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NTU Fall Commencement Provides Glimpse of Future

Navajo Technical University graduated its first bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering and first six in Early Childhood Multicultural Education.
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Navajo Technical University graduated its first baccalaureate degree in Industrial Engineering and first six baccalaureate degrees in Early Childhood Multicultural Education at its fall commencement on December 11.

Since NTU became a university in 2013, it has worked to build programs that meet the national need for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—STEM. The Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering was developed to that end, and has produced its first graduate in Fayetta Clawson, of Farmington, New Mexico.

“It seems like this was a dream a few years ago,” said NTU President Dr. Elmer J. Guy, who has issued 26 baccalaureate degrees across five different STEM programs since NTU became a university. “What’s exciting is there’s more in the pipeline.”

Courtesy Navajo Technical University

Navajo Technical University granted seven baccalaureate degrees at its Fall 2015 Commencement, one in Industrial Engineering and six in Early Childhood Multicultural Education. Pictured, from right are: Angelita Darwin, Ramara Begay, Diana Hosteen, Anita Jones-Pouncy, Valerita Nez, Vernita VanWinkle-Sorrell, and Fayetta Clawson.

Being the first graduate from the Industrial Engineering program was fulfilling for Clawson, but not easy. “At times I felt like giving up, but I had to keep pushing myself to keep going,” explained Clawson in a university press release. “Sometimes I’d think to myself, ‘Why am I doing this? I’m not good enough.’”

“But everyone at school told me I could do it, and my family told me to never give up. I’m just glad it’s over and thankful to everyone who helped me along the way,” Clawson continued.

The Early Childhood Multicultural Education program was approved by the Higher Learning Commision in January of 2014, and it produced six graduates at fall commencement: Angelita Darwin, Diana Hosteen, Anita Jones-Pouncy, Ramara Begay, Vernita VanWinkle Sorrell, and Valerita Nez.

Darwin obtained her degree in Crownpoint where the program is housed, the other five went to NTU’s Chinle instructional site and commuted 130 miles to Crownpoint for a full semester to take courses only offered there.

“We all had to collaborate and rise together to get it done,” said VanWinkle-Sorrell, who explained they would car pool everyday, leaving Chinle around 4 a.m. and not return home until 7 p.m. “I just feel really overwhelmed right now. We had to work so hard to come so far.”

Begay was equally thrilled, but was also happy about earning her degree from a university of the Navajo Nation. “It’s special because it’s here at home,” said Begay in the release. “You’re not elsewhere getting your education. You’re here learning from your own people.”

Courtesy Navajo Technical University

Graduate Ramara Begay shakes hands with NTU’s Board of Regents and Navajo Nation Poet Laureate Dr. Laura Tohe at NTU’s fall commencement. Begay was one of six students to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Multicultural Education.

The six graduates had a large cheering section during the commencement ceremony—first and second graders from Chinle Elementary attended to support their student teachers. The students recited the Pledge of Allegiance in the Navajo language, bringing the crowd to silence.

“That was a really cool moment,” said Dr. Guy, in the release. “It was great to see because that’s where our students will be going to teach. It was a good glimpse into the future.”

Those seven students weren’t the only ones graduating that day though—a total of 147 students earned a degree, certificate, or high school equivalency diploma on December 11.

Courtesy Navajo Technical University

NTU President Dr. Elmer J. Guy presents Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy a Navajo rug as appreciation for serving as the fall commencement speaker. Dr. Ferrini-Mundy is the Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation for Education and Human Resources, a position she has held since 2011.