Groundbreaking ceremony held for new Diné College math, science building in Shiprock

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

SHIPROCK — Diné College broke ground on June 28 to celebrate the start of construction on a new math and science building at its south campus.

The building will be constructed at the south campus near Shiprock High School. The groundbreaking ceremony occurred south of the existing two-story classroom building.

"It's exciting for me to welcome you to Diné College Shiprock campus because that's about 47 years of waiting for something like this to happen," James Tutt, dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Tutt said he was working as an engineer in 1974 when he was recruited by the college to teach chemistry and math at the Shiprock campus.

More:Shiprock Chapter officials send priorities to Navajo leaders for using Rescue Plan funds

Throughout his years of teaching, he said he saw students attend classes in buildings that were inadequate, and there were times when the college had to borrow space at local schools to hold classes.

Provost Geraldine Garrity said the new building will house classrooms and laboratories for STEM courses among other amenities for faculty and students.

The classes that will call the building home will enhance the Navajo Nation economically and educationally, she said.

James Tutt, dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math at Diné College, welcomes guests to the groundbreaking ceremony on June 28 for the college's new math and science building in Shiprock.

"Today, we are blessed to begin construction on our new building," Garrity said.

Construction will start in July with a completion date in March 2022.

It will cost $7.4 million, $5 million of which came from a general obligation bond that New Mexico voters approved in November 2018 and $2.4 million in state Capital Outlay money, according to a press release from the college.

Shovels are ready on June 28 to break ground for the new math and science building at Diné College's south campus in Shiprock.

College President Charles "Monty" Roessel said the drive to create a new building was started years ago by the college's board of regents, and officials continued through the years to push for its reality.

A major step in reaching that goal was passage of the general obligation bond, Roessel said. He then commended New Mexico voters for the support.

"Thank you to the community because you're building this," he said.

Roessel added that the new building will further the college's purpose of educating the Navajo people close to home and help them in securing employment in STEM fields, which pay 24% higher based on data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Shiprock Chapter President Nevina Kinlahcheeny, left, and Miss Navajo Nation Shaandiin Parrish attend the groundbreaking ceremony on June 28 for the new math and science building at Diné College's south campus in Shiprock.

"A building like this is suited for our times and our aspirations. It's suited for our times because we're in the middle still of a pandemic and science is leading us in a path forward," he said.

Diné College anticipates holding another groundbreaking ceremony in the fall for a new agriculture and horticulture center on land across the south campus.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez reiterated the need for STEM education on the tribal land – from high school programs to tribal colleges offering degrees.

"Once we get that shovel kicked into the dirt and turn the dirt, we're ready for construction," he said.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, center, and Vice President Myron Lizer get ready on June 28 to help break ground for the new math and science building at Diné College's south campus in Shiprock.

Tribal news:Navajo Nation receives $1.86 billion from American Rescue Plan

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.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.