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FARMINGTON — Diné College will start the new year by launching a new bachelor's degree in agriculture science.

College President Charles "Monty" Roessel told members of the New Mexico Rural and Economic Development Committee that the program will start in January and will focus on general, plant science and animal science.

"If the Navajo Nation is going to utilize all of the ranch lands, they need more people who are trained in range management, trained in biology, trained in these sciences that's going to help build that economy," he said.

The committee met from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30 at San Juan College. Roessel made his presentation on the final day.

In January, the college will offer courses for its teacher education program, which is a bachelor's degree, at the San Juan College West Campus in Kirtland.

Roessel said the program will be available due to a memorandum of understanding between Diné College and San Juan College.

Under the collaboration, San Juan College students can advance their education beyond an associate degree to a bachelor's degree by participating in the program, Roessel said.

He added that the program would target recent high school graduates, paraprofessionals and teacher aides as well as provide professional development needs and further the partnership between the colleges.

With the shortage of teachers in the state, this is an outlet for producing teachers who are from the area and likely to remain here, he said.

The college has its main campus in Tsaile, Arizona, and operates satellite campuses on the Navajo Nation, including one in Shiprock.

At Shiprock, a new agriculture and horticulture center is slated for construction on 380 acres of farmland that the college has across from the south campus.

The college received $400,000 in the Capital Outlay bill the state Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved this year.

The amount is being used for the architect and engineering process, Roessel said, adding the project has also received $270,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He said the college views the center as a place for student learning and for farmers to meet and discuss how to improve and promote agricultural activities on the Navajo Nation.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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