The parade of students has begun

By Bill Knief

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By the time this article comes out, close to half our students will have already registered for the 2011 fall semester at UNM-Taos. We are expecting something above 1,600, continuing a two year trend of increasing need for certificates and degrees despite dwindling education budgets. This dichotomy, while underscoring both our resiliency and the high priority placed on higher education by this community, is also creating some interesting challenges.

The Department of Instruction was forced to cut summer session courses by nearly one third this year, yet we still came out within a couple of percentage points of last summer’s total number of students. This fall expect to see more tightening, with the result being larger classes—and the urgent need to enroll early.

More and more students are taking the online option these days, which means simply picking up a print schedule (there’s one waiting for you in this edition of the Taos News) or going to our website at and following the instructions.

Nowadays you can do everything you need to do online, but the enrollment office (their phone number is 575 737-6200) is well aware that each student comes with a unique set of issues, and many need a little help with the process. We not only have a bank of computers and a printer in Pueblo Hall on the Klauer campus for the exclusive use of enrollees, but our full time summer staff is also ready to help you through the process. Advisors, financial aid gurus and developmental specialists are there to make sense out of the sometimes bewildering routine, but the one thing they can’t do is motivate students to get started early. That’s up to you, and unless you are quite fond of long lines and uncertainty about getting into the classes you need, now’s the time to get busy.

Believe it or not, the first day of fall classes is barely three weeks away, and new students in particular have plenty to do in that time.

On August 16 there will be an orientation for new students hosted in part by UNM-Taos Student Government. I caught up with several senators as they were repairing the wind- damaged UNM-Taos fiesta parade float, and asked them for their comments.

Arsenio Arellano, an eight semester veteran, holds a certificate in culinary arts and is part of this summer’s graduating class in massage therapy, and is well on his way to a bachelor’s degree.

I asked him what kept him coming back, and he said, “Learning. I like the classes and I like to learn. The classes are still small and so you get a lot of hands on instruction from your teachers. Why get involved in student government? At times it can be a burden, certainly, but a long time ago I decided to see it through to the end. It definitely serves the students. You hear from them and you try to help them however you can.”

Marlene Rael agreed. “This is my third semester at UNM, and I also work for the Department of Instruction and I’m a member of student government. I want students to be comfortable with their school. I’ll be graduating this fall with my associate’s degree in early education, and eventually I will get my master’s in education leadership. Education is so important right now, especially with the recession and the condition of the economy.”

Valerie Ortega is in her second semester at UNM-Taos majoring in pre law with an emphasis in business and a minor in psychology. She is a main campus student, a student senator and works at the Kids’ Campus. “Sometimes students feel that they don’t have a voice with the higher-ups,” she observed, “and it’s easier for students to talk to other students. Being involved in student government gives us the opportunity to reach out to the students and the community as well. Going off to a big college can seem scary and overwhelming, but UNM-Taos is really calm and comfortable.”

The summer has not been an idle time at UNM-Taos. Word just came out that Kirstie Segarra’s Integrative Massage Therapy Program is graduating its third cohort of massage therapists. After eight intensive weeks of clinicals, ten students are now prepared to sit for licensure in massage therapy. Segarra explained that the program teaches Deep Tissue and Swedish massage, and has its own Holistic Fund that awards scholarships to students by charging a modest fee to clients receiving treatment—one more example of the opportunities UNM-Taos has to offer.

About The Bill Knief