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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Native American NMSU students receive fellowship to pursue degrees

Valerie Jojola of the Navajo Dine Nation and Valerie Montoya of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo (formerly San Juan Pueblo), both doctoral candidates at New Mexico State University's College of Education, have been selected as recipients for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Faculty Career Enhancement Fellowship.

pose of the $30,000 fellowship is to assist tribal college faculty members who are nearing completion of a terminal degree. The program was created in 2004 through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Jojola, a distance education counselor at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) pursuing an Ed.D. in educational administration, was not expecting to receive the fellowship.

"I was very surprised and felt very honored to receive such a prestigious award," Jojola said.

Jojola's doctoral dissertation, examines the perceptions of American Indian distance education students who attend tribal colleges. After receiving her Ed.D., Jojola plans to teach and seek an administrative position at a tribal college.

"Much of my professional career experiences have been working with the American Indian community," Jojola said. "When I do achieve my doctorate I hope I can be a role model for other American Indians, most importantly, my children."

Montoya, vice president of academic programs at SIPI, is pursuing an Ed.D in educational management and development with an emphasis on community college leadership and wants to use the fellowship to give back to the Native American community.

"It provides the means for me to not only complete my dissertation and doctoral program, it positions me to make a further contribution to Indian higher education," Montoya said.

Montoya's dissertation, "Tribal College Responses to Federal Workforce Initiatives," is focused on how community colleges and tribal colleges in particular are developing new higher education models in response to increasing demands from regional, national and global economies.

With her Ed.D., Montoya plans to continue working within the "tribal college movement."

"Tribal colleges play an important role in tribal nation building and are an expression of tribal nations taking control of their own educational institutions," Montoya said.

American Indian College Fund President Richard B. Williams commented on the quality of this year's fellows.

"We are thrilled that in the third year of this program we are able to support the academic endeavors of so many stellar educators. It is truly a testament to the growth and success of the tribal college movement," Williams said.