By Bill Knief
Continuing Education, or CE, is a concept that has changed over the years. Once the domain of the older generation, it generally refers to those courses that students take not for credit but for the love of learning. These courses are not exactly electives, but rather specialized classes that are designed to fit a specific demand. They are set up as workshops or intensives rather than an eight or 16 weeks course, in order to accommodate the needs of community members that have jobs, families and personal obligations that prevent them from enrolling as full time students.
Despite the perennial popularity of a handful of CE classes such as fly fishing at UNM-Taos, the budget for CE courses offered at UNM main campus is many times larger than the entire revenue stream used to operate our community college.
Nevertheless, the idea of continuing one’s education throughout a lifetime rather than ending it with a high school degree is alive and well. Every semester, young students by the hundreds are now taking dual credit classes on the UNM-Taos campus, and for them college is a commonplace—not something just for a chosen few. As they come of age, they are not likely to stop their quest for knowledge at high school, whether or not they want to pursue an academic degree.
The Arts Program at UNM-Taos is currently in the process of increasing its continuing education offerings with the advent of an array of over 20 classes in subjects ranging from hand-made ceramic tile, traditional blacksmithing, paint making for artists and how to market your own art. Sabra Sowell, acting head of the recently restructured Fine Arts and Applied Arts and Crafts Departments is responsible for the program while tenured Art Department Chairman Gary Cook is on sabbatical.
“We haven’t had these in the past,” Sowell explained. “I was looking for a way to expand my own students’ knowledge base with extra technical instruction to help advance them. Then Jim Gilroy (Dean of Instruction at UNM-Taos) said that there are a lot of people in the community that just want to come in for some sort of enrichment in a short course.”
The third component that makes the intensive classes attractive is its potential for contributing to the local economy.
“In order for a class to make, we have to have a minimum number of students enrolled,” Sowell said. “I have a lot of students who would like to come up from Santa Fe to take these classes. I’m already trying to get people to think about doing a three day or week long intensive in the Summer, so we can gear it toward the tourist base. That doesn’t exclude local students; in fact, it makes it possible to have more courses available for everyone. If approved, our regular students can even take these courses for credit, but in that case they have to pay tuition as well. Otherwise all they pay is whatever course and lab fees the instructor has agreed upon, and our classes are very inexpensive compared to other colleges and universities. The instructor keeps half of the course fee, so in a tough economy continuing education classes don’t place an added burden on the college.
“They enhance the reputation of Taos as an artistic community, provide a bit of income for instructors (only two of the Continuing Ed. teachers are faculty—all the rest are from the community) and help to recruit students for our degree and certificate programs. I know Jim is looking for some success with these classes so we can apply the continuing education concept across the board, not just in the Art Department.”
Watch for the Art Department Continuing Education Program flyer, and more continuing education classes in other areas of interest. It’s the way of things to come.