Crownpoint, NM – On December 8, 2017, Navajo Technical University will confer its fourth graduate degree when Warlance Chee of Lake Valley, NM receives his Master of Arts degree in Diné Culture, Language & Leadership. In total, NTU will be awarding 162 degrees and certificates, including 95 certificates, 47 associate degrees, 19 baccalaureate degrees, and Chee’s M.A. degree.
“[NTU’s M.A. program] is a remarkable program and we’re fortunate to be a part of this unique graduate program designed for students who want to perpetuate the Navajo language and culture,” said Chee, who is Tsé Nahabiłnii born for Kinłichíi’nii. “This is the only program of its kind in any direction and it continues to grow alongside its cohort of students.”
On November 29, 2017, Chee presented and defended his thesis titled, “Developing Navajo Thought and Speech: Navajo Centered Research Frameworks, Methodologies, Methods and Narrative Inquiries.” Within his thesis he explored various methods to teach Navajo students the language, and he often drew on his experiences working as an educator teaching school age children to inform his topic.
“Its important to find ways of how are we going to use our teachings, stories, songs, prayers and our own Navajo ways of thinking and planning to our Navajo students,” explained Chee, who cited educational models like the cornstalk model and cradleboard to reinforce his message. “There are teaching and research frameworks that are there for us to develop fluency for our children.”
Chee is currently a Navajo language teacher at Tohajilee Elementary School where he helps implements the Navajo language in classroom curriculum. Prior to his experience in Tohajiilee, he taught at Cuba Elementary School where he learned about the Master’s program at NTU while attending a regional conference. Chee soon applied and was accepted into the program where he thrived in his coursework.
“Mr. Chee came into the program in the fall of 2015 and is a high achieving student and is very knowledgeable with Navajo culture.” said Dr. Wesley Thomas, Graduate Dean and Professor in the School of Diné Studies at NTU. “His presentation and defense was outstanding, and with his experience as a teacher, he brings new ideas on how to improve current teaching methods of the Navajo language.”
NTU graduated its first master’s student in Diné Culture Language and Leadership in Fall 2016 when Perry James of Continental Divide, NM received his degree. The university has since strengthened the program and has begun to take the initial steps in implementing a doctorate program. Currently, Dr. Thomas has been collaborating with professionals from other universities to learn more about language teaching methodologies, which would help broaden its appeal globally.
To Learn more about NTU’s Diné Studies graduate program at Navajo Technical University contact Dr. Wesley Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about NTU’s Fall Commencement contact Dean Jerlynn Henry at email@example.com