TSAILE, Ariz. — Students and faculty members at Diné College returning for the fall 2019 school year will notice some changes and improvements that have occurred over the spring and summer.
When Diné College students returned Aug. 19, they noticed some upgrades, including being able to participate in live web classes directly from home for a few courses and a new coffee shop, plus an $8 million refurbishing of the Ned Hatathli Cultural Center (NHC) at the Tsaile campus.
The Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approved Diné College’s four-year institutional status and two additional emphasis options within the BA of Fine Arts degree: silversmithing and weaving. The BFA program has an emphasis in five academic tracks. The college graduated its fourth largest class in school history in May.
“In April we received formal notification that Diné College is now a four-year institution,” said Dr. Geraldine Garrity, Diné College Provost. “We’re also excited that two Chief Manuelito scholars have enrolled at the college. There could be more.” The Chief Manuelito scholarship is Navajo Nation-based and is awarded to high academic achievers.
Improvements with the college’s information technology will make it easier for students and staff to connect wirelessly on campus using their own devices, IT Director Joy Thompson said. “It’s an easier method for students to get connected and they don’t have to actually come to the IT Department to get it set up. One hundred new wireless access points were installed at Tsaile and all of the centers, giving students more access for course work and research,” Thompson said.
Thompson said virtual classes will also be offered for a few courses using a pilot approach with software called ZOOM, enhancing the current distance learning capabilities.
“Students can use the ZOOM software on any device connected to the Internet to take a class from anywhere — even from their hogans,” Thompson said.
Unlike an ITV (Interactive Television) course where students had to attend in a classroom at one of our sites, now they can interact with the instructor and other students virtually as they would in an actual classroom, Thompson said. “This will increase the availability of online courses and make it easier for students to attend,” she said.
Garrity said a total of five to seven new faculty members will be joining the college and that now the school has received its four-year status from the HLC, it’s easier for the schools to add other bachelors and master’s degree programs. The four schools are the School of Arts, Humanities and English, the School of Diné Studies and Education, the School of Business and Social Science and the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
“This school year, the schools will be working on adding five master’s degree programs by Fall 2021,” Garrity said.
The college held two successful fundraising events the past school year — a golf tournament and one for an inaugural blanket. Both garnered thousands of dollars in student scholarship donations.
“We are proud to announce that this school year that from all of our fundraising activities (this past year) we will be awarding $1,000 individual student scholarships for a total amount of $250,000 for the academic year 2019-2020,” said Diné College President Charles Monty Roessel.
A bus run from Shiprock to Tsaile and a return run will also continue. Both campuses are popular with day and evening students.
The School of Business and Social Science has a new psychology faculty, Jeremiah Barber, and new business administration faculty member, Dr. Gregory I. Redhouse.
“We are also working on a revamp,” said Dr. Michael Lerma, dean of the School of Social Science and Business
A creative writing emphasis to the BFA degree program is on target to be launched soon.
But the big news for this school year is the $8 million renovation and improvement project recently finished at the Ned Hatathli Cultural Center at the Tsaile campus. The project refurbished ground floor offices and classrooms, stabilized the NHC and replaced the outer window panels of the six-story building — the tallest on the Navajo Nation.
“Students will see that all the windows have been replaced at the (NHC) building and some classrooms remodeled on the first floor,” Garrity said.
Warrior Coffee opened last week at the Tsaile campus and specializes in Starbucks-styled coffee and Navajo menu items. The coffee shop features Navajo foods and drinks and is the first such coffee shop to ever open at the college.
“It’s a hit and has already become a hub for students and locals,” Marie Nez, Vice President of External Affairs, said. “Part of the coffee shop on the ground floor will include a training center which we will rent to outside organizations for training events.”
The Tuba City Center boasts two new science labs, in addition to one already there, Garrity said. “This allows us to offer more science courses over there,” she said. “Before, labs were somewhat limited.”
The Tsaile Charlie Benally Main Library will undergo renovations in which some study carrels have been replaced, among other improvements. Also planned is a new student activity center.
“This year, we will be in the architecture and design stage for the activity center,” Roessel said. “When completed next school year, the new center will offer a wellness center, basketball court, and other things.”
Information provided by Diné College