Published September 22, 2015
TSAILE, ARIZONA — Diné College is getting a facelift thanks to several grants that funded several capital improvement projects like the renovation to the Student Union Building (SUB) and new construction of 32 family housing units at its main campus in Tsaile.
On Sept. 18, the college celebrated the grand opening of the newly-renovated SUB and the opening of its student family housing units which was blessed before students moved in a few weeks ago. The event featured guest speaker Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a luncheon and tours of the new facilities.
Maggie L. George, Ph.D., president of Diné College, explained the process to complete these new projects was a team effort, and an effort that took five years to come to fruition.
She explained when she came on board as the college president, she realized the college was in its second year of its Title 3 funding and money was not being spent. Acting swiftly, she responded with plans to help devise a priority list that included several projects including the renovation to the SUB and plans to construct 32 brand new family housing units which totaled more than $15 million.
One important project that ranked high on the college’s Capital Improvement and Investment Plan was major renovations to its SUB on the main campus, which was built in the early-1970s. The $2.1 million project was ranked as Phase I and was a top priority based on the level of services it provides to students.
Renovations to the SUB included construction of a “one-stop shop” for student services, which includes offices for student admissions and recruitment, financial aid, registrar and student advising, private counseling rooms, and a student waiting area. Renovations also created space for a new learning center for computer workstations, copy and print services, a supervised testing area, study spaces, student gathering space, upgraded restroom facilities and a redesigned east entrance.
The auditorium located within the SUB will be part of a Phase II construction and renovation project.
“We have some money that we’re going to put into the auditorium and that’s still a work in progress,” President George said. “We hope the auditorium will be done in December, but it depends on the weather and many things.”
Another major project was the construction of the 32 brand new family housing units at a cost of nearly $13 million, which consists of two and three bedroom homes for students with families.
Claude Sandoval, facilities manager, provided a history of the family housing units and explained the complex was designed with Navajo culture in mind.
“The overall design concept was drawn up by our Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Cameron Daines,” he said. “Daines then provided that design to the college administration who then decided to move forward with it.”
“The housing compound was designed in a circular shape to depict a traditional Navajo hogan. It is divided up into quadrants representing the four cardinal directions with the south in a blue mountain design, the west in a yellow mountain design and the north in a black mountain design,” Sandoval said. “The units are rectangular-shaped homes with front entrances facing east. Each apartment is outfitted with a full-service kitchen, a bathroom, a washer and dryer, a microwave, a stove, a refrigerator and each unit has wireless internet access.”
Sandoval also said the compound is a gated community that requires a pass code for entry as a safety and security precaution for child safety.
President George also mentioned the college has funded construction of a student success center in Shiprock and a faculty office building in Tuba City as well.
Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez, a former student, provided the keynote address and congratulated the college on completion of their projects.
“On behalf of the Office of the President and Vice President, on behalf of [President] Russell Begaye, we congratulate you on the milestone for the college,” Nez said.
Vice President Nez thanked the staff, the leadership, administration, Diné College President Maggie L. George, and the board of regents for their continuous support and advocacy for higher education.
Nez is a strong advocate for education. He possesses a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree in Public Administration and is in process of working toward his Ph.D. He served on the Navajo Nation Council and on the Navajo County Board of Supervisors before becoming the Navajo Nation Vice President.