Jacob Lee at the Ni'Deesdiin exhibition in the ENMU Runnels Gallery.
Jacob Lee at the Ni'Deesdiin exhibition in the ENMU Runnels Gallery.

Jacob Lee grew up on the Ramah Navajo Reservation, located an hour south of Gallup, New Mexico. He graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a bachelor's degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations in 2014 and has a career in data processing for Microsoft.

The Greyhound Grad is well-known in the ENMU community and beyond for creating exquisite pieces of art, including thought-provoking paintings bursting with color and handmade jewelry featuring detailed etchings and stunning stones. Several of his paintings were displayed alongside Leandra Yazzie's in the Ni'Deesdiin exhibition in the ENMU Runnels Gallery earlier this semester.

Tell us about the Ni'Deesdiin exhibition.

Being featured along with another incredible Native American artist at the Runnels Gallery is surreal. I would like to thank Bryan Hahn for reaching out and for his constant support. Jewelry making is my poetry, and paintings are my novels.

What keeps me returning to the wonders of creating is the numerous attempts to do incredible things with just a paintbrush or slow bend of precious metals. The actions and discipline to create may as well be feats to summit Everest because every attempt to manifest a creation requires every ounce of strength. Natural talent may carry you to the shore; however, skill must be willful for the wind to take to the sails.

There will come a day when my hair turns grey, my hands grow weary and my eyes struggle to see fine details. I am no fool, I know these heirlooms are a privilege, so I do not want to waste time not creating. I just want to share and leave behind moments people will cherish along with me, moments that moved me… made me feel.

Creating is my continuous lyrics of poetry where words fail to trek, but somehow the works complete every sonnet. I look forward to this marathon, to exceed expectations, to highlight the beauty of my Native people, to celebrate, and primarily create a difference as time evolves.

Most importantly, when something special comes along, the kind of special that makes you completely vulnerable…it liberates. Something amazing is just around the corner; you'll follow where your heart wants to go. That is how I got to where my heart belongs…home.

Why did you choose to attend ENMU?

ENMU did an incredible job recruiting by their relentless nature and open communication. Their personal touch and welcoming family-like atmosphere stayed true all through my collegiate career.

How did you choose your field of study?

I always enjoyed a room full of people and figuring out new ways to connect with people, so Diana Cordova, director of Multicultural Affairs, told me to go into the public relations field… best decision ever.

Which activities were you involved in at ENMU?

I was the director of Native American Affairs from 2013 to 2014 and served as a Dawg Days counselor. I received the Student Radio Show of the Year award in 2014 and the Student Leader of the Year in 2012.

Discuss your Eastern Experience. Who was your favorite professor, and what was your favorite class?

ENMU has been a major pillar in my life. I suffered many failures, which transitioned to valuable lessons that honed me to stay driven and preserve through life itself. It would not feel right if I chose a specific department, classes or favorite person because everyone gifted me love, support and sound counsel throughout my entire career at Eastern.

Tell us about your career. What is the most rewarding aspect?

I am currently a data processor for Azure deal desk as well as an MCA support resource for Microsoft via Sogeti. I help sales teams for Microsoft conclude a customer's consumption, percentages and compete scenarios. I also help first-time users navigate the latest service tool for Azure.

There was a moment before it was a trend to purchase an RV off Craigslist and head out to the Pacific Northwest. I do not recommend doing the same, but through my skills from Eastern, I was able to find a work-family with an incredible support system which has helped make my life vibrant.

I enjoy being able to work wherever; I just need Wi-F. I am currently sitting in the middle of the Ramah Navajo reservation in a little home helping individuals across the United States – pretty cool.

Creating is a part of me naturally; I enjoy it even if I were to not ever do another show; I just wanted to make sure I can look back and give everything I had to the process.

What are your short- and long-term career goals?

My short-term goals are to provide incredible creations for people in jewelry, paintings, shows and clothing. My long-term goal is to dedicate myself to be better than I was yesterday, and most importantly, serve people around me; let them know someone cares for them. It would also be nice to own a new Chevy pick-up, but I am sure that will come to fruition when it is supposed to.

Where did you work previously?

I used to work for Wright's Indian Art gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of the most prestigious Native American art galleries in the Southwest.

How did ENMU prepare you for your career?

ENMU prepared me primarily in work ethic, accountability and to always try and bring something new to the table, whether it was ideas or solutions.

What advice would you give to students looking to work in your career field?

If you would like to join a technology company, become a consultant first, find a mentor who knows the business and learn how to communicate clearly so you, as well as your team, know what you would like to bring to the table.

 If you want to be an artist full time, confidence over arrogance is key; be willing to invest in patience and practice. You must have a firm foundation, a firm team and a firm vision of where you want your name to be. Being an artist is important because it is our responsibility to share a vision, a mission, creation and light to the world through our works.

Are you involved in any organizations or causes?

I currently dedicate certain works to local organizations doing amazing things for the community, like "Water Warriors," who provide water for those without indoor plumbing on the reservation. I would strongly suggest you dedicated some of your time and work to better the world; it is good for the soul.

Tell us about your family and background.

I grew up on the Ramah Navajo Reservation, an hour south of Gallup, New Mexico, deep within the Zuni Mountains. My family is full of love and is as tough as their environment.

Who is your role model?

My role models are vast; I hold those who provide me sound council to the highest regard. There is no way I did anything in life, it took a community, and for that, I am very thankful.

Discuss your accomplishments and awards.

I don't remember too many awards, but my biggest accomplishment thus far is coming from the reservation and sharing our culture and beauty with the world.

What are your hobbies?

Working out at 5 a.m., and I love food, traveling, flying, writing and paddleboarding. Audiobooks are a game-changer.

Share some interesting facts about yourself.

I don't like drinking sodas. I wish I could sing like Bruno Mars, and I am terrified of painting.

Is there any additional information you would like to share?

I want to thank you, the entire town of Portales, for being my second home; Eastern as an entire University will always be the best and most innovative- shout out to all professors and Madam President Caldwell. I hope to continue to return and celebrate.