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
"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
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