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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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NTU Builds Second Campus
by Daniel Vandever - Tribal Collage Journal
An architectural rendering of NTU's new $15 million, 20,000-square-foot academic building in Chinle, Arizona, which will house laboratories, a library, and offices.

Navajo Technical University's (NTU's) Chinle instructional site began in 2006, and was originally housed in a modest 936- square-foot rental space within a strip mall. Today, the site occupies its own land and houses a 6,000-square-foot classroom building that opened in February 2019, and a 20,000-square-foot academic building that will open in May of next year.

The two buildings represent a transition for the site whose first ten years were sustained by strategic partnerships with the Chinle Unified School District and Navajo Nation Workforce Development office. The school district had allowed the instructional site to offer courses at Chinle High School, while an agreement with the Navajo Nation enabled NTU to occupy three double-wide trailers that included classrooms, offices, and administrative space. At its peak in the fall of 2014, the Chinle site enrolled well over 600 students. However, due to limited space and resources, that number dropped to 488 in 2015, before averaging 363 students over the last three years.

"We outgrew ourselves," explains Arlena "Bo" Benallie, the Chinle site director. "When you experience that much growth over a small period of time, you have to make sure you have the appropriate amount of resources in place. As an institution, we weren't prepared." From that semester on, Benallie and NTU made it their mission to acquire new land so the site could properly grow its infrastructure to address its students' needs. The process took nearly three years, but in 2017, with the help of the family of the late guy gorman, the Chinle site was able to break ground for a new location on its own 38 acres of land.

"It's exciting for the community because we'll be able to open our resources to them in a way that will benefit us all," explains Benallie. "our goal is to become our own branch campus of NTU, and with that comes the ability to offer four-year degrees, something that is currently only offered at our main campus in Crownpoint."

According to the Higher Learning Commission, an instructional site must be permanent in nature to operate as a branch campus; to offer courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential; to have its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and to control its own budget and hiring authority. Institutions must also have proper infrastructure, such as a library, appropriate classroom space, and a tutoring center to support academic programs.

The Chinle site's 6,000-square-foot building offers six classrooms and space for offices. The 20,000-square-foot academic building will house seven regular classrooms and two wet labs for biology. It will also include a small computer room, a library, and office space for private tutoring. An open space area where students can socialize or study will be the focal point of the building. In all, ten acres will be developed, including a parking lot with 300 parking spaces.

The cost for the academic building totals $15 million. Part of that cost includes a $1 million project that raised the ten-acre site by five feet because it's located in a flood plain. Although costly, NTU and Benallie see the investment as a commitment to the students and the people of the Chinle Agency of the Navajo Nation and northern Arizona.

"These two buildings are the start of something that will have great impact on our community, the state, and region," Benallie says. "But it begins with our students, who are at the heart of everything we do. I'm excited for what the future holds for our site."

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