Patrick Victor Naranjo is a student of and advocate for his Native American heritage. He's also level-headed in tough situations, which serves him well in his dual role as UNLV's assistant to the vice president for diversity initiatives and to university ombudsman.
Helping to ensure that UNLV's environment is conducive to people of different cultures falls into Naranjo's wheelhouse, so to speak. An active member of New Mexico's Santa Clara Pueblo, he holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in American Indian Studies. The Native American population is an underrepresented minority on college campuses, and he hopes to change that. He also wants the office of diversity initiatives to send the very clear message that everyone with a unique cultural background is welcome at UNLV.
He also has conflict management experience for his ombudsman's office role, perhaps most notably for his logistics and communications support role during the Red Lake High School shooting massacre in 2005. The Minnesota shooting, which left 10 members of the Red Lake Chippewa tribe dead, was a traumatic experience, he says, but it shaped a humble and even-keel nature in him.
"It really structured how I perceive things and conflict in general," he added.
Working with the relatively new ombudsman's office, he wants students and faculty to understand that there is a comfortable, safe place on campus that can help them resolve conflicts.
I feel there is a tremendous opportunity here to develop a university infrastructure to better serve students and contribute to their success in higher education. Most American Indian students are first-generation college participants. I am a first-generation college student, and communicating my experience to others builds diversity at UNLV.
Where did you grow up?
Santa Clara Pueblo, which is located in New Mexico. I am an active community member. It was interesting to have a perspective at a young age of certain things that are present within the mainstream society and certain things that are not. My mother is Hispanic and lived on the reservation, which really introduced me to understanding diversity. Growing up, there was that exposure of to two heritages, and living on the Indian Reservation puts things into a different focus for you at a young age. I really carry my culture as a motivator for my academic and professional success. I value it and return home to it often. It is my strength as a higher education professional.
Tell us about the ombudsman's office and how it helps resolve conflicts at UNLV.
The UNLV ombudsman initiative is fairly new. We would like the campus community to know that we are a viable and accessible resource for solving campus discrepancies. We maintain a confidential environment to resolve issues and help you seek solutions in a confident, quiet manner.
Proudest moment in your life ...
I have four kids and I'm very proud of my family. It's probably the best thing I've ever done. ... And I'm proud of my accomplishments and my degrees, considering where I started from the reservation, but I don't want to focus on my own success. I feel as a Native man, I have a responsibility to the community, to our youth. I want to let them know that these kinds of successes are attainable, even if they don't have lot to start with. So my proudest moments are really those that bring together my family, culture, and academic achievements, or celebrating success among community.
One tip for success ...
I have this motto that I hold very close: You have two options in life -- you can either practice or you can suck. Maybe it's a little loud, but I really took some time to think about that. Coming from where I started to where I am now, I can't really frame it any other way. Anyone can sit down and never get back up. Either you work at it or you do not, which means you simply will remain where you are.
If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?
Common courtesy. I think in this society we're driven to be first in everything. First in your salary, in line at the grocery store, first in traffic. Sometimes I don't really think that captures our essence. We're all in existence here. We're all the same people. I call it common courtesy but it's a little more in-depth than that. I feel we should all be aware of the competitive element in society, and how it may dictate our existence. It's also how to succeed and maintain that careful balance of attaining things presented in this society, but also staying grounded in an understanding of culture.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I'm a health freak. I was tremendously obese and overweight in high school. A lot of people make fun of me for being on a crazy health kick. But now I'm no longer asthmatic. I'm like Jared, the Subway guy.
Who is your favorite professor and why?
From my time at UCLA, Angela Riley. She was my thesis chair. My specialty is cultural resource protection and Professor Riley is the guru in that field of research. She equipped me with the knowledge of cultural resource protection and how these issues expand from a cultural level, from a tribal law level, and an international law level. Professor Riley equipped me with the knowledge to advocate for these resources in both the legal, and cultural realms of American Indian law. I am very thankful for her guidance and support.
What can't you work without?
Water or ChapStick.
Who is your hero?
Vine Deloria, who has since passed. He has been one of the most groundbreaking Native American authors of our generation. When I think about "What is Native American literature?" he put that into perspective at a time when it was really critical for me. His work helped tremendously to develop the American Indian studies field. He simply placed a lot of American Indian issues in academia on the map. Not just in academia, but nationally, internationally, on the tribal level. He was a very knowledgeable man, and represents the contemporary academic warrior.
I enjoy running, spending time with my family. I enjoy reading and writing, spending time in nature. I love Red Rock and Lake Mead. Running really helps me clear my head; in Tewa culture, running is prayer.