An interim president has taken over the helm at Diné College, the Navajo Nation’s institution of higher learning, as the college reevaluates its role in the community and eyes future growth.
Maggie George, who served as college president since August 2011, resigned from her position in January. George was placed on administrative leave in October after a series of disagreements about her management style, but she and the college decided to part ways amicably, she told ICTMN.
“I have resigned from Diné College to seek other professional opportunities,” she said. “I have no other comments.”
The college’s Board of Regents appointed Martin Ahumada as interim president until further notice. Ahumada, formerly the vice president of academic affairs, was hired in January 2015. He did not respond to requests for comment.
New leadership comes on the heels of a massive restructuring of Diné College’s administration. The Board of Regents in December approved a new organizational chart for the college, which calls for the addition of a provost, eliminates the position of chief operating officer and revises the responsibilities of each vice president. Specifically, the new chart promises separation of powers between the college president and the provost.
“The reorganization will provide greater balance of power,” said Greg Bigman, chairman of the Board of Regents. “It will also reduce the cost of upper administration and empower employees to start moving up and for the college to be more efficient.”
But reorganization of the administration is only one of many changes Diné College hopes to unveil, Bigman said. As the oldest tribally controlled college in the nation, Diné College should set an example, he said.
“As a land-grant college, we are designed to help the community,” Bigman said. “We are basically taking the initiative to step out, to educate students, but to also make the community a better place.”
The college is analyzing the needs of its communities, Bigman said. It plans to tap into local populations for teachers and revitalize its emphasis on Navajo language and culture.
“Another initiative is to make sure everything is more student-focused,” he said. “By doing that, we can change how people view education. By inviting people to be part of the college—leading student organizations or teaching classes—we can grow our communities and increase leadership capacity.”
Diné College was founded in 1968 with educational goals steeped in Diné language and culture. It now has main campuses in Tsaile, Arizona, and Shiprock, New Mexico, as well as six satellite locations across the 27,000-square-mile reservation.