Latest Navajo Technical University News
Oct 20, 2021
Cannondale The New Mexico-based colleges of the Institute of American Indian Arts and Navajo Technical University aren’t known for their cycling programs. There’s a simple reason: None of the three schools have had cycling. That changes with a new effort by bicycle manufacturer Cannondale and travel and language company EF Education First launching a grant to support all three institutions in cycling for at least the next three years. “Cycling leans heavily in one gender and not from people of color,” says Jonathan Geran, director of global sports marketing for Cannondale. “We wanted to pause and actually listen, and this is something where let’s start the conversation and see where we can actually dig in and roll up our sleeves. That led us to explore a few different avenues.” Students from Navajo Technical University competing in a recent race. Navajo Technical University It led Cannondale to focus on historically Black colleges and universities and tribal colleges and universities. The Cannondale effort to help improve diversity in cycling led the company to discuss several possibilities, from youth programs to feeder systems for world tour teams. But the conversation really kept coming back to the point that while most kids start their life on bikes irrespective of race and socioeconomic status, somewhere along the lines cycling ends for certain demographics. “While we don’t have the particular answer (of why that is), we thought there has to be a way to create opportunity, create exposure and get participation,” Geran says. “That naturally started to fit with historically Black colleges and universities, and we learned about the needs with tribal colleges and universities. It led us to today.” Cannondale, Education First sponsoring HBCU, Tribal mountain biking. Cannondale In an open application process, Cannondale and Education First invited schools to apply for a three-year grant that supplies schools with the equipment, coaching and mentorship to start cycling programs of their choosing. Not only does Cannondale expect to encourage students at the school to join the team and grow awareness of the sport and activity around the campus, but they also hope students see the variety of careers available in cycling. “There are all these amazing jobs tied to the bicycle,” Geran says. “Where better to start?” Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of EF Pro Cycling, says the company has a belief in education and the importance of understanding cultures. EF sponsors a professional cycling team with 17 nationalities represented on it and by operating at the very top of the sport with Cannondale they know that cycling offers opportunities for exploration, transport, competition, and camaraderie. “We believe cycling is for everyone,” said Vaughters. “This effort is about opening more doors to cycling in communities that have had limited access to the sport. It’s about helping students get to start lines and facilitating eventual positions in the industry. It’s about helping students understand the feeling of riding bikes and being part of a team.” Geran says the schools have enthusiasm and support from within to get these programs going and each school has a different plan. The Santa Fe-based Institute of American Indian Arts will launch co-ed intramural gravel and mountain bike teams, while the Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo Technical University plans co-ed varsity mountain bike and gravel teams. Johnson C. Smith University will have a women’s-only varsity team focused on road, gravel and cyclocross in the first year and plans to move to co-ed for the second year. A Cannondale Jekyll on the trails. Cannondale With 215 existing club and varsity collegiate cycling programs in the United States, these are the first in a tribal college or university and the first women’s team at an HBCU. "We've been able to build interest and involvement in our students," says Paul Moore, IAIA interim dean of students. "IAIA students were eager to rise to the challenge, even with some basic trail bicycles. But now that there is a prospect of using high-end bicycles, well that has really invigorated student participation. " “We think this is pretty profound,” Geran says, adding they hope this model proves successful and can move to other countries, whether as a cultural diversity or gender diversity pieces. Vaughters says EF and the team will consider the program successful if the young people on the team each have cycling in their lives as they grow up. “It starts small, with that first group of students. We hope they share riding with friends and enjoy a recreational activity for life,” Vaughters says. “In addition, perhaps this eventually brings new perspectives and new voices to the broader cycling industry. And I won’t be surprised if we find some very competitive cyclists. If we’re able to impact the future makeup at the top level of the sport, then that’s a huge bonus.” As the cycling industry experiences growth across the industry, from trail usage to e-bikes and new bike sales to repair shop receipts, Geran says Cannondale has been part of the rise. And getting new groups of people interested will only help further the value of cycling. “We want more people to hear about these schools,” he says. “We know what cycling can do for people and communities. We need diversity in this and maybe we can start to change it at a really important tipping point, which is young adults coming into the workforce." Follow me on Twitter .