Episode 12 – Tribal College Movement
Tom Davis talks about working at Navajo Tech and the challenges they faced. He also discusses the process of Navajo Tech becoming a university. Tom ends with one of his poems.
“We started trying to improve the quality of education first. We didn’t think we could make a lot of huge improvements.” -Tom Davis
First, they needed to work on the reputation of the college. There were only about 333 students. That was survivable as a tribal college, but it certainly was not a comfortable surviving. It takes money for faculty, supplies, travel, and equipment. You cannot develop a superior institute of higher learning in the United States with such a low number of students.
Tom exclaims that after their improvements; you could feel a different energy on campus. The energy was positively translating itself into the classroom and into the work with students. Tom started saying hello to everybody he met on campus; it did not matter whether he knew about them or not. They were changing the environment of the college.
Tom says that as a group, they started working on accreditation. It was a challenging project, but everybody was into it. The only problem they had was nobody liked assessments. They also had early luck with raising funds through proposals they put together.
Later, Tom explains how much their enrollment numbers and retention rates increased over the years because of the additional degrees they began to offer. Suddenly, the president of the college, Elmer Guy, announced that they were going to develop a university!