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Students pioneer NTC’s Navajo Leadership Studies certificate program

October 23, 2012

CROWNPOINT, NM – Amidst local government elections at chapter houses throughout the Navajo Nation, a handful of Navajo Technical College (NTC) students have begun their road to future elections by pioneering the Navajo Nation’s first Navajo Leadership Studies program - a 32-credit hour certificate program that was approved by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools last fall.

Dr. Francis D. Becenti, NTC’s Director/Instructor of Navajo Leadership Studies, developed the program and stated that it was created with the sole purpose to improve leadership and governance on the Navajo Nation while also aligning itself with the college’s mission in educating the Navajo populace in order to improve the overall quality of life.

“This program is really geared towards elected tribal officials and employees so they can better understand their jobs and the workforce,” explained Dr. Becenti, who has also previously served as NTC’s Associate Dean for Outreach and Engagement. “This will include everything from teaching them how to organize community groups for fundraising purposes to teaching tribal members about the functions of the Nation’s government.”

While the program was developed with elected tribal officials and employees in mind, it currently consists of twelve students from various programs of study at Navajo Tech.

“It’s really critical that this program is here for us and those that really seek leadership,” said Public Administration major, Wilbur Tso of Standing Rock, NM. “This college is as good as it gets, and it’s the best within the Navajo Nation. It’s reaching to its highest point, and I see a big growth in this program.”

While each student looked at the program as a benefit to themselves and their communities, their outlook did not go without concern.

“We’re going to be confronted with people saying, ‘who are you to tell me how to be a leader,’” said Accounting major Brian Sloan of Newcomb, NM, who will be the first student to complete the Leadership program this fall. “How do we approach elected officials who could benefit from a chance to be formally educated about leadership?”

“There are people who have been holding positions for decades, and for some, they don’t seem to want to get away from how things have been,” continued Sloan.

One individual who has been making a push for change is former Secretary Treasurer for the Becenti Chapter and Vice Chair of the Eastern Agency Council, Charles Long, who first brought the need for such a program to the attention of NTC in 2000.

“When the Navajo Nation Council enacted title 26 of the Navajo Nation Code it identified the responsibility of elected officials as policy makers, the staff functioning as the executive part of the government, and the peacemaker as the judicial part of the government. When that happened, a lot of chapter members didn’t know how to deal with it and there were frictions,” explained Long (Becenti, NM). “A way to deal with that confusion was to have the elected officials and the staff go through training so they would know their duties and responsibilities a lot better.”

Now that Long’s vision of such a program has come into fruition, he hopes to spread the word about it so people throughout the Navajo Nation could benefit from the program’s instruction.

“We’re hoping to begin communicating with other community colleges to articulate the program so that there will be similar programs at UNM-Gallup, NAU and San Juan College,” stated Long. “I want more students, especially our young people, to look at the program very seriously because it’s something that will help them not only in their lives as Navajos, but as they go out into the world it will help them in understanding who they are and where they come from.”

The 32-credit hour certificate program includes 16 courses that range from Navajo Leadership Communication Skills to Ethics in the Workplace. Each class seeks to increase the number of individuals willing to accept the risk of developing new perspective, embracing inclusive values, advocating for social justice for native people, and developing insight into the role of self-determination in governance in the 21st century.

The program is expected to serve as a feeder program into Navajo Technical College’s four-year Bachelor of Arts degree in Navajo Language, Culture, and Leadership. The BA program was approved by the HLC last month.

For more information about NTC’s Navajo Leadership Studies program, please contact Dr. Francis D. Becenti at 505.786.4106.

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NTC’s Director/Instructor of Navajo Leadership Studies, Dr. Francis D. Becenti, leads a class discussion in a Navajo Leadership Studies course. The Navajo Leadership Studies program is a 32-credit hour certificate program includes 16 courses that range from Navajo Leadership Communication Skills to Ethics in the Workplace.