On Dec. 3, 2019, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law hosted Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and a delegation of Navajo Nation leaders to sign a historic Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Navajo Nation and University of Arizona Law.
The MOA establishes the Navajo Law Fellowship Program, which provides additional financial aid, mentorship, a Navajo law curriculum, externship opportunities on the Navajo Nation, and bar preparation assistance to Navajo law students attending University of Arizona Law.
Starting in the spring 2020 semester, University of Arizona Law and the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance will match financial aid awards to Navajo law students attending University of Arizona Law who participate in the Navajo Law Fellowship Program. Navajo Law Fellowship recipients will also receive additional professional development and mentorship opportunities to help them better serve the needs of the Navajo Nation and promote the rights of tribes and Native American individuals.
Regents Professor Robert A. Williams, Jr., faculty chair of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program, worked closely with Navajo Nation officials in bringing the agreement to fruition. Professor Williams has also been instrumental in recruiting one of the largest cohorts of Native American law students in the country.
“There’s no other program like this in the world that prepares Native students to serve the legal needs of their Native nations,” said Williams. “In their first year, Navajo Law Fellows will receive individualized academic advising, participate in workshops focusing on the Navajo Nation legal system, and learn about Navajo Nation career opportunities. During their 1L and 2L summers, they will be able to participate in the Navajo Law Fellows Honors Externship Program, working in a wide range of legal settings with Navajo Nation governmental agencies, administrative offices, and the judicial system.”
Pursuant to the MOA, University of Arizona Law’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program will develop a course on Navajo Nation law and policy, which will be offered second-year Navajo Law Fellows. In their second year, fellows will also participate in summer externships at the Navajo Nation and take part in Navajo Nation Bar preparation workshops. As a culminating experience, third-year fellows will attend Arizona Bar Exam workshops and take part in Navajo Nation job placement programs after taking the bar exam.
In a press release following the signing of the MOA, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said, “This MOA is intended to empower our Diné students — to bring them home to the Navajo Nation to help our people through this partnership with the University of Arizona. I am thankful to the University for working with us to create this new opportunity.”