Loretta Rose Chee was in her 50s, had a smattering of college and technical school classes behind her and wanted to start a business but didn’t know how to go about it. So she started classes at The University of New Mexico to seek a degree in business administration.

This weekend, Chee will march across the commencement stage and receive her diploma for a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in operations management, then return to the Navajo Nation where the new business she and her husband run is already taking off.

Chee is from the Navajo Nation on her mother Nora Lorraine Chee’s side. Her father is Norman Lee Chee Sr. She is Spanish clan, born for Kachina clan. Her maternal grandfather is Water's Edge clan, her paternal grandfather's clan is Red Running Into the Water People clan. She and her husband Bradley Patrick John have seven children and five granddaughters. Chee attended classes at the UNM-Gallup branch over the years to get an associate degree in business management in 2021.

“As an older female of society, I did not have much higher education. I worked for various companies and local government but lacked a college degree. I always wanted to start my own company but did not know where to start. Soon, I realized that going back to school would be a wise investment. At age 52, I started my junior year at UNM. Today, my husband and I have a new small business on the Navajo Nation. Without the proper education, we would not be able to start our own company.”

The couple run their business Eagle Eye Network Cabling and Surveillance Systems, which they started in 2022. Chee is general manager. So far they have a single client but the outlook is bright and they are working with an Albuquerque company to provide security systems throughout the Navajo Nation. But it hasn’t been easy for her.

“Starting school again at age 52 was a blow to my face and a reality check for me. I was very scared because I didn’t know how to use technology, especially social media and up-to-date communication applications and skills. I felt like I was very behind as I lived on the Navajo Nation all my life. But soon I was able to communicate more effectively and learn to be teachable.”

Not all the learning was in the classroom. Chee joined the American Indian Student Services, which taught her to manage money. Workshops and cooking classes with the nutrition club improved her interpersonal skills. She affiliated with the Professional Development group and learned to write resumes. The American Indian Business Association gave her insight into Indigenous businesses. The Delta Sigma Pi fraternity group taught her to be an effective leader and overcome obstacles.

“From other students and professors, I learned how to register for classes and scholarships. I learned that academic advisers were available for me to ask any questions I had. Once the academic advisers showed me how to read my bursar account and make an appointment on Lobo Achieve, I felt more empowered and gained confidence… I will cherish everything I have learned here at UNM.”

After graduation, Chee will be a full-time policy analyst for the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, besides working at her own company. She plans to register for her MS in project management degree next fall at UNM.

Chee has a long list of thank yous to those who have helped her along the way, Starting with her family...

“Bradley texts me every day with positive and motivational expressions of love and commitment. He listened to my frustrations and always provided me with love and acceptance… My mother and my sister Sarah Ann James were there for me emotionally and to counsel me to not give up. All our children have helped me to stay in school by showing me tolerance and persistence in my everyday academic life.”

Chee also cited the Anderson School of Management and her professors Chanlin Wang, Mary Rogers, Wendy Greyeyes, Chris Nguyen, Burcu Tan Erciyes, Duane Arruti, Douglas Stewart, Sarah Smith, Gerald Ortiz, Ryan Knight, Emily Ortiz, John Benavidaz, Nicole Capehart, and Claire Stasiewicz; her fraternity Delta Sigma Pi Gamma Lota; and AISS, including Andrew Yazzie and Uchme Gollette; roommates Ashley, Jennifer, and Sobia; friends Ngoc and Tonya: “I will miss all my classmates and friends, but these two girls have a special place in my heart”; UNM “for taking very good care of me”; the Lobo Food Pantry; SHAC; and Lobo Village “where my safety was a priority, and my education was of importance to everyone.”

Chee had words of advice for undergrads pursuing their own degrees.

“Remember your vision and dream. Post pictures of your dreams in your work area. Visualize and go for those goals, one by one, process by process, each step will get you to that one goal you have. When times get tough, pray and ask for help. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen and give us encouragement… Try to get out of your comfort zone. Do something that scares you on a daily basis. This will help you to gain confidence and start networking with other students in your field… Always be nice and kind. Treat others how you want to be treated. Always participate in class because one day you will be in a real world management office and you will be leading the entire organization. Be ethical and do not get yourself into trouble. Keep your nose clean.”