Diné College students shine at the 2023 American Indian Higher Education Consortium conference with multiple wins

Diné College students shine at the 2023 American Indian Higher Education Consortium conference with multiple wins

20 March 2023

Albuquerque, NM — The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) 2023 held in Albuquerque, New Mexico was a resounding success for Diné College students who not only participated in the various competitions but also won several places.

The event, which ran from March 4th to the 7th, 2023, saw students from all tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) from across the United States. The AIHEC is an organization that aims to promote and support tribal colleges and universities across the United States. One of the highlights of the AIHEC calendar is the annual student conference, which attracts thousands of participants from across the country to compete in a one week academic and non-academic competitions.

Diné College is one of the 37 tribal colleges and universities that make up the AIHEC network and co-hosted this year’s 2023 AIHEC Student Conference among several near-by southwestern TCUs. The college has a long-standing commitment to promoting Native American culture, language, and values through education. As such, it has a strong presence at AIHEC events, which serve as a platform for students to showcase their talents, skills, and knowledge.

AIHEC Co-Chair, Velveena Davis, who led this year’s recruitment and preparation initiatives for the students and coaches, expressed her pride and joy in Diné College students. “Our students have worked hard to prepare for this competition with a short amount of time juggling both their academic work and AIHEC preparation. We are proud of their achievements and representing the Navajo Nation and Diné College among all tribal nations this year at AIHEC. They did an amazing job managing their AIHEC competitions, while still attending to their Mid-Term exams off-site and attending classes back home in between competition breaks and running on very little free time. I’m excited to see how each of them will take this experience and continue to grow as individual learners now seeing through a bigger lens that tribal nations are striving successfully in higher education and making the movement towards our nation’s development. After all, they are our future leaders in the making”.

A total of 22 students completed this year from Diné College, 18 of which attended the AIHEC Student Conference at the Albuquerque Convention Center under the leadership and guidance of Co-Chairs Velveena Davis and Patrick Blackwater. Those who competed in AIHEC 2023, came from different academic programs, such as Biology, Biomedical, Business Administration, Environmental Science, Graphics Arts, Health Occupations, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Social and Behavioral Science, Navajo Silversmithing, and Diné Studies.  They participated in multiple events, including Knowledge Bowl, Scientific Poster and Oral Presentation, Speech, Traditional Plants and Herbs, Art Exhibition, Archery, Poetry Slam, Tribal College Journal Student Writing Arts, and Film Contest, and Hand Games.

Diné College students made a strong impression on the judges and audience, winning several awards in various categories. Among the highlights were:

  • 1st Place in Archery: Casey Mitchell, Cheyenne Bedonie, Jason Yazzie, Chanley Dee and Mycal Blackgoat
  • 1st Place in Poetry Slam, Dayhenoa Yazzie
  • 1st Place in Art, Photography Division, Charquita Begay
  • 1st Place in Art, Painting, Dawn Smith
  • 3rd Place in Art, Textiles, Nykesha Nez
  • 3rd Place in 5K Race: Jalen Smallcanyon, Dayhenoa Yazzie, Dalton Arviso, Terrell Davis and Casey Mitchell
  • 4th Place in 2023 AIHEC Oral Interpretation (Humorous) Speech, Gabriel Tahy
  • Student of the Year Award, Dustin Hughes
  • Honorable Mention in 2023 TCJ Student Edition in Creative Writing, Jalen Smallcanyon
  • Ribbon of Recognition in Scientific Poster Presentation: Harrison Cayatineto, Chantanielle Clyde, April Begay, Cheyenne Bedonie, Matthew Begay, Casey Mitchell, and Chanley Dee

“I want to thank all the AIHEC Coaches who worked with our students this year and for their extra time in meeting with the students, getting them to their competitions and encouraging them along the way,” Davis said. AIHEC Coaches this year were Nonabah Sam, Johnnie Bia, Neilroy Singer, Shawn Frank, Lori Tso, Darrell Yazzie, and Dr. Shazia T. Hakim, as well as support staff, Terrence Tso and Mariah Leslie.

Student competitor in Knowledge Bowl, Barbara Bernal, shared her experience about attending AIHEC for the very first time.” I learned a lot about the history and culture of people. I was able to learn and experience things I would never have if I had not participated in AIHEC. AIHEC is an amazing opportunity to see what and who else is out in the world. Even just meeting someone who lives far away and shares the same ideas as you can be life changing” Bernal said. Bernal is majoring in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the Tsaile Main Campus this Spring 2023.

College’s President, Charles “Monty” Roessel, expressed his pride and admiration for the students, saying, “I am proud of our students and their accomplishments at AIHEC. Their hard work, dedication, and perseverance have once again highlighted the excellence of Diné College in providing quality education and preparing our students for success in their chosen fields.”

Dr. Geraldine Garrity, Provost of Academic Affairs echoed these sentiments, adding that the wins demonstrate the college’s commitment to academic and cultural excellence. By highlighting its academic programs and successes, the college hopes to inspire others to pursue their educational goals and contribute to their communities.

Diné College has a long history of providing education and opportunities to Native American students. Founded in 1968 as Navajo Community College, it has since expanded to offer a wide range of academic programs and degrees, including associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, a master degree and certificate programs in various fields. For more information about Diné College and its academic programs, please visit www.dinecollege.edu.



Chris Burnside,
Marketing & Communications Manager

Jazzmine D. Martinez, Marketing Assistant
Marketing & Communications

Dillon Nopah, Videographer

Patrick Begay,
Graphic Designer

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