kids campus

Hitting our stride

By Bill Knief

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UNM-Taos is a dynamic place. Students and faculty come and go, our economic condition changes at the will of granting institutions and the state legislature, and new classes and programs emerge with each semester. We don’t sit still for long.

But one thing that doesn’t change is our mission to provide high quality, affordable education and workforce training and development to all who seek them in northern New Mexico.

Now, with the first day of the Spring, 2013 semester coming up on January 14, it seems like a good time to reflect on what progress we made in 2012 and where we stand in fulfilling our commitment to the diverse communities we serve in the coming year. So I asked Dr. Kate O’Neill to touch on some of the highlights from her perspective as Executive Director.

“2012 was a remarkable year for UNM-Taos,” she began. “I felt that we really hit our stride. First of all, we experienced considerable growth in enrollment. In fact, in the fall we were up over fifteen percent—the largest enrollment increase of any college or university in the state. Fortunately, at the same time we were able to work with Representative Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales and other community leaders to reauthorize the educational half cent gross receipts tax for Questa, Penasco and Taos municipal school districts, charter schools and higher education in the county.

“What that means for UNM-Taos is approximately $750,000 per year over a ten year period to fund capital projects. That’s huge right now because the state has revised the funding formula to no longer include what we call BR&R—Building, Renewal and Replacement funds. So if we need new roofs, new parking lots, infrastructure, broadband hookup or maintenance and repair issues, this is the kind of resource we can depend upon.

“We also appreciate the support of the community in passing General Obligation Bond C, authored by our own Senator Carlos Cisneros, for core campus infrastructure funding throughout the state, with three million going to UNM-Taos. It should be a great source of pride for all Taosenos that, of 33 New Mexico counties, Taos ranked number one in its percentage of voter support for higher education.

“In 2012 we also brought the Family Resource Center from Gusdorf to the Civic Plaza Drive complex, and moved a number of offices and our library down to the Klauer campus.

“At the same time we received four major federal grants: a Title V Hispanic Serving Institution grant for science, technology, engineering, health care and math that will help hire faculty; a Title V CAMP grant for people in the workforce hoping to complete their education; Upward Bound for math and science focused primarily on college readiness for high school students, and the only Upward Bound for Veterans grant in the state. With the addition of a director and two advisors that this grant provides for, we are delighted that we will be better able to serve those who have served us.

“One of the biggest events in the last days of 2012 was the news that our Kids’ Campus achieved Five Star National Accreditation from the National Association for the Accreditation of Young Children. Started by Margaret McTavish with grants totaling 1.2 million and continued by Tracy Jaramillo and Gary Atias, the Center serves children from four months to four years not only in pre-K but infant care as well. This accreditation assures parents and families that our facility lives up to the highest standards they could find anywhere in the country, and UNM-Taos gets a higher rate of reimbursement in recognition of the investment we are making in the quality of the program.

“Thanks again to grant funds, we have also been able to add three new advisors, which will make it easier to better serve our students and meet our graduation goals. It has been a really exciting time to be here at UNM-Taos because of all the new staff coming on board. They bring freshness and new ideas and energy combined with the dedication and institutional memory of staff, some of whom have been here from the beginning. This comes at a time when we are preparing in 2013 for our tenth anniversary as a branch campus of UNM.

“Last year UNM-Taos Student Senate brought Phi Theta Kappa, the National Honor Society, to our campus and organized and funded many student services. We took on the public access station and produced the Fall Lecture Series with our partners at SMU in Taos. We are also setting aside funds to address campus safety and security issues. We have been blessed to have a fine track record over the years thanks to the community we serve and the hard work of Rudy Baca and his physical plant team. But we have grown from 250 students to over 1,700, and we want to be sure that we continue to do our due diligence and that, as a community, we are all looking out for one another.

“We will continue to fulfill our mission throughout the new year and beyond. Our state representative and staunch friend of education Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales is fond of calling UNM-Taos the golden apple of the community. With all humor and humility we thank him for that, and thank the whole community for the vision and support and foresight that moves us forward. And we accept the challenge that comes with that praise and that trust.”

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