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Master's student finds inspiration in her grandmother's life

December 12, 2011

Valerie Begay (Capitan) evokes her grandmother as inspiration for her accomplishments.  “My grandmother’s life is a testament to the human spirit,” she says.

Although her Navajo grandmother never learned English or acquired a formal education, Begay saw her strength as she conquered obstacles and difficulties in her life. “But she would often tell me how she wished she had gone to school. She urged me to take full advantage of my education.”  

After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies from Arizona State University three years ago, Begay decided she wanted a graduate education to expand her opportunities. She realizes her goal this December as she receives a Master of Science in Agribusiness from the ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation.

Begay’s biggest challenge was balancing graduate studies with a full-time job and a family.

“I accomplished this with the support of my husband, family, friends, employer and the faculty of the agribusiness program at the Polytechnic campus,” she says. “I was able to keep open communication between my employer, advisor and professors to succeed.”

“I graduate with a wealth of knowledge and countless opportunities for my future.”

In addition to being awarded the Graduate Navajo Nation Scholarship, she also qualified for a tuition reimbursement program through Wells Fargo, her employer.   

Begay plans to explore opportunities with her current employer, as well as a long-cherished goal of establishing her own business in the Navajo Nation. “I want to make a positive impact on my community.”

The first in her family to receive an advanced degree, Begay will cross the commencement stage with her husband, parent, siblings, family members and friends applauding her achievement. Although her grandmother cannot attend, Begay says, “I have her in my mind always and wish she could share this special event with me.”  

She plans to travel to the Navajo Nation after graduation to see her. “I’ll tell her in our own native language that I graduated and she was my inspiration.”

Michele St George

Publications, Graduate College