Nav Navajo university offers doctoral degree

Nav Navajo university offers doctoral degree

A university on the largest Native American reservation in the U.S. has launched a doctoral program, becoming the first among more than 30 accredited tribal colleges and universities in the country to offer such a high level of education.

The program at Navajo Technical University will be dedicated to preserving Din culture and language. Din is the word Navajo, meaning the people, and is commonly what tribal members call themselves.

In April, a celebration will be planned on the Crownpoint campus in western New Mexico, and the school has already started accepting applications for the fall semester.

The university already has more than 30 degree and certificate programs spanning science, technology, engineering, business and liberal arts, according to Navajo Tech President Elmer Guy.

D. in Din Culture and Language Sustainability will have a significant impact on the future of the tribe's language and culture. He is excited to see how students shape their dissertations.

The idea was to create a program that would lead to employment opportunities and effect change for Navajo communities on the reservation that stretches into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Guy said it was important to make that connection and that it was a step beyond the call by tribal leaders for their people to learn the language and stay engaged with their culture. Individuals will get a degree and they will be professionals. People will have an interest in it by making it more meaningful. There are about 20 students who have applied so far and will be vying for five coveted spots in the inaugural class, said Wafa Hozien, an administrator who helped with the program's creation.

The doctoral program was developed with the help of tribal elders, university professors and linguistic experts, in collaboration with other academic institutions and community partners. Students will gain practical experience in the real world by participating in community-based research and internships.

Guy hopes that inspires other tribal colleges and universities to create their own programs.

Hozien said that Navajo Tech's program is a paradigm shift in that learning through a Din lens that creates leaders who can advocate for their people in the judicial system, education, land management, business, technology and health care.

Guy said the work done by the university to train court reporters to document Navajo testimony and translators to help with reading ballots during election season has addressed some of the pressing needs within communities.

As students earn doctoral degrees, the possibilities will be even greater, he said.

Guy said they will be part of solving problems. These students have energy and creativity, and our job is to give them the tools.