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Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale to receive the 2017 Presidential Award of Distinction

Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale

Posted: November 13, 2017

The Presidential Award of Distinction is one of the most prestigious recognitions bestowed by the University president. It was established to recognize outstanding career achievement, scholarly excellence, leadership in a profession, noteworthy public service or humanitarian endeavor. The award is an opportunity to acknowledge remarkable individuals, both on campus and throughout New Mexico.

Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale will be honored with this award at the Fall 2017 commencement ceremony on December 15. She will be presented with a piece of Native American pottery resting on a personalized, engraved base.

As the first-ever Diné/Navajo to earn a Ph.D. in History, Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale is a strong advocate for Native peoples and strives to foster academic excellence in the next generation of students interested in Native Studies. Denetdale is an associate professor of American Studies at The University of New Mexico and teaches courses in Native American Studies. She specializes in Navajo history and culture; Native American women, gender and feminisms; and Indigenous nations, colonialism and decolonization.

Colleagues say Denetdale is a trailblazer in her field, through her work as a commissioner and chair of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission (NNHRC), and is a global leader in disseminating research on Navajo life and struggles. She has also been instrumental in encouraging a social justice agenda for the NNHRC, particularly focusing on women’s and gender rights within the Navajo Nation.

In addition, she is an accomplished author who has published three books and has two more in progress, along with countless contributions to scholarly articles and peer-reviewed journals.

“While she is a very productive researcher and scholar, what distinguishes Dr. Denetdale is the way she translates knowledge production into community engagement that changes lives for her Navajo relatives as well as for students in her classrooms,” said Alex Lubin, interim associate provost for faculty development. “Dr. Denetdale’s work represents a form of academic labor that makes UNM unique and transformative to the communities we serve.”

All student inquiries should be directed to or (505) 277-4621