FARMINGTON — A new Diné College program approved last week will allow students interested in learning about tribal business and administration to earn a bachelor's degree from the tribal college.

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools approved a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration degree for Diné College on July 8 as part of the school's Business, Applied Science, Economic and Technology division.

The new degree program will let students take advance courses for tribal management and economic development where they will learn about developing and starting new businesses for Native American tribes across the country.

"These academic programs serve both the workforce and the community development needs of the Navajo Nation and other tribes," Diné College President Maggie George said in a press release.

Dean of Academics Abraham Bitok said it was exciting to see the faculty and administration's work over the last year come to fruition.

Bitok said the desire to establish a business degree program with an emphasis on tribal management and economic development was to help create leaders to carry tribes forward.

"The tribe is (in) need of leaders and managers in different capacities," Bitok said. "We have to take (the) lead on developing those students that will be leading the nation in the future."

The degree program was developed to cover different areas of interest in tribal government and business, Bitok said.

The courses are designed to educate students in fields that include tribal government, governmental agencies such as Indian Health Services and running a business.

Developing the curriculum was a challenge as courses offered by the college are brand new and new to higher education, Bitok said.

"We are bundling classes that have never been taught in the country," Bitok said. "A lot of these classes haven't been taught by anyone."

Some of the classes offered will cover topics including the gaming industry, tribal enterprises and tribal leadership challenges.

Bitok said nine students who graduated with an Associate of Arts in Business Administration from the college are enrolled in the advanced bachelor's program, and 23 sophomore students have registered to take those courses in the future.

"That's a really big number for a new program," Bitok said.

The bachelor's business program and the Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education are the two bachelor's level degrees offered by the college.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.