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GALLUP — Navajo Technical University will use a grant from the National Science Foundation to begin work on a bachelor's degree program in environmental engineering.

NTU announced in a press release that it received almost $2.5 million from the NSF to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricular offerings and research capacity by introducing the new program, which will center on uranium mine remediation and mitigation.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation due to heavy mining activity from 1944 to 1986.

The university's release states the grant, provided under the NSF's Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, will help support the proposed degree program for five years as a curriculum to align with research goals focused on the remediation of uranium mines.

The program must go through an approval process by the Higher Learning Commission and the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology but NTU expects to start offering courses for the program this fall in Crownpoint.

"I think it's a great opportunity. It's a great opportunity for the students of the Navajo Nation and Navajo Technical University," Industrial Engineering Professor Harry Whiting II said in the release.

The university has an associate of applied science degree program and Bachelor of Science in environmental science and natural resources. Also available are programs that focus on pre-engineering, engineering technology and chemical engineering technology.

"We are building a great engineering school here. We are small, but we have great professors, and I'm really proud of what we have done here," Whiting said.

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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