The Navajo Nation’s first economist takes a fresh view on development

Alisha Murphy, who is Diné, has always had a story to tell. It just happens to come in the form of economic data and its details. In November 2021, Murphy assumed her post as the Navajo Nation’s first-ever full-time economist. Her appointment comes at a time of great transition, both for the Navajo Nation and for Indian Country as a whole. Murphy has spent her first half-year in the Navajo Nation’s Division of Economic Development focused on how best to assist the tribe as it transitions away from a coal-centered economy. She is also currently pursuing a doctorate in economic development at New Mexico State University.

HCN recently caught up with Murphy as she was settling into her new role.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Andi Murphy

What led you to study economics?

I started as an undergrad in the social work field. I received my bachelor’s in social work and then my master’s in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. It was my last semester where I took social-economic development. And the professor was just so passionate about using data to tell the story of the inner city — and that turned the light bulb on in my brain. My first question was: How can I use data to tell the story of the Navajo of my community? And is that possible? Has it been done before?

What other questions do you have that you’re still working on answering? Right […]

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