Alumni Story

Buu Van Nygren EdD ’21 elected to Navajo Nation president

Among his platforms included mitigating the challenges COVID-19 brought to schools in the Navajo Nation

By Ellen Evaristo Published on

Earlier this month, Buu Van Nygren, a 2021 graduate of USC Rossier’s Organizational Change and Leadership Program, became the youngest person elected president of the Navajo Nation. “I think that’s an amazing feat, because we had a lot on the line," Nygren, 35, has said. “The Navajo voters were ready for change.”

The presidency holds a great deal of influence because of the size of the reservation and its population. The Navajo Nation, with a population of 400,000, has the largest land base than any tribe with 27,000 square miles extending into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

“I’m used to being held accountable in every job … I’m taking that approach. If I don’t perform, I have no business being here,” Nygren said in an Associated Press interview.

From Red Mesa, Arizona, Nygren’s running mate Richelle Montoya became the first woman to hold the office of vice president.

Half-Navajo and Vietnamese, Nygren conveyed his ideas and platforms during the campaign in his first language, Navajo. Among several priorities, his platforms included investing in business development and creating sustainable jobs, improving public safety programs, mitigating the effects of climate change on Navajo land and working to resolve the COVID-19 challenges brought to schools in the Navajo Nation.

With a background in construction management, Nygren pursued an EdD in Organizational Change and Leadership from USC Rossier and graduated in 2021. Serving as Navajo president will be Nygren’s first time holding political office. His wife is State Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, D-Red Mesa.

“I’ve studied past leaders. I tried to learn from their mistakes and their successes … In order to win this election, you had to be very strategic and motivated,” Nygren said.

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