CROWNPOINT, New Mexico: Navajo Technical University, located on the largest Native American reservation in the US, has become the first among more than 30 accredited tribal colleges and universities in the country to offer a doctoral program.
The program will focus on sustaining the culture and language of Dine, the Navajo word meaning "the people."
The school has begun accepting applications for the program's fall semester, and a celebration is planned on the Crownpoint campus in western New Mexico in April.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Navajo Tech President Elmer Guy said, "The offering marks a milestone for the university, which already has more than 30 degree and certificate programs spanning science, technology, engineering, business and liberal arts."
The Ph.D. in Dine Culture and Language Sustainability will have a profound impact on the future of the tribe's language and culture, Guy stressed.
"Individuals will get a degree and they will be professionals. You have to make it applicable. By making it more meaningful, people will have an interest in it," Guy said.
Wafa Hozien, an administrator who helped with the program's creation, said that, so far, 20 students have applied and will be vying for five spots in the inaugural class.
"Navajo Tech's program represents a paradigm shift in that learning through a Dine lens, with culture and language, creates leaders who can advocate for their people in the judicial system, education, land management, business, technology and health care," he added.