Navajo Tech becomes a university

Aug 1st, 2013 | By | Category: 25-2: Tribal and Behavioral Health, Tribal College News
By Daniel Vandever

On July 25, 2013, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed legislation to change the name of Navajo Technical College to Navajo Technical University (NTU, Crownpoint, NM), fulfilling a goal that has been in the works since 2010. With the name change, NTU now has the authority to establish its own institutional review board that oversees NTU’s student research in the field of social science, while leaving all other medical and clinical research conducted on the Navajo Nation to the Navajo Nation Human Research Board.

“We’ve come a long way to get to the point where we can now offer higher level degrees in a university setting on the Navajo Nation for Diné students to obtain,” exclaimed NTU president Dr. Elmer J. Guy, who witnessed the Navajo Nation Council unanimously pass the legislation days before Shelly gave his approval. “Since the days of Chief Manuelito our people have advocated for education so it’s fulfilling to be able to bring their wishes and prayers to fruition.”

NTU initiated its push to become a university in 2010 when then NTC Student of the Year, Dody Begay, challenged Dr. Guy to develop a baccalaureate program in information technology. The program was developed and Begay went on to become the first student to earn a Bachelor’s degree from the 34-year-old institution. NTU now offers six baccalaureate degrees, including programs in environmental science and natural resources, industrial engineering, computer science, digital manufacturing, new media, and Diné culture, language, and leadership. NTU has also submitted a proposal for a Master of Arts program in Diné language, culture, and leadership.

“A lot of the time when Diné students leave the Navajo Nation to obtain a higher education they have a hard time adjusting, which leads to them dropping out with no degree and a huge debt hanging over their head,” explained Dr. Guy. “By establishing a university here in our own backyard, we allow them the opportunity to obtain the same level of education that they would receive from a larger state university—if not better.”

Navajo Technical University was founded in 1979 as the Navajo Skills Center when the school attempted to meet the immediate needs of an unemployed population. Prompted by the school’s expanding mission, the board of directors changed the Skill Center’s name to Crownpoint Institute of Technology in 1985, before switching to Navajo Technical College in 2006.

With the approval of legislation from the Navajo Nation, NTU must now submit their name change to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC) before it is formally recognized. Once the HLC gives its approval, NTU will be one of three tribal universities in the United States, joining Haskell Indian Nations University (Lawrence, KS) and Sinte Gleska University (Mission, SD).

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