IAIA Shuttle Driver Sees Students Flourish Over the Years

If you’re new to the Institute of American Indian Arts, you are likely to become acquainted with Student Life’s Transportation driver, Alvin Sandoval. When student, faculty and staff ride the shuttle, they are likely to hear and share a story or two with Sandoval, a Diné, man from Pueblo Pintado Chapter, a community within the Eastern Navajo Agency, and near the Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwestern New Mexico.

When asked where he comes from, you can feel him reaching back into his memories and childhood. He shot straight to his school years and explained that the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools was the only full-time education provided then, and how the introduction of the school bus in his community changed everything.

“The dorms were full time, students took short breaks during holidays and weekends, no buses were needed,” said Sandoval.

Now with transportation in his chapter’s community, students can travel to nearby towns and public schools, such as the one in nearby Cuba, New Mexico to learn various other essential skills and traits. Sandoval soon advanced from the boarding school to studying in northern Utah at Cache Valley and later Box Elder, finishing High School.

As an adult, he has lived in Wyoming, Colorado and now Santa Fe, New Mexico. Growing up in a traditional home and speaking the Diné language as a youth, he now sometimes feels urbanized from his culture. But with his job at IAIA, there is opportunity to connect with students who understand the language.

“Some are shy at first, but eventually we get talking and find out who knows who, and from what the reservation,” said Sandoval.

What does Sandoval gain from his job? Sandoval said that in the four years as the transportation driver, “people always leave a memory, a lesson, and vice-versa.”

Between his routine routes to the Santa Fe N.M. 599 Rail Runner Station and WalMart, Sandoval can help make supply runs, drive you to a doctor’s appointment, or to a job as long as the trips fall within the IAIA transportation policy.

Seeing all the busy bodies, Sandoval said it is rewarding to work for the IAIA community. “Everybody works hard and plays a part in sharing knowledge. I get to learn about student art, project ideas, and experiences with art shows,” said Sandoval.  

Seeing student art products, ideas and thoughts in galleries gives inspiration to Sandoval. Experiencing the various Native ways through art makes him proud.

His experiences at IAIA began in 1990, when the Institute shared a campus with then the College of Santa Fe.

When asked what he could share about IAIA’s previous campus and the Native American artists who have studied and showcased for IAIA, Sandoval recalls much.

Back when IAIA was a tenant at the College of Santa Fe, Sandoval remembers the campus hitting bumps occasionally and learning about sacrifices to keep the school thriving. During the early years, the school was established during the administration of President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Later in 1986 the school was then one of three Congressionally chartered schools, according the IAIA history page.

He has seen generational cycles of alumni thrive within the IAIA community, back home in their communities and within the art worlds. He knows there will always be Native American students to follow the alumni’s success.

“New generations will keep it going, everyone has their own story to share and the future looks good.”

Alvin Sandoval, prepares to head out for another busy day as the shuttle drive for Student Life at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Photo credit: Kyle Kootswatewa


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