NTU Set to Break Ground in Chinle in Effort to Solidify Access to Higher Education in Arizona

Published August 1, 2017

CROWNPOINT, NEW MEXICO – On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, Navajo Technical University will begin the preliminary steps in constructing a campus in Chinle, Arizona with a groundbreaking and blessing ceremony for the site’s first educational building. The ceremony will begin at 10 AM on NTU’s new 38-acre property located on the old Chinle fairgrounds near the Indian Health Services hospital.

“It’s really exciting for NTU because it’s another new beginning,” stated NTU Chinle instructional site director Arlena Benallie, who was first tasked in getting the Chinle site started in June 2006. “It’s a new direction that will benefit not only NTU, but the community and Navajo Nation as well.”

When Benallie first began the process of starting a new site in Chinle, she was given a $15,000 budget and the specific task of getting classes started within the year. She started by looking for space that could temporarily house classroom instruction, which she found in a 936 square foot building in Imperial Circle, as well as classroom space at Chinle High School. In the first year, Benallie was able to get nine courses offered, which ranged in subjects like Information Technology, English, and Law.

Benallie also began to simultaneously look for a more permanent location for the instructional site, as the Imperial Circle location was only temporary. Eventually she came across some unused Navajo Nation Workforce Development trailers that were sitting idle along Route 7. Although the trailers were in poor condition, Benallie saw an opportunity to renovate the property at a low cost, with the intent of developing a certificate program in carpentry to help with the renovation. By 2007, nearly a year later, NTU formed a partnership with Workforce Development to use the property, and by 2009, the renovations were complete.

“We had a vision of what we wanted and what we wanted to bring to the community,” explained Benallie, who with the space was able to help get the site accredited with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in 2008. “In that first year we already had that vision of where we wanted to go.”

As an accredited institution with the HLC, NTU’s instructional site in Chinle was able to expand its course offerings from nine classes in 2006 to between 30-40 in 2009. With the increase in courses offered came increased enrollment, and by 2012, the instructional site had well over 300 students registered for classes. The increase in enrollment was a good indicator of the hard work it took to get the Chinle site going, but it also revealed that NTU needed more space, especially once enrollment climbed to over 600 students in 2014.

Once again, Benallie was tasked with finding a location, but this time, a location that could accommodate a full-functioning campus complete with classroom buildings, housing, and a library among other resources. The search began with the Chinle Chapter House, which then led Benallie to each of the families who owned land within Chinle’s boundaries. Eventually Benallie was introduced to the Gorman family, who was more than willing to assist with NTU’s efforts after Guy Gorman played a

crucial role in the establishment of Diné College in the 1960s.

“We were really fortunate to be able to sit down and hear Mr. Gorman’s input,” explained Benallie, who was able to secure ownership of the land for NTU after a lengthy, two-year process. “[This campus] is what the people have been wanting.”

The first building that is expected to go up will be a 6,000 square foot educational building that will begin construction on August 7, 2017. As construction occurs, a second educational building will go up in September, with both buildings expected to be complete by May 2018. If all goes well, Benallie expects instruction to begin on campus by fall 2018 offering expanded opportunity for students throughout Arizona and NTU in general.

“This new building development will offer an opportunity for Navajo Tech to become an official University branch campus,” said Benallie. “Once we get this approval from the Higher Learning Commission, the Chinle branch will be able to offer all the certificate and degree programs of our main location in Crownpoint.”

In addition to the benefits the campus will bring to NTU, Benallie also foresees a direct impact it will have on the town of Chinle and the Navajo Nation. “The new building developments here in Chinle will be able to open up a different world on the Navajo Nation. We are not just talking about preparing students for jobs, but it is also about being able to change lives for students in hopes that they will give back to their community and families,” Benallie stated. “The Chinle instructional site is not only developing plans for building developments, but it is also focusing on community and student needs.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for NTU’s new instructional site will be open to the public and will have several local dignitaries in attendance. NTU’s radio station, 107.3 KCZY, will also be in attendance to provide a remote broadcast. For more information about the new campus developments in Chinle contact Arlena Benallie at abenallie@navajotech.edu or by calling 928.674.5764.

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