Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye appoints Diné College regents

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has named a Shiprock man the new representative for the Northern Agency seat on the Diné College Board of Regents.

Greg Bigman was appointed on Monday, according to a press release from the president's office.

Bigman, 34, earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of New Mexico in 2004 and completed the alternative teacher licensure program at San Juan College in 2010. He worked for four years as a science teacher at Newcomb High School in Newcomb.

Bigman also owns a Shiprock-based business, Impressions LLC, and served as the first vice president of the Farmington Young Professionals, a committee of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Bigman said he submitted his letter of interest for the position because it is an outlet for him to share his professional experience, and he wants to bring new ideas to the board.

"I'm always excited to do new things," he said.

He added that he looks forward to serving because education "provides people an outlet to improve themselves," and he looks forward to the challenge.

If Bigman is confirmed to the board, he would replace Fannie L. Atcitty as the Northern Agency regent. Atcitty did not respond to a request for comment submitted in a message through Facebook.

Diné College spokeswoman Lori Tapahonso referred questions regarding the board's term limits and status to the Legislative Branch's Office of Legislative Services. Tapahonso stated the current board will meet and conduct business at its regular meeting today in Tsaile, Ariz.

According to a letter of interest Atcitty submitted in January 2013 to then-Vice President Rex Lee Jim and attached to a May 2014 bill, her term was set to end on March 10, 2013.

The President's Office press release also names Johnson Dennison as the Central Agency regent. Dennison would replace Loretta Draper, who is listed as the board secretary on the college's website.

In recent weeks, there have been calls for Begaye to fill Atcitty and Draper's expired terms and to replace regent President Laurence Gishey. Petitioners claim the college's administration is responsible for low enrollment, creating a hostile work environment and a disregard for delivering quality education to students.

Begaye said in the release the selection of Bigman and Dennison was "a deliberate and thoughtful process" and allowed his administration "to take the necessary time to select qualified applicants to guide the college with a positive direction for the future."

"We want to be clear: Our selections were made to restore stability, student enrollment and focus on the educational credibility of Diné College's accreditation rating," the president said.

"The college looks forward to working with any newly appointed and confirmed Board of Regents members," Diné College President Maggie George said in a statement on Wednesday.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.