Alumni Spotlight: Derek Nicholas ’20

Lisa Walker

Derek Nicholas ’20, an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band Ojibwe, Bear clan, graduated with a double major in economics and global business management. Derek says UMN Morris helped him discover his Native American roots.

A smiling man with short brown hair and a goatee, wearing a black zip-up jacket, sitting at a picnic table, holding a book
Derek Nicholas

“I wasn’t really connected to much of my culture until I came to Morris. I started taking language courses and learned to understand more about the culture.” At UMN Morris, he managed the Native American garden and the organic garden and became more drawn to the food system. “Morris definitely helped bring [out my] passion for food,” he said. 

Derek says his favorite thing about Morris is the community. “It’s a very community-driven area.” 

During his last year at UMN Morris, Derek published a book called Eating with the Seasons, Anishinaabeg, Great Lakes Region—a field guide to seasonal eating containing more than 20 recipes and Anishinaabemowin language and cultural lessons. After graduation, Derek began working at the Indigenous Food Lab in Minneapolis. He later accepted the nutrition program coordinator position at the Division of Indian Work (DIW)—an organization that supports urban American Indians. Derek’s role is to provide and cook healthy, culturally appropriate foods for the DIW programs. He also works with elders and spiritual leaders to revitalize the knowledge of ages-old ceremonial foods. 

In addition, Derek runs his own business called Wiisinig, LLC, a platform to showcase food sovereignty and security work. The aim of Wiisinig, which translates as “come and eat,” is to practices and conducts valuable research around traditional ways in an effort to help preserve Indigenous wisdom and create positive resources for Native American families and communities. Derek also volunteers for Feeding Mouths Filling Minds, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on eliminating the challenge of finding safe, dependable food and water sources. He plans to travel to Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda this fall. 

Derek is grateful for the hands-on experiences and connections he had while at UMN Morris. “Morris gave me a few years of experience in [my chosen] field before graduating.”