David Trujillo

David Trujillo, UNM-Taos grants officer

By Bill Knief

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David Trujillo is the newest addition to the UNM-Taos administrative team. He is now our grants officer, doing whatever needs to be done to secure and manage the funds which are crucial to our survival as a dynamic and effective institution. Mr. Trujillo is not new to the field. His career spans 37 years of grant experience in higher education, and in that time he has brought in over 130 million dollars for various educational institutions throughout the country. I asked him what accounted for this remarkable track record.

“People ask me what my percentage of success is, and I have no idea,” he said. “The secret of a good track record is simply that you persist. You just keep working on it, and you learn from your failures, because we all have them; it’s hard, complicated work. Since 1977 I have been working on grants, sponsored programs and grant management. ‘Getting money to do good things’—that’s what I prefer to call it.

“Grants are all about change. Think about it—why would someone give you money to do what you are doing anyway? That’s your job. Grants, particularly federal grants, are expressions of public policy. For instance, with Title V grants, the government sets aside money through a specific law and it says we believe in Hispanic serving institutions because that is a public policy goal and they should be stronger. They are underfunded and they need strength in the areas of student services, academic programs, administrative capabilities—all these areas that are defined into law. They say, you figure out how you can do that and we will invest in you. So at the end of the five year grant you are better, stronger, bigger, faster, right? They give you money to do something different, or better, or to serve people you are not serving. That’s what they want you to do.”

Trujillo’s most recent port of call was Espanola, where he worked for six years at Northern New Mexico Community College. I asked him what brought him to Taos.

“I have never lived in Taos, but this has always been the place where I feel most at home. My great, great grandfather ran a horse trading business out of the old adobe building with the long portal on Ranchitos Road, the one where Overland Sheepskin got its start. That house actually dates back to 1742. My dad was born there, and my family’s history goes back to the mid 19th century in Taos. I love this place.

In 2010 UNM-Taos just missed getting a Title V grant. But this year there was not enough money in the fund to do a full competition, so the government funded down the next best grants, and we were one of only 14 institutions that received funds this year. It will provide 2.7 million dollars over the next five years.

“This is very important for us,” Trujillo said. “The grant supports things like developmental studies and strengthening the library—things that contribute directly to student success, at a time when the state is changing the funding formula to reflect outcomes rather than enrollment. That’s the kind of initiative I like to work on, because it helps people get through the system and makes sure they have the support they need to succeed.

“I grew up poor. Mine was the first generation in my family to go to college. I didn’t even know anyone who had gone to college. The only white collar role models I had were teachers, so I thought of teaching as a white collar path. So now I’ve spent my whole career trying to change colleges so they can help students that are like me: that need the step up, that need the extra help, the opportunity.

“If you look at how people around here have performed on paper, in school, they might not have done so well. But there’s nothing wrong with the gene pool. There are all kinds of really, really smart people out there with a lot of potential. We just have to make sure we give them the access and the opportunity so that they can do well.

“Education prepares you to live a life, as opposed to just making a living. Higher education should try to educate people broadly, so that they can go into productive fields like healthcare, teacher education, and entrepreneurial activities of all kinds. That’s what is going to make the economy better in northern New Mexico and in this country: people creating jobs by doing good work.”

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