New Diné College prez says she'll share the reins
By Cindy Yurth
CHINLE, Aug. 25, 2011
As she starts work today as the president of Diné College, Maggie George says it's not all about her.
"The way to increase quality and correct problems is through shared governance," said the Red Valley native, who is Tóchii'nii, born for Nakaii Dine'e.
George, who was faculty/chair administrator for the Center for Diné Studies at the college before being chosen president this week, said her administration's focus will be on student learning - and the first thing the Ph.D. in higher education policy is going to do is look over the test scores and any other statistics being kept on students' progress.
"Before we do anything, we need to sit down with the data we have and see what the data is telling us," she said.
George said she's ready to leave the college's turbulent recent years - during which it suffered from a pitched legal battle between her predecessor, Ferlin Clark, and the board of regents - behind and "move forward."
"The newspaper sensationalized many things," she said. "We all need to move forward and do the right thing for the Navajo Nation."
While George was raised herding sheep in the Chuskas and watched Diné College's progress from afar, she didn't attend there. Her bachelor's in elementary education and master's in counseling are from New Mexico Highlands University, and her doctorate is from the University of Kansas.
"I went to public schools," she said, "but the whole focus of my research was Indian education."
Her doctoral work was actually on Diné College's bilingual, bi-cultural teacher preparation program.
As a former consultant-evaluator with the Higher Learning Commission, George is well versed in the requirements for accreditation and can help Diné College keep its recently obtained 10-year accreditation, she said.
"That is so important, for everything from our graduates' credibility to funding," she noted.
Having been both a faculty member, student services employee and an administrator over her long career in higher education - and of course a student - George says she'll be able to play an effective role in balancing everybody's interests.
In fact, "balance" is a word that keeps coming up with her.
"We need to be the hyphen in tribal-hyphen-college," she said. "We need to focus on our uniqueness as a Navajo institution - our language, our culture, our history - but at the same time we get our funding from the federal government, so we have to do those tasks on the other side as well.
"By balancing those two things, it gives us a greater opportunity to serve our students."
Interim College President Marie Etsitty will go back to her role of director of institutional research.
"It has been exciting and a real challenge, and I'm glad the board made the decision to give me that experience," Etsitty said. "I'll be helping the new president with the transition in whatever way she needs me. My goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible."