The recent flooding that caused evacuations and classes to be canceled at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico hasn’t canceled a four-day community celebration beginning Wednesday, September 18.
The university will be celebrating its new standing as a university. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed legislation back in July changing the name of the school from Navajo Technical College to Navajo Technical University, a goal that had been in the works since 2010.
With the name change came the authority to establish an institutional review board to oversee the university’s student research in social science. The Navajo Nation Human Research Board oversees all other medical and clinical research conducted on the Navajo Nation.
“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,” said NTU President Dr. Elmer J. Guy, who witnessed the Navajo Nation Council unanimously pass the legislation days before Shelly gave his approval in July. “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.”
The school’s status as a university was approved by the Navajo Nation in July, and in August it became official when the Higher Learning Commission also recognized it.
The push to become a university started with Dody Begay, Navajo Technical College’s Student of the Year in 2010. He challenged Guy to develop a bachelor’s program in information technology so he could stay in Crownpoint to continue his studies.
Begay has since become the first to earn a bachelor’s degree from the university and the school has developed six other baccalaureate programs altogether— Environmental Science and Natural Resources, Industrial Engineering, Computer Science, Digital Manufacturing, New Media, and Diné Culture, Language, 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.”
Tomorrow’s celebration begins with a welcoming address by university officials and a visit from the NASA Traveling Space Museum, which will feature exhibits free to the community.
Day two of the celebration will begin with a sheep butchering at 8 a.m. and continue with story telling at 9 a.m. and a mutton lunch at noon.
Friday, September 20 is student day with student club activities throughout the day as well as campus tours at noon and a talent show at 3 p.m. and a dance at 8 p.m. with a free concert featuring The Sneezy Boys.
The celebration comes to a close on September 21 with a fun run/walk for the community beginning at 6 a.m.
Since the university was hit hard with the flooding, all celebration activities will be held in the IT building, which was not affected. Buildings that were affected are being evaluated this week.