By the time it begins, the inaugural cohort of a first-of-its-kind program will be a part of something five years in the making in the department of Native American Studies (NAS) at The University of New Mexico.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) an NAS degree offers a focus in Critical Indigenous Thought, Sustainable Community Building, and Comparative Studies in Indigenous Government, Policy, Identity, and Sustainability.

The goal is to create the necessary foundations critical to becoming a leader in a tribal community within these enrolled students.

The Ph.D. program was jump started in 2018, but was put on hold because of the pandemic as well as faculty and resource issues.

Yet, after many obstacles, and the addition of bachelor’s degrees in person and online, as well as a Masters program, the Ph.D. was approved in the last calendar year. The dream in NAS had become a reality.

It is wonderful to share this news on Indigenous People's Day, a day NAS celebrates every day,” NAS Director Tiffany Lee said.

This will mark just the fourth Ph.D of his kind within an established university-based NAS program.

Students will gain advanced research skills and use them to uncover the critical tools for community building and cultural thriving.

After becoming ethical researchers and diverse advocates, connections based within the program will allow students to put their new expertise into real-world experiences.

Faculty will coordinate with the cohort based on their interests and standing to go into the Navajo Nation, Pueblo nations, or Native organizations to further cultivate relationships and leadership opportunities. 

“They will work with community partners to ensure their research is relevant, reciprocal, respectful, responsible, and in relationship with their partners,” Lee said.  

Once graduated, students are encouraged to embrace positions of teaching, educational outreach, tribal or community based leadership, policy or cultural program development, and sustainability. 

They are motivated towards the future– to instill culturally inclusive and healthy communities which also drive positive human interactions and acknowledge the diversity of human experience and creative expression.

“Our students and faculty are energized by the possibilities of transformative change this degree program can bring in collaboration with our Native Nations and communities,” Lee said.

Applications are being accepted now through Feb. 2023, with the goal of admitting three to five students. The first cohort will start in Fall 2023.

 Learn more about this program and NAS on their website.