FLAGSTAFF-Cal Seciwa (Zuni Pueblo) took over as director of NAU's Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) on March 5. Seciwa was formerly the director of the American Indian Institute at ASU and took over the position from interim director Mehrdad Khatibi, who has served since former director Virgil Masayesva's passing in 2005.
Seciwa stated, "It [feels] great to be a part of an institution like NAU...that has a long-standing tradition of serving Native students and communities."
One of Seciwa's goals as ITEP director is to continue with present efforts in "creating a future" for the organization. Part of this "future" involves ongoing infrastructure changes such as the relocation of the ITEP offices to a larger, more centralized locale on the NAU campus. He also plans to address a few non-specific issues that ITEP is currently facing, but his immediate goal is simply to "absorb what ITEP is all about."
ITEP was established in 1993 under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NAU and the U.S., Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist Native American tribes from throughout the nation with management of their environmental resources through training and educational programs. Partnerships between tribes and other federal agencies have resulted in the formation of comprehensive programs in air and water quality, solid waste and wastewater management, compliance inspections and environmental education.
Seciwa noted that he was impressed with the work that ITEP has done on past initiatives and that he was glad to be working for NAU, especially upon discovering that one of NAU's primary goals was to work towards becoming the top school in the nation serving Native American students. "This goal is definitely being demonstrated through the efforts of ITEP," he added, alluding to collaborative efforts between ITEP and tribes throughout the country.
He added that ITEP is in the process of embarking on a series of additional initiatives in the area of nationwide air quality monitoring, adding that ITEP is also exploring a solid waste initiative and may even pursue near-future initiatives in water monitoring and resource development. "We're looking [at potential] ideas that will benefit ITEP, the tribes we serve, [as well as] the university," he concluded.
Seciwa noted that ITEP's educational and environmental outreach program was working with local and area schools to provide environmental education for students, teacher and community training, and internships for college students. He noted that Diné College was also working with ITEP in the hopes of establishing their own environmental institute.
Seciwa concluded by saying he was proud to work for an organization that has grown tremendously and is "embraced" by NAU. "I do feel real honored and privileged to be a part of NAU and the ITEP organization," he said.
For more information on ITEP, visit www4.nau.edu/itep.