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Student Highlight December 2020

My name is Cauy Nelson and I am currently attending Northern Arizona University on the main campus in Flagstaff.

The official title for my major is Visual Communication, with an emphasis in Graphic Design. My perseverance to receive this degree from NAU will mean a lot, not only to me, but my mother. She is the one who supported me throughout the years, being a single parent, her lessons of discipline and hard-work ethic have been embedded in my lifestyle. I am Navajo from Monument Valley, my mother’s clan is the Manygoats clan, born for the Salt clan, my Grandfather’s (maternal) clan is the Bitter Water clan, and my Grandfather’s (paternal) is the Black Streak clan.

First of all, my biggest goal that comes before anything else is to graduate. Graduation is no easy task, when you take into consideration the many obstacles for a Native American attending a four-year university, it can be overwhelming. There are few Navajos in this field of study and I can see why. The amount of technological information to have is immense. Not only do you have to know about computer technology, but the way you have to explain visual graphics to an audience. This can be tough for Native Americans, most of us do not have computers, let alone stable internet connection. How will this scholarship help me achieve my goal? The answer is simple, supplies. Being a Graphic Design major can be expensive. A high-end computer is needed, subscriptions to design tools, material for packaging, prints for projects, drawing tablets, stable hard drives, and the list goes on. With the semester spanning for eight months, this can begin to add up making it very hard for me to keep up in classes.

"With this scholarship, I can have ease knowing that I will be covered and focus on my career aspirations."

In the long run, life can be chaotic, but I can shape what I want this education of mine to produce. Inspiration, being a huge figure in the Navajo community for athletics, there are children watching you, wanting to be like you, wondering what you are going to be. I want to tell them they have a choice, in my case, I made mine. I want to be a Graphic Designer, I turned down opportunities for collegiate sports for something I truly want to do.

Now for some concrete impacts I want to achieve for the Native American community. I first want to teach at the Northeast Arizona Technological Institute of Vocational Education (N.A.T.I.V.E) this organization provides tools for students to achieve their post-secondary careers in graphic arts. I want to bring the knowledge I’ve learned to enhance the students of the Navajo Nation. Another is opening a Graphic Design business on the Navajo Nation, preferably Kayenta, closer to home, but I can branch out if I need to. I want to help the people of my community in business pitches, logo design, brand identity, everything in my power to help the Navajo Nation further its sovereignty through Graphic Design. As it starts with an idea, a business takes root, but in order to help it grow people need to know what that business is producing. This is where the visual aspect in Graphic Design takes place, with a good design, this will attract customers. With little contributions like this over time, there is no telling what can come of it.

This scholarship will help me a lot financially. I live in a low-income family like most students coming from the reservation, so help with money from my parents is close to none. This is the reason why I moved back to Kayenta in the summer, to help my mother financially with bills and livestock. Now that I’m going into my fourth year, finding a place is going to be a challenge. After your Freshman year most dorms aren’t available to students, which means higher living costs. This has put me in a situation where any scholarships I can collect will help me with a place to stay that’s near campus since transportation for me is my bicycle and on-campus busses. There are only a few options to stay in Flagstaff and the rent can be very expensive, especially closer to campus. Although I am planning to work part-time in Flagstaff to help myself financially with rent, electronic tools and basic necessities, I know it’s going to be a challenge as the school year begins.

– Cauy


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