University Affairs

First Lady of the Navajo Nation to Speak at USU Blanding Commencement Ceremony

By Marcus Jensen |

Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren

BLANDING, Utah — Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, first lady of the Navajo Nation, will be the commencement speaker at the Utah State University Blanding 2024 commencement ceremony. The ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Friday, April 26, at San Juan High School in Blanding.

First Lady Blackwater-Nygren brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her role as keynote speaker. A former Arizona state representative, she made history as the youngest lawmaker in the state during her tenure. Holding a bachelor of arts degree from Stanford University and a juris doctor from Arizona State University, Blackwater-Nygren's academic credentials underscore her commitment to education and public service.

“I express profound gratitude for the opportunity to host First Lady Blackwater-Nygren,” said Kristian Olsen, senior associate vice president for USU Blanding and Moab. “As I reflect on her passion for education and her advocacy for the Navajo people, I know her address will have an invaluable impact on the graduating class. The First Lady is a gifted speaker whose insights will undoubtedly inspire and empower the students as they embark on their future endeavors.”

Hailing from Red Mesa, Arizona, Blackwater-Nygren maintains strong ties to her roots and continues to reside there with her husband, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, and their two children. Her dedication to her community and her passion for advancing educational opportunities are evident throughout her illustrious career.

Blackwater-Nygren is a licensed attorney, community advocate, mother and wife. She has dedicated herself to promoting the resiliency of Indigenous women and families across the largest Sovereign Nation in the United States. With a focus on combating social ills impacting communities, Blackwater-Nygren continues to be an outspoken champion for young women. She is currently an appointed member of the Arizona & New Mexico state task forces for Missing & Murdered Indigenous People.

Blackwater-Nygren's academic journey further reflects her dedication to advocating for sustainability, the environment and Native American studies. In 2017, she earned a bachelor of science in technology, science and society, with a keen focus on these critical areas. Notably, she also obtained a law degree, including an Indian Law certificate, from the prestigious Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in 2020.

During her time as a law student, Blackwater-Nygren seized valuable opportunities to intern with prominent institutions such as the Navajo Nation Legislative Branch and the Navajo Nation Supreme Court. These experiences equipped her with firsthand insights into legal and policy issues affecting Indigenous communities, further fueling her commitment to effecting positive change.

With USU Blanding boasting a student body comprised of 70% Native American individuals, the selection of First Lady Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren as the commencement speaker holds profound significance. Her presence underscores the university's commitment to honoring and amplifying the voices of Indigenous leaders and advocates. Her address promises to resonate deeply with graduates, faculty and attendees alike, serving as a poignant reminder of the transformative power of education and the enduring spirit of resilience within everyone.

Commencement will be conducted by Olsen. Tylan Dee, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies and was the awardee of the 2024 USU ITLS Master’s Scholar of the Year, will be the ceremony’s student speaker. First Lady Blackwater-Nygren will then deliver the commencement address.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. For more information, visit

Offering residential campus housing and dining, Utah State University Blanding gives students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university, all while providing award-winning education. With degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, plus technical education offerings in Business, Technical Trades and Health Professions, USU Blanding offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities. Learn more at


Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications


Kristian Olsen
Senior Associate Vice President
Utah State University Blanding & Moab


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