Malanie Begay of Crownpoint, New Mexico was recognized as the 2013-2014 Navajo Technical University (NTU) Student of the Year at the American Indian College Fund’s annual scholarship banquet at the Montana Convention Center on Sunday, March 16, 2014.
The recognition comes to Begay after she maintained a 3.95 GPA while enrolled in NTU’s Bachelor of Science degree program in environmental science and natural resources and juggling a course load that included classes such as engineering statistics and chemistry.
“I feel honored to be selected,” stated Begay, who is of the Towering House clan born for the Water’s Edge clan. Begay, who is also the first in her family to attend college added, “It feels good to be recognized for all the hard work I’ve been putting in.”
In addition to maintaining exemplary grades in one of NTU’s most rigorous programs, Begay also serves as a peer tutor in geographic information technology (GIT) at the university’s STEM lab and works as a teacher’s assistant to environmental science and natural resources instructor Dr. Bill Mader. It is under the direction of Dr. Mader that Begay also began an independent research project on radon gas where she is currently testing radon levels at various buildings in the Crownpoint area.
“So far I’ve only measured radon levels of the environmental science classroom, my house, and Dr. Mader’s, but I’d like to eventually measure (NTU’s) childcare center and other houses,” explained Begay.
The APA threshold for a safe radon level is 4.0, and through her research, Begay was able to detect levels as high as 3.8 picocuries—which she attributes to flooding that swept the Crownpoint area in September of last year.
While Begay was selected as NTU’s Student of the Year for the 2013-2014 academic year, her educational journey actually began when NTU was formerly known as the Crownpoint Institute of Technology. Begay earned her associate’s degree in environmental science in 2004, and then put her educational aspirations on hold for nearly nine years to raise a family. It wasn’t until the youngest of her two boys entered kindergarten that she decided to enroll back in school this past fall.
“Everything fell into place timing wise,” stated Begay, who returned a semester after NTU was approved by the Higher Learning Commission to begin offering a baccalaureate degree in environmental science. “If I had done this the first time, I’d be missing out on a lot with my boys. It’s been really challenging, but I’m glad it’s not easy.”
“It’s not only challenging academically, but morally,” Begay continued. “You become more aware of your environment and that makes you the kind of person who has strong ethics. It’s already established in me as a Navajo, but it makes me that much stronger. I’m trying to be a good example to my boys.”
This summer Begay plans on broadening her horizons by working in 3D modeling with NASA’s One-Stop Shop Initiative (OSSI), and interning with New Mexico EPSCoR in analyzing watersheds in geographic information systems (GIS).
“I’m amazed at the progress and the benefits I’m reaping from (the university),” explained Begay. “I wish the community would realize what they have here at NTU. It’s something unique. The instructors here are amazing. They’re the ones making a difference.”
While Begay is sure to make a difference with the work she is currently conducting in and outside of the classroom, she plans on putting a career on hold until she finishes her education.
“My priority is to finish and afterwards I’d like to go to graduate school,” stated Begay, who’s aspiring to obtain a master’s degree in GIS with an emphasis in environmental science. “I had a goal of getting a bachelor’s degree for such a long time, and now that I’m this close, it’s insane not to keep going.”
The American Indian College Fund and the Adolf Coors Foundation sponsor the Student of the Year program, and they empower each eligible tribal college participating in the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) to select their own student. In being named Student of the Year, Begay will be awarded a $1,000 check that may be used to pay tuition, fees, room and board, books or any other educational need.
Begay is the third environmental science and natural resources major to be named NTU Student of the Year in the past three years following in the footsteps of Sherwin Becenti of Crystal, New Mexico and Dwight Carlston of Falcon’s Nest, New Mexico.
For more information about NTU’s environmental science and natural resources program contact Steve Chischilly at firstname.lastname@example.org.