CROWNPOINT, NM – Navajo Technical University and Diné College are working together to promote higher education on the Navajo Nation through a joint-effort titled, “One Nation Dedicated to Higher Education.” The collaboration seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of attending a tribal college or university, while advocating for local, state, federal, and tribal support that could lead to the long-term success for each institution.
“It’s important that our institutions stand together so we can improve access to higher education for all Diné people,” explained NTU communications director Daniel Vandever. “With an educated local workforce, we can begin supporting a lot of the plans the Navajo Nation has in regards to economic development, while also making a meaningful push in language and cultural revitalization.”
“Education has the ability to move the needle in a lot of ways, and NTU and DC have the capacity to make it happen,” Vandever continued.
“One Nation Dedicated to Higher Education” is an effort to strengthen existing bonds between NTU and DC, and to serve as a launch point for new goals that improve student outcomes. For the last several years, the two institutions have been analyzing and addressing retention, persistence, and graduation data. The information and data collected ameliorate student services and resources at both Navajo nation institutions. In February, NTU and DC students, staff, and administrators called for parity in funding for tribal land grant programs. As members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), both advocated on behalf of all tribal colleges and universities for federal Title III funds.
Most recently, the two institutions have engaged in a joint effort to raise awareness about New Mexico’s General Obligation Bond D. They are encouraging voter support to approve more than $128 million for capital improvements at higher education institutions in the state. If approved, DC will obtain $5 million for a science building at its Shiprock south campus, and NTU will be allocated $3.75 million for a new academic building in Crownpoint. The state funding will be necessary for each institution as they plan to increase the educational obtainment level for residents throughout the region.
“The funds will be crucial as we try and develop our infrastructure to better meet the long-term needs of our students and our various programs,” explained Dr. Casmir Agbaraji, dean of undergraduate studies at NTU. “There is no increase in property tax attached with Bond D, which we hope will help resonate with voters and give us a good chance in obtaining the funds.”
Diné College is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, while NTU will be recognizing its 40th anniversary in 2019. Vandever explained that the “One Nation Dedicated to Higher Education” will be important in helping define how each institution functions for the next half century.
“Sustainability is the key to this entire effort,” explained Vandever, who noted the obstacles both NTU and DC face operating in a rural environment. “If we’re going to be taking on the daunting task of reversing a history of high unemployment rates that have contributed to cycles of poverty on the Navajo Nation, we need to be strategic in how we operate. There’s so much beauty in what we offer as tribal colleges and universities, and if we can leverage our resources in a coordinated fashion, we can make more of an impact on those we serve.”