CROWNPOINT, NM – On Sept. 10, 2020, Navajo Technical University held a virtual grand opening for a new academic building at its Chinle instructional site. The celebration included speeches, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and a virtual walk through of the 20,000 sq. ft. building.
The structure is the second building to fill in NTU’s 38-acre property after a 6,000 sq. ft. classroom building went up in 2019. The academic building doubles the learning space at NTU’s new location, which sits east of Chinle Health Services off Route 9. Of the ten classrooms housed in the new building, two are chemistry labs while four can be combined for larger lectures with adjustable walls. Tutoring and studying areas compliment the classroom space and a bookstore sits at the center of the building.
“It is the community and the students that drove us to this level,” stated Chinle site director Arlena “Bo” Benallie in a closed ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 3. Benallie was tasked in getting the instructional site started in 2006 by NTU President Dr. Elmer J. Guy with a budget of $15,000.
“Fifteen thousand dollars and 14 years later, this is what we have,” Benallie stated in the foreground of the two-story building that was designed to reflect the towering walls of Canyon de Chelly.
NTU’s Chinle instructional site started with five classes and 30 students operating out of a strip mall before sharing trailer space with Navajo Nation Workforce Development and partnering with the Chinle Unified School District to utilize classroom space at Chinle High School. In 2017, NTU obtained a plot of land from the family of the late Guy Gorman, laying the foundation for a new site that could foster higher education opportunities in the heart of the Navajo Nation.
“We don’t just want mediocre. We want the best,” exclaimed NTU board of regent member Gloria Grant. “Let’s give [students] the best. This is the best. Let’s keep it going.”
Grant spoke during the closed ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 3 as did Arizona Representative Arlando Teller. Each speaker had attended the blessing of the building in the morning, which Rep. Teller recollected in his speech.
“From my perspective, where I’m sitting, I see two eyes and a mouth. And I see a [Navajo bun],” explained Rep. Teller. “The way the medicine man prayed and sung this morning is bringing life to the building. Giving her a personality. Breathing life into her. Making her welcome. More knowledge, more information, more students in her loving arms.”
Design was at the forethought of the Academic Building, which was conceptualized by Indigenous Design Studio + Architecture and constructed by Nez FCI Native American, LLC. During the virtual grand opening, each company explained the process in realizing the building from concept to final construction. Insight was provided into the building’s unique design, like incorporating an aluminum composite panel system to shade the building’s skin while maximizing light and heat.
According to Tamarah Begay, principle architect in charge and found/owner of IDS+A, the building represents the cornerstone to the Chinle site’s overall master plan. Now that it is in place, NTU will work at filling in the rest of its 38 acres with an administrative building, student services center, child care center, vendors market and amphitheater, a traditional Navajo hogan, and housing. The university is also pursuing support to construct a Center for the Environment.
For more information about NTU’s Chinle instructional site, contact Arlena Benallie at 928.882.3135 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To view the virtual grand opening, visit https://youtu.be/XMukVkKAy-w.