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As a law student, Chad Yazzie (`10) could see the value of deepening his knowledge of the global business culture. One day, he hopes to play a role in the positioning of his tribe, the Navajo Nation, to take advantage of international economic development opportunities.
Last fall, after successfully completing a competitive application process, he moved to Switzerland to enroll in an LL.M. program jointly offered by the universities of Fribourg, Bern and Neuchâtel. When he completes the rigorous program in June, he will hold an L.L.M in Master of Laws in Cross-Cultural Business Practice.
"In applying for the program, the admissions committee was particularly impressed with the faculty support I received and the business-oriented curriculum I took advantage of at the UNM School of Law," said Yazzie. "What also set me apart was the experience I received working for Judge Michael E. Vigil on the New Mexico Court of Appeals through the school's judicial externship program."
Yazzie is the only American in his class of 12 students, many of whom are lawyers seeking to expand their practices. His classmates hail from countries as diverse as Tunisia, France, Turkey, Romania, Kenya, Mongolia and Saudi Arabia.
"What attracted me to the program was its globalized approach to law and business," he said. "As a Native American from the Navajo Tribe, I've long felt that for tribes to sustain our identities and thrive in the 21st century we need to integrate ourselves into a globalized business culture. I just want to do my part to help my people and hopefully integrate tribes' needs to the world's resources."
Yazzie's first semester of the two-semester program was filled with lectures delivered mostly by prominent experts from around the world instructing the students in European Institutional Law, Corporate Law and Governance, Business Contracts, Intellectual Property, World Trade Organization and Tax Law, along with several other courses. During the second semester, he will add an internship to his studies. The curriculum also includes moot courts and clinics during each semester.
While the program is taught in English, French is the predominant language in Fribourg and Yazzie has been challenged to learn enough French to complete daily tasks such as buying groceries and using the transportation network. Following his acclimation, he has grown to enjoy the country and might stick around if he is offered a position in Switzerland after earning his master's degree. But his long-term goal is to work in tribal finance back home.
"Like many tribal reservations, the Navajo Nation suffers from a severe lack of infrastructure that undermines many efforts for sustainability. This lack of infrastructure drives away many economic development opportunities that would otherwise bring jobs and a better standard of living for Navajos on the reservation," he said. "If tribes can actively compete for and win over the national and international resources to fund and complete these projects, this will go a long way in developing a better life for our peoples."
January 25, 2011