure, Ph.D.
Sisseton Wahpeton College

Azure is president of Sisseton Wahpeton College on the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota.

Due to illness, the Tuesday, April 4, interview with Azure has been postponed. Further notification will be sent out when the interview date has been rescheduled.

Azure is an enrolled member of the Little Shell and Turtle Mountain Chippewa. He received his Ph.D. in education-institutional analysis from North Dakota State University, along with educational leadership studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead and NDSU, and his master’s degree in management and bachelor’s degree in mathematics and education from Minot State University.

Azure has spent most of his career in education, holding various leadership and teaching positions at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. His posts have included superintendent, principal, data coordinator, mathematics teacher, vice president of academic affairs, director of institutional assessment and grants, and student support services transfer coordinator. He has vast experience in working with tribal communities, colleges, elders and youth.

J.R. LaPlante headshot
J.R. LaPlante

J.R. LaPlante, J.D.
Director of tribal relations
Avera Health

LaPlante is the director of tribal relations for Avera Health, lead contact for Avera’s American Indian Health Initiative, and is a Native American law attorney.

He interviews Thursday, April 6. His open forum will be held from 3:30-5 p.m. in the American Indian Student Center, room 100. To participate in the open forum session via Zoom, visit LaPlante Zoom.

LaPlante is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and is a 2009 graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law, with an undergraduate degree in sociology from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

LaPlante was formerly the state of South Dakota’s first secretary of tribal relations, the tribal liaison and assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of South Dakota, chief judge for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps legal fellow, a Bush Foundation Native Nation Rebuilder, and the administrative officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

For more information on each of the associate vice president finalists, including their curriculum vitae and Zoom links, go to