FARMINGTON – Two students made history when they became the first to graduate as licensed veterinary technicians from Navajo Technical University, according to an announcement from the school.
Selena Saunder of Continental Divide, New Mexico, and Krystal Louis of Crownpoint, New Mexico, were the first students to graduate from the veterinary technology program and subsequently pass the state and national licensing exams since the university became accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2017, Veterinary Teaching Hospital Program Director Dr. Germaine Daye told The Durango Herald.
Daye, who was hired in 2015, said she first began working on getting the college accredited in 2013. The Navajo Technical University, located in Crownpoint and the largest tribal college in the country, is the first tribal college to be accredited and offer licensing for veterinary technicians.
Daye said the accreditation, while making the program more rigorous and academically demanding, provides students with “more opportunities to specialize, more job opportunities and better pay than just being a veterinary assistant that’s trained on the job.” She added before students were eligible for state and national licensing through the program, students’ job opportunities post-graduation were more limited.
While the program had a couple former graduates who passed the state exam after the college was accredited, this is the first time students in the program have passed both the state and national licensing exam, Daye said.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez also attended the pinning ceremony last month. During the event, he said, “We are proud of this tribal institution. The two students are reflecting the resilience of our people since time immemorial. I want to say thank you. There is hope.” Nez also thanked the university president, Dr. Elmer J. Guy, who he credited with having a “vision for the Navajo people as well as this institution.”
During the pinning ceremony, Guy took the time to thank everyone involved in supporting the students and developing the program. “It’s one of those things that doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a lot of hard work,” he said.
The two students are already looking to their future as veterinarian technicians. Daye said Louis will become an instructor and help provide clinical services at the veterinary teaching hospital while Saunder is completing her practicum hours with a service in Albuquerque.
“I feel like we’re on that path to graduating more students and really taking this program to the next level,” Daye said.