By Crystal Deschinny
Editor’s Note: Crystal Deschinny provided the 2017 Eller College Graduate Convocation address. She is the Director for the Division of Economic Development at the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation is the largest Indian reservation in the U.S., with just over 300,000 tribal members. In one of the nation’s most challenging economic environments, Crystal is tasked with improving the Nation’s economic climate and job creation. Her work respects the culture, language, and traditions of the Navajo while incorporating mainstream, innovative business concepts and ideas. Before working for the Navajo Nation, Crystal served as CEO at Tolowa Deeni Nation and as the finance and investment manager at Forest County Potawatomi in northern Wisconsin. She has been an active fundraiser for the University of Arizona and the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation program, and also runs in marathons to support fundraising efforts. Crystal holds an undergraduate degree in finance and completed both of her master’s degrees at the University of Arizona – including her Eller MBA.
I am thrilled to stand here today as a two-time University of Arizona alumna and devoted Wildcat. It truly is an honor and privilege to celebrate this wonderful milestone with all of you.
My name is Crystal Deschinny. I am currently the Director for the Division of Economic Development at Navajo Nation. I lead a team of 61, work with 22 Council Delegates, 110 Chapters, report to the President and Vice President, and live a very public life spanning 27,000 square miles. I have chosen to work within Indian Country where I am challenged daily, am inspired by the many people I meet, and am determined to empower my relations as we pursue our sovereignty. However, today is not about me.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to watch my husband take this very same stage and receive his MBA. It was during that time that I observed something different which left a deep impression within me. I noticed the admiration and look of wonder in the eyes of several children positioned at the end of the stage as they anxiously awaited; then I took notice of those in the crowd.
I then wondered if others saw what I did. I wondered if they saw this in that same context as I did — that this day was truly a beginning of something more. The wonder, admiration, and unsureness in what they were observing drew me away from the words of encouragement to focus on the meaning of their gaze.
Today, take notice that in the eyes of the children and those around you, this day becomes the beginning of your pathway to lead.
In Their Eyes
To the East, my eyes look to the beginning, to the sun, to the freedom found in the dawn. I find growth is inevitable. There is unsureness in what is not known, curiosity over where I may be, and apprehension of not knowing who’s with me, beside me, around me, within me. Growth, excitement, courage, inspired by a promise of security, drive the need to reach forward to outline the rays. Built upon a carefully constructed foundation designed to withstand change and earned with dedication, in my eyes I lead.
Growth. Quietly. Confidently. Enthusiastically.
To the South, in his eyes the rays expand to embrace the flurry of activity. There is a need to be the risk-taker, the creator of ideas, and owner of challenges that occurred long before. Strength, conviction, and steadfastness draw in belief of honest abilities and of the possibility of what could have been, should have been, would have been and will be. A test of trueness to him and to her lie at the heart of a clearly planned pathway constricted by conviction that the heavily ingrained tools of success will be the much-needed resilience in troubling times. In his eyes and hers, I lead.
Expand. Embrace. Truth. Strength.
To the West, their eyes look to the peak of the rays to find a message of hope. There is a need for movement, innovative direction, and guidance that will save them from their dormancy. Promise, clarity, and direction are drawing them to see you, to hear you, to be near you as they confide in you to share their weighted shoulder sprinkled with time and challenge. In their eyes, I lead.
Direction. Promise. Challenge. Clarity.
To the North, our eyes fall with the rays as they reach for the earth. There is a need to retreat into our self, to restore our being, and to dig deep to touch the fragments of renewal preserved to reignite long-ago excitement. Weary, heavy with understanding, therein lies a ray streaked with the promise of the freedom found in the dawn. In our eyes, I will lead.
Retreat. Restore. Transform. Reignite.
You live your life with the respect to the Four Directions and the need to find balance within yourself to begin again. Today, you leave with excitement but you will find you will be weighted by the challenges, the obstacles, and those who will shake your ability to lead. You will become the risk-taker, the challenger, the pleaser, the innovator of ideas. You will be praised, rewarded, and celebrated by others who will lay down the foundation, provide encouragement, and who will follow your lead.
And in your quiet moments, remember, you are never alone. You will lead with the strength of those whose gaze begins in the East.
Congratulations to the 2017 Eller College of Management Graduates!
Stand true to you and Bear Down!
Header photo of Crystal Deschinny by Thomas Veneklasen.