CIT Telecommunications Grant to Link Navajos

Feb 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 11-3: Native Language, Tribal College News
CIT COMPUTER USERS

Michael Dodson and Susannah Cisco (top) surf the net at Crownpoint while an unknown visitor (below) tries her hand as Queen of the Net. Photos by Gail Burke

Early on September 30, U.S. Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) telephoned Crownpoint Institute of Technology (CIT) President James Tutt with news of a $600,000 telecommunications grant to the school. The grant was awarded through the U. S. Commerce Department’s Telecommunications Facilities Program.

The remote tribal college in Crownpoint, N.M., is linked by microwave tower and satellite with Northern Arizona University’s NAUNET telecommunications hub site at Ft. Defiance, Ariz. CIT expects to begin offering educational teleservice outreach to as many as 50 eastern Navajo and Shiprock agency chapters this spring.

“The significance of this system for the Navajo Nation is limitless,” said Development Officer Jay R. DeGroat. “Our students can earn credit for telecourses from NAU and many other colleges and universities that share the system, and we’ll make our courses available to them. We’ll be beaming into high schools, too, so students there can earn college credit before they enroll at college. People who didn’t finish high school can finish their GED at home. In fact, with this system in place, a lot of people who previously couldn’t access higher education may be earning their degrees on their own time and in their own living rooms.” DeGroat has been working the past year with NAU Vice Provost for State Programs Edward G. Groenhout to lay the groundwork for the telecommunications system.

“This system strengthens the school’s ability to help a population that’s been educationally under served for so long. In addition to educational services, this new access will result in leadership development, networking, and long-term strategic planning that includes all the Navajo people. We’re making technology work to support our culture as well as our economy,” Tutt said.

Just two weeks earlier, on September 17, the institute celebrated Internet Day with a community feast prepared for 200 visitors by culinary arts students. CIT is planning to make Internet services available to residents of Crownpoint and neighboring communities. Visitors e-mailed friends and relatives and researched information during the celebration. The CIT staff received two weeks of intensive training in Internet use when school opened last fall. “What this means for the Navajo people is empowerment,” said Bruce McDowell, the consultant who installed the system and provided the training. “Those who choose to remain on the reservation now can do so and still earn a good living. Internet also helps CIT prepare others for good jobs in the outside world,” he said.

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