photo taken at the 4th Annual Navajo Education Conference
Navajo female leaders, the decolonization of education, and the future of Navajo teaching and learning are some of the critical topics and the kind of research that more than 80 Navajo education leaders and scholars will discuss when they gather for the 6th annual Navajo Education Conference in Window Rock, AZ, July 28-29.
The annual conference is jointly organized and sponsored by the Navajo Nation, the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance (ONNSFA), the Navajo Nation Teacher Education Consortium, the Department of Diné Education, and the Fielding Graduate University.
“Each year, the conference has made addressing the challenges and exploring strategies for promoting educational sovereignty for the Navajo Nation the focal point,” said Barbara Mink, Ed.D., dean of the School of Leadership Studies for Fielding Graduate University. “Developing the human capital in Indian Country, in particular, in the Navajo Nation, is paramount to achieving education sovereignty. Fielding is pleased to collaborate with the Navajo Nation in supporting this important effort,” Dr. Mink added.
Longtime educators and emerging scholars will be among the Navajo teachers, administrators, and counselors who will convene at the Navajo Nation Museum this month. Many have earned their doctoral degrees from Fielding through an innovative partnership with the Navajo Nation that began nearly two decades ago and continues to thrive.
Through its collaboration with the Navajo Nation, Fielding, a global leader in doctoral education, has graduated nearly 30 Navajo doctoral students who earned degrees in its Educational Leadership and Change doctoral program. Rolanda Billy, Ed.D., who received her doctoral degree from Fielding in 2022, is one of them. During this year’s conference, Dr. Billy will present her research on enhancing culturally relevant education for Head Start children. Today, she applies her doctoral research and training in her work with Navajo Head Start teachers, helping them to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.
Miranda Haskie, Ed.D., who has taught sociology at Diné College in Tsaile, AZ for 20 years, was among the first cohort of Navajo graduate students in the Fielding doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Change in 2002.
2-2-2 Fielding-Navajo Nation Conference
“They’re all motivated learners, to begin with, which makes this work exciting,” said Dr. Haskie of the new cohort of Navajo doctoral students she is helping Fielding to prepare. “Our students are interested in research specific to Navajo populations in areas like dual language programs. They’re interested in Early Childhood Education Development of Navajo students. Others are interested in the Navajo culture and the significance of that to identity and so much more,” said Haskie who will present a conference session on preserving the Navajo language.
In places across the Navajo Nation, a lack of access and barriers to the basics, from Broadband to running water and electricity, are realities for many residents, said Rose Graham, department manager for ONNSFA. “But despite these limitations,” Graham said, “Fielding stepped in to offer a program to help Navajo educators enhance their credentials with an advanced degree without uprooting them from the communities where they are truly needed.”
ONNSFA provides financial assistance to eligible students who want to pursue a doctoral degree, Graham added. Students who receive financial awards agree to teach or serve where the needs are the greatest—in a leadership capacity within the Navajo Nation or at schools with a significant number of Navajo students—for at least a year for every year they receive financial aid.
“Our annual research and education conference is a wonderful opportunity for Navajo doctoral students and scholars who study their educational communities to share and present their research and findings,” Graham said.