By Bill Knief
Last Thursday I had a few minutes with Dr. Kate O’Neill, Executive Director of UNM-Taos, and asked her for some thoughts now that the semester and the year are almost over.
“At this time of year we are reminded of how many people it takes to make a college campus like this successful,” she said, “to live up to its name and contribute vibrantly to the whole community. We have an amazing mix of opportunities for folks and we couldn’t be here without our students, our faculty and the generous support throughout the community.
“I want to particularly thank our legislative delegation. Senator Carlos Cisneros is very supportive of us in terms of workforce development monies and capital improvements. Even in these tough times he is very aware of how important it is to keep building the campus and growing our programs. We couldn’t have a better friend of education than Representative Bobby Gonzales. He has helped us in many areas, including most recently transportation out to the Klauer campus.
“We’ve had joint sponsorships with other legislators as well, but those two are the primary champions for UNM-Taos and we are very grateful to have them on our team, as well as the Mayor, Town Council and County Commission. The local media, too, have been very supportive in helping us get the word out. We really rely on the radio stations and newspaper to keep people informed as to what is going on here.
“It’s no secret that times are hard and budgets are being cut. That is precisely why people are going back to school to develop their skills and sharpen their focus on their careers and life goals so that they can find fulfilling work that will support their families. We are committed to helping them on that journey.
“We have about 1,550 students now and we offer over 200 courses, and on January 19, the first day of Spring Semester classes, we will have Pueblo Hall up and running. At noon on Saturday, January 16 we are inviting the entire community to come out to the Klauer campus to help us celebrate the grand opening of this extraordinary facility and spend some time getting to know our faculty.”
IF WINTER COMES CAN SPRING BE FAR BEHIND?
There must be something in our DNA that brings out the best in us in the worst of times; each year the shortening days, threatening skies and plummeting temperatures of early winter form the backdrop for a grand celebration of abundance and good will that we call the holidays. Just as the going gets toughest we set our minds to food, friends and family, and by extension to the wellbeing of our neighbors and the larger community.
This incongruity is nowhere more apparent than in the annual controlled chaos of Taos Feeds Taos. In a wrenching economy I saw volunteer after volunteer give of themselves in terms of money and food donations and in that most precious of commodities, time, so that families all across Taos County could get a little help when they needed it. Observing the assembly line made up of Taosenos of every walk of life, every age, gender, ethnicity and station in life filling boxes with food made me think of a similar process that educators go through in a lifetime devoted to teaching.
Teachers, too, serve an assembly line of sorts, filling up living receptacles day after day with the intellectual nourishment they need to get on in life. Not everyone is suited to the work. It’s not for the weak, the impatient or the lightly committed. It’s the purview of those special people who take personal pride in serving their students to the best of their abilities.
At UNM-Taos we look forward to a new year and a new semester, confident in the knowledge that underneath the snows of winter lie seeds of opportunity ready to germinate in the spring.