The UNM-Taos Year in Review

By Dr. Kate O’Neill

Executive Director of UNM-Taos

2015 has been a really exciting year for UNM-Taos. It has been a year of challenges and a year of accomplishments and I want to give a big shout out for the whole UNM-Taos team: our students, faculty and staff who helped meet the challenges of the past year. It has been a total team effort to get to where we are today.

Looking back, some of the most obvious accomplishments are the ones everyone can see. We finished the renovation and expansion of Padre Martinez Hall, one of the first buildings to go up on Klauer Campus, which now houses the Student Services Center and boasts a completely new, sleek, modern look both inside and out. It is really exciting to finally have a “front door” to the campus, a place that really welcomes students and visitors. It has been full to capacity lately with people at the computers, in the conference rooms, signing up for spring semester classes and just touring the place and enjoying the spectacular views and the many new works of art. It feels like a thriving college campus now, and you can just feel the energy. It has given everyone a bounce in their step and a vision of what a college can be for the larger community.

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We’ve moved the Department of Instruction to the west wing of Pueblo Hall, and CASA tutoring and the library to the east wing. We’ve got a new math lab, a new writing lab, and our snack bar is up and running thanks to the Culinary Arts Department. And finally, we are in the midst of realizing our long-awaited dream of implementing a major landscaping plan that is transforming the campus; you have to see it to believe it. It encompasses everything from a massive, boulder-lined arroyo coming down the middle of the campus that provides drainage while serving as a commons area between buildings, to ADA improvements in slope and grade of some of our sidewalks, to stunning esthetics created by dozens of brand-new works of art. Thanks to One Percent for the Arts and Art in Public Places programs, we have been able to set aside one percent of the proceeds of all our building projects and put that money toward works of art that have been vetted by the programs. By spring you’ll be able to make use of a lot of gathering places for students in covered areas and places that are out of the wind and sun so that people can sit, have lunch, study and socialize.

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We have also experienced a lot of technical improvements. We have a new director of the IT Department, David Sooter, who is helping to implement new teaching technologies. We have also received a number of federal grants, most recently a TRiO grant for first time, full time students. It has the potential of being pivotal in terms of helping to support our students, not only academically but in all of the additional support systems students need to succeed in college and, later, in the workforce.

The other big project, of course, that folks are aware of, is the downtown renovation of Rio Grande and Bataan Halls, which we expect to be completed by late spring in time for the new cohort of nursing students along with new facilities for EMS, EMT, Dental, medical massage and holistic health by August, 2016. But in addition to that, the Mayor and Town Council recently approved a lease-purchase agreement for 114 and 115 Civic Plaza Drive—the Administration (formerly the old Forest Service) building that we have been leasing for 25 years, and El Pueblo Hall across the street where Judge Chavez holds court.

In 2015 we held steady with enrollment, which was remarkable, because many schools around the state and the nation have seen a downward trend. So we have a lot to be grateful for in this time of thanksgiving and reflection, as well as a lot to look forward to in the coming year, now that we have excellent facilities that are commensurate with the quality of our students, faculty and staff.

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