CIT Promotes Holistic Environmental Training

Nov 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-2: Land is Life, Tribal College News

Steve Chischilly and Doug Bocaz-Larson unwrap the new plotter, one of several sophisticated pieces of equipment used by environmental technology students.

Since its inception in 1996 as a one-year certificate program, Crownpoint Institute of Technology’s Environmental Technology and Natural Resources program has evolved into a two-year degree. Developed and directed by Department of Natural Resources Chairman Steven Chischilly, the program is closely in touch with the needs of the Navajo Nation.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) study began here on the New Mexico campus two years ago as a component of environmental technology. This fall, GIS became a separate program with one-year certificates. Chischilly expects that by 2001 the GIS program also will offer associate degrees.

“In 1996 there was a big push by the Department of Energy to get Native American representation in environmental clean-up on the reservations,” Chischilly said, “so our early focus was on technology. But environmental issues are complex and many-sided, and we want students to know that you can’t work in a vacuum. You must understand environmental problems from a variety of perspectives to solve them. Over the past two years we’ve shifted to a more holistic approach that includes economic and social aspects. For example, our students study the National Environmental Policy Act. They study federal environmental regulations and Navajo Nation EPA programs. They learn to write environmental assessments. They even hold ‘scoping meetings’ where they gather input from local elders on grazing, hydrology, soils, and environmental-cultural questions.”

Second-year students receive more specialized instruction. This includes such diverse topics as asbestos contractor/supervisor training, first responder/emergency response training, and wetlands delineation. This year a Department of Defense grant will allow students to research the environmental effects of solid waste dumping in the Crownpoint area. GIS mapping and research data will help the Navajo tribal government to prioritize dumping sites. This year, the program moved into the recently completed Science and Business Technology building.

CIT’s environmental technology graduates are achieving noteworthy success on the job and in pursuing further education. Vernon Brown is a water analyst with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. Charleston Morgan graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.S. in electronics. Dianne Kee does environmental assessments with the Bureau of Land Management, and Robert Curleyhair has accepted a co-op position at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

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