By Bill Knief
UNM-Taos Executive Director Dr. Kate O’Neill showed up last week with our new mascot, Jackson. After spending his early days at the animal shelter Jackson is a bit shy, but once he gets used to the halls of academe he’ll be a great help welcoming new students and perhaps even participating in this year’s fiesta parade. Move over, Louie Lobo!
Now that spring break has come and gone students are back on campus and the parking lots are again filled to capacity. It’s hard to believe that spring semester 2012 is already approaching the half way mark, but plans are already under way for the annual Spring Art Show at the Stables Gallery which will feature the works of over 300 students who have taken art classes this past year. It’s scheduled a bit earlier than usual this year—April 16 through April 22—and will be open from noon to 5 p.m. every day.
According to Sabra Sowell, the director of the art program, the students themselves are required to help produce the show by hanging and organizing the art, sitting in the gallery and bringing food for the pot luck because, “It gives them a feel for how that end of the art field works and gives them a sense of pride in participating in the show.
“This year we are going to have a closing day show, April 22, rather than an opening day show, and we expect upwards of five hundred attendees. It is very popular with supporters of the arts and family members. The Dan Daley jazz band will be playing and we’ll have paintings, prints, photographs, lots of ceramics and jewelry, and some pieces from the wood working department. It’s a really fun event. It’s important that students have a chance to show off and see what their work looks like in a public place.”
Ever since the economic downturn began in earnest in 2008 UNM-Taos has been dealing with shrinking budgets that have resulted in reduced course offerings, layoffs and the delay of much needed capital improvements. This year, however, things are a little different.
First, our budget is set at last year’s level, which was extremely tight, but at least we aren’t facing more cuts. Second, Governor Martinez signed into law SB-19 which allows the citizens of Taos County to vote to extend the half cent gross receipts tax for another ten years. If it passes in November, the revenue generated by this bill will go a long way toward funding the next stage in the build-out of Klauer Campus. Third, thanks to our legislators in the roundhouse, UNM-Taos has been included in the 2012 General Obligation Bond. This will be voted on in a November statewide election, and if it passes, the three million dollars will cover phase one of the long-awaited Library Learning Center that will be the heart of the campus for years to come.
Why all the construction? We now serve over 1,700 students with no easing up of enrollment in sight, and despite the addition of Pueblo Hall a few short years ago, UNM-Taos is bursting at the seams. I asked Dean of Instruction Randi Archuleta what she thought was the cause of our popularity.
“We have a lot of strong programs that we offer, and a strong faculty teaching them,” she said. “For instance, our Nursing Program was just recently recommended for full national accreditation. I think our reputation is building as a place to come to get those early years of education.”
Archuleta went on to say that the new funding formula for community colleges was still being worked on and did not, as yet, address the entire mission of the two year colleges. One major issue has to do with transfer students, which has always been a major part of the two year mission—preparing students to advance from core curriculum to four year institutions and advanced degrees.
“The chief academic officers across the state are meeting to operationalize the variables in the funding formula, which does not include credit for transfer students or for lifelong learners—those students that take courses for self improvement and the love of learning but are not seeking a degree. I am not comfortable with that. Community colleges provide an important transition for these groups.
“This Fall we will be instituting a mandatory University 101 program for the first time. All incoming freshmen or those on academic probation will be required to take the class, which will help with retention and student success. They will learn practical skills: time management, computer skills, library skills, emotional intelligence, media literacy, respect and how to access campus resources—everything you need to be a successful college student. We are also offering students more educational formats along with the traditional live classroom setting: hybrid classes which are half live and half online, complete online classes, blended classes with a mix of options, web enhanced classes, and first- and second-eight weeks classes alongside the 16 weeks courses. It’s a bit complicated but we have to do it if we want to continue to meet the educational needs of our students.”