By Bill Knief
The year 2009 was a time punctuated by the barely controlled chaos of academy heads, faculty, administration, advisors, tutors, business office and bookstore personnel, enrollment staff and more than 1,500 students trying simultaneously to get settled into their new digs on the UNM-Taos Klauer Campus. Add to the fun the culmination of a two year accreditation process, the advent of free bus service, a new snack bar and the solar array going operational, and you can imagine that it was not always a pretty sight.
Now, 2010 is taking on a similar, though more philosophical, turn. With the dust and detritus of rapid change still hanging palpably in the air, a complete reorganization of the Department of Instruction is underway. The old structure that divided courses of study into seven academies has given way to a new paradigm based on what Jim Gilroy, Dean of Instruction, calls “small learning communities organized around broad content areas of interest” which are led by coordinators.
“On a practical level,” Gilroy explained, “this reorganization of the Department of Instruction has been made possible by our move out to Klauer. Having the new facilities out there allowed the majority of us to come together, and we have a sense of community now that we haven’t had up to this point. The advisors, Student Services, the DOI, the faculty and students are concentrated where the courses are being delivered. So the opportunities for interaction have just multiplied, and you see students on a more regular basis.
“The physical move made the philosophical change possible. It gave faculty a chance to play more of a leadership role within our community of learning. The new plan gives many more people the opportunity to step forward, and for the institution to try them on for size. That’s a sign of health, because any good institution is continually looking at a succession plan.”
The new structure centers on four areas of coordination: transferable courses, health sciences, business and professional skills, and the various support systems that make up student success.
“Transferable courses are those for students who are planning to transfer to a four year institution,” Gilroy said, “so we break that down into departments that match the core curriculum that is approved statewide. It’s English and writing, science and mathematics. It’s social and behavioral studies, the humanities and the like.
“The second area that has been a high growth field is the area of health sciences. Once you have a health sciences program in place you have equipment responsibilities, space requirements, and national and state accreditation issues. People who go through the health sciences program are not paid professionals until they pass some sort of licensure exam, and this has demanded a lot of our time in the Department of Instruction. Our nursing, dental assisting, integrative health, Yoga, medical massage and other programs are very strong and developing very quickly. Coordinating these within our health sciences program is a way we can give them a proper level of attention.
“The third area of coordination is what we call the area of business and professional skills, and it deals mostly with our interaction with the needs of the community. What are the economic development, the professional needs? It’s business management and administration, culinary arts and crafts programs that are part of a professional skills development program.
“Finally, we have a tremendous number of areas of support for student success: the library, the Literacy Center, tutoring. It’s our Kids’ Campus. It’s the Family Resource Center. A large segment of our students come to us in need of developmental studies so that they can succeed at the college level. This is math, communications, college success skills—the tools they need to be able to explore a variety of both technical and academic pathways.”
One major tool that will transform student success in a big way at UNM-Taos is the proposed Library Learning Center. If General Obligation Bond D passes in the November 2 election, this library facility, designed to be the heart of the campus and the center of student success programs, will receive two million dollars to begin construction. When voters turn over their ballots on election day, they should consider carefully the impact of General Obligation Bond D on our community of learning.