The 23 graduates who will be walking the stage at the Department of Native American Studies’ convocation ceremony on Wednesday, May 10 will have two very special guest speakers welcoming them to their alumni community.

Navajo Nation’s first female Vice President in history, Richelle Montoya, will be sharing her incredible journey along with Navajo Nation Council Delegate, Andy Nez, who are both alumni of the department.

Montoya-NAS mug
Richelle Montoya

Montoya graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in University Studies in Psychology, Sociology, and Native American Studies in 2011. Since her graduation, she has used the knowledge she gained at UNM to pursue a career in public service that has been as fulfilling for her personally as it has been professionally.

Prior to her election, Montoya held a position as the Torreon/Star Lake Chapter President, as well as additional roles as the Na’neelzhiin Ji Olta, Inc. School Board Member, an Eastern Navajo Agency Executive Committee Member, and an Eastern Navajo Fair Board Member. She is a member of the Ta'neeszahnii clan and has a strong passion for leadership and change.

Andy Nez

Nez earned his B.A. in Native American Studies in 2013 and is the co-founder of Diné Pride in support of his advocacy for gender equality in Native communities. Nez is a member of the Tł’ógi and Tódich’ii’nii tribes, and a passionate educator who has worked as a teacher, coach, researcher, and consultant as an owner of ANÉZ Consulting. Nez was recently appointed to his position on the Navajo Nation Council and represents several communities in Arizona and New Mexico with his priorities including promoting education, preserving the Diné language, advocating for equality, and building communities through k’é, which is the Navajo term for effective action and solidarity. 

The Department of Native American Studies is committed to Indigenous scholarship and research excellence, with a focus on educating students and the public about the Native experience. Moreover, the department aims to collaborate with Native communities and engage students in Nation building. 

This year’s graduating class will join the Department’s 281 alumni in becoming leaders within their own communities.

The Department of Native American Studies invites the campus community to join these special guests in celebrating their graduates on Wednesday, May 10 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the SUB Ballroom C.