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NAU, Dine partnership

NAU, Diné College formalize partnership agreement

Partnership agreement

Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng and Diné College President Martin Ahumada sit at the table where they signed a formalized memorandum of understanding between the two institutions. The agreement will allow collaboration between the universities and smoother transfer for Diné College students.

Northern Arizona University and Diné College officials formalized an agreement between the two institutions Monday afternoon that will promote seamless student transfer, educational collaboration and sharing of resources.

The presidents of both institutions, Rita Hartung Cheng and Martin Ahumada, signed a memorandum of understanding Monday afternoon to make the deal official. The memorandum allows the partnership to exist for five years before it must be renewed.

In a ceremony before the signing, both presidents expressed their excitement for the new alliance, which both said they hope will encourage more Native American, particularly Navajo, students to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“The strengths of NAU match very well with what we need the most,” Ahumada said. “This relationship with NAU will be critical to the role we want to play both nationally and internationally.”

Ahumada said the partnership will provide greater opportunities to students and the college.

“What a wonderful opportunity to work with a university with the strengths of NAU that match very well with what we need the most,” Ahumada said.

With the agreement, each institution will appoint a single liaison, who will be tasked with preparing recommendations for the presidents about utilization of resources between the institutions.

This liaison will then establish teams to address educational needs of the Navajo Nation, create initiatives to fulfill the partnership and provide technical assistance and support for education-related technology, according to the signed agreement.

Academic advising teams from each institution will also meet periodically, and Diné College students will have the opportunity to meet with NAU advisers.

Diné College is a two-year college with locations throughout the Navajo Reservation that enrolls nearly 1,700 students in various programs. This partnership will allow Dine College students to receive NAU credit for courses completed should they decide to transfer to NAU to further their degree.

Diné College does offer three of its own bachelor’s degree programs in Business Administration, Tribal Management and Economic Development and Elementary Education.

Ahumada said he hopes the partnership will expand opportunities for Native American students to not only receive bachelor’s degrees, but graduate degrees and experience for skilled career paths.

“There are so many careers we want the Dine people to forge and pursue, and we need your help for that,” Ahumada said in his speech to NAU and Diné College leadership.

Cheng said she was “thrilled” at the new partnership.

“We share a vision of excellence with Diné College,” she said. “Together we can smooth the path to a bachelor’s degree in several different ways.”

Cheng said she wanted to partnership to give students a connection to their home while they studied at NAU, and give Native American students the support and resources to be successful at a university after leaving Diné College.

“We are fortunate to have an extremely diverse campus and student environment,” Cheng said. “Through dialogue and collaboration, we continue to find ways to promote the success of Native American students.”

Cheng said the two institutions have a long history of collaboration without having a formal agreement, and said she looked forward to building on past ventures with the formalized memorandum.

“Our goals align well with those of Diné College,” Cheng said. “We want much better access for families and communities to encourage more college completion.”

The reporter can be reached at or 556-2249.


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City Government and Development Reporter

Corina Vanek covers city government, city growth and development for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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