NTC adds programs, increases enrollment

Feb 8th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-3: Technology and Culture, Tribal College News

PROUD BAKER. NTC culinary arts student Melvina Jones poses next to her creations at the SkillsUSA National Conference in Kansas City, MO.

While enrollment in undergraduate degree and certificate programs has seen a dip at universities and colleges across New Mexico in recent years, for the fourth consecutive year Navajo Technical College (NTC, Crownpoint, NM) has reported an increase in student enrollment.

In the fall 2011 semester, NTC enrolled a total of 1,143 students at both its Crownpoint, NM, and Chinle, AZ, instructional sites—an increase of 171 students from the previous year. The enrollment is a new high for the college, which had just 367 enrolled students as recently as 2007.

The increase in enrollment adds to a year of achievement for NTC, which was named one of the top 120 community colleges in the United States by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program earlier this year. As a result, NTC—which boasts an over 80% retention rate—has begun to take the necessary steps to build the infrastructure to establish a university to combat the Navajo Nation’s educational deficiencies.

Currently, the Navajo Nation is one of the least educated populations in the United States. Only 7.3 % of Navajos have earned a bachelor or graduate degree, as compared to 24.4% of the United States population as a whole. To achieve economic parity with the rest of the country, the Navajo Nation needs 73,200 individuals with a bachelor degree or better. The nation is currently short approximately 51,300 graduates.

NTC has a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Information Technology with tracks in New Media, Computer Science, and Digital Manufacturing. It is now attempting to gain accreditation for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering, and a Bachelor of Arts and Masters Degree in Diné Culture, Language, and Leadership. NTC has also taken the initial steps for providing the Navajo Nation with degrees in Creative Writing and New Media and Environmental Science and Natural Resources.

“Navajo Tech’s program’s are academically rigorous, aimed towards 21st century jobs and careers,” says NTC Dean of Instruction Tom Davis. “They’re designed to help Navajo and other American Indian students develop the skills to be productive citizens that can help the United States achieve economic well-being in an increasingly competitive world.”

In August, NTC was listed by the Maryland-based testing and assessment service provider, Prometric, as one of 12 testing sites for nursing assistant certification in the state of New Mexico.

“This is kind of a big thing because students don’t have to go far to get certified,” says NTC Director of Nursing Fran Ellis. “Before you’d have to go to Gallup, Albuquerque, or Farmington, but now you can get it done in Crownpoint.”

In September, NTC Culinary Arts program also took its first steps towards national accreditation. For three days, NTC welcomed chefs Robert Hudson (CEC, CCE), Keith Mandabach (CEC, AAC, EDD), and Mark Cochran (CEC, CCA, CFBE) of the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) accrediting commission to review a self-study on the school’s Culinary Arts program and to see if the school met ACF’s standards for accreditation.

The review included an examination of the college’s curriculum and staff, as well as a detailed inspection of the program’s educational facilities to determine if they were in line with industry standards.

After the three days of the initial evaluation, the commission provided an exit report that noted several of the school’s strengths but also provided the Navajo Nation’s only culinary arts program with a short list of compliance issues.

“For an initial process, it’s been very good,” says Chef Hudson, who traveled to NTC from Colorado Springs, CO, to perform the evaluation. “I can see this program going further.”

NTC has until mid-December to take the corrective measures to comply with the ACF commission’s requirements. They will have to address student-to-faculty ratio, advisory board expansion, and creating a unified teacher manual that contains class outlines, notes, and syllabi before the American Culinary Federation’s national board meets in January.

After NTC complies with each requirement, they must submit a report the addresses each correction, which will then be reviewed by the American Culinary Federation’s national board meets in January. If the board approves of the report, Navajo Tech will receive either a three- or five-year accreditation from the country’s most renowned culinary organization.

If accredited, NTC would be the first Native American college to receive ACF certification. Once the program receives its accreditation, NTC Culinary Arts director Chef Robert Witte (CEC) expects big things for one of the college’s most popular programs. “Overall, this is going to improve the program by 300%,” says Chef Witte. “We’re now going to be the model for all future Native American colleges who want to become accredited through the ACF.”

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