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CHIPS Articles: The Navy and ‘Navajo Nation’: Foundations for a Research Relationship

The Navy and ‘Navajo Nation’: Foundations for a Research Relationship
By Warren Duffie Jr., Office of Naval Research - October 25, 2019
ARLINGTON, Va.—The Department of the Navy’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) program recently held its first outreach event at a Native American university or college—Navajo Technical University (NTU) in Crownpoint, New Mexico.

NTU sits on the Navajo Indian Reservation, which encompasses land in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and comprises the biggest collection of tribal lands in the United States. NTU is America’s largest tribal college or university—and, like other HBCU/MIs, many of its students come from historically underrepresented populations.

That’s one reason the university sparked the interest of the Navy’s HBCU/MI program—which is located at the Office of Naval Research, and is dedicated to enticing the best and brightest minds to conduct research in support of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps needs.

“This is a historic time when we require all hands on deck,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David Hahn. “HBCU/MIs are a valuable intellectual resource with scientific research and innovation that can benefit the nation now and in years to come.”

Anthony C. Smith Sr., director of the Navy’s HBCU/MI program, echoed this sentiment:

“These schools have excellent research capabilities and resources but need access to and information about the Naval Research Enterprise,” he said. “For example, at NTU many of the students didn’t know about the research opportunities available with the Navy and Marine Corps. They just knew the uniforms. I think we opened some eyes.”

During the outreach event, Smith and his team met with NTU administrators, faculty and students to tout his program’s student internships, faculty fellowships and funding opportunities for basic research.

The visitors also toured the NTU campus, including its Center for Digital Technologies, a lab focused on materials testing and 3D modeling, simulation and printing.

“To perform the kind of materials testing we do here, local companies often have to go to Arizona or California,” said H. Scott Halliday, center director. “We want to position ourselves and NTU as a great local resource to attract high-tech, high-wage jobs to the region.”

Thanks in part to the efforts of the Center for Digital Technologies, NTU’s electrical and industrial engineering programs in 2018 were accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology—making it the first tribal college or university to earn the accolade.

“That accreditation demonstrates capacity and credibility,” said Smith, “and shows the school can adequately meet the needs of the Navy and Marine Corps.”

The NTU visit capped a year-long initiative by Smith called “Behind the Slash”—focusing on the “MI” in HBCU/MI. The goal was to expand outreach to the following types of minority-serving institutions:

  • Tribal College or University—Affiliated with an American Indian or Native Alaskan tribe.
  • Native American-Serving Non-Tribal Institution—Not affiliated with an American Indian or Native Alaskan tribe. Undergraduate students identifying as Native American comprise at least 10 percent of total enrollment.
  • Alaska Native-Serving Institution—Undergraduate students identifying as Alaska Native comprise at least 20 percent of total enrollment.
  • Asian-American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution—Undergraduate students identifying as Asian-American or Native American Pacific Islander comprise at least 10 percent of total enrollment.
  • Hispanic-Serving Institution—Undergraduate students identifying as Hispanic comprise at least 25 percent of total enrollment.
  • Native Hawaiian-Serving Institution—Undergraduate students identifying as Native Hawaiian comprise at least 10 percent of total enrollment.
  • Predominantly Black Institution—Undergraduate students identifying as African-American comprise at least 40 percent of total enrollment.

“We want the fresh thoughts, minds and ideas offered by students at these institutions,” said Smith. “This will enable the Navy and Marine Corps to continue to have the advantage over our adversaries.”

Learn more about the Navy’s HBCU/MI program at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPOFH9a6HiA.

View the HBCU event online:
https://www.onr.navy.mil/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2019/NTU-Navy-HBCU-Outreach-Event

Warren Duffie Jr. is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

 H. Scott Halliday (left), director of the Navajo Tech Center for Digital Technologies, describes the components of a 3D-printed part to Anthony C. Smith Sr., director of the Department of the Navy's (DON) Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) program. Smith and his team recently toured the center—located at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico—the first time the DON HBCU/MI program has visited a Tribal College or University. (U.S. Navy photo by Warren Duffie Jr.)
H. Scott Halliday (left), director of the Navajo Tech Center for Digital Technologies, describes the components of a 3D-printed part to Anthony C. Smith Sr., director of the Department of the Navy's (DON) Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) program. Smith and his team recently toured the center—located at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico—the first time the DON HBCU/MI program has visited a Tribal College or University. (U.S. Navy photo by Warren Duffie Jr.)
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