Klauer Campus

The UNM-Taos model for education

By Bill Knief

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You won’t find a “UNM-Taos Model for Education” written down anywhere. It’s an idea I came across in looking back on 2013 and pondering some of the successes and improvements we’ve seen in our community college in the past year. So I figured, after writing 150 articles in the Taos News about the events, the people and the mission of UNM-Taos, I’d give myself some latitude to talk about what I see as the underlying principles that govern the institution and have gone a long way toward defining us as a model for excellence in higher education. They might also explain why, in a period of softening enrollment numbers, we beat everyone in the state with an 8.9 percent enrollment increase this past semester. That’s something to think about with just a few weeks left before the first day of 2014 spring semester classes, January 21.

Back in January we took a long, hard look at safety and security on campus, even though Rudy Baca, head of our physical plant and the longest serving employee at UNM-Taos, has overseen a nearly perfect track record for over two decades now. With the help of then-Chief of Police Ken Koch we developed an all-hazards response plan to make students, faculty and staff as safe as possible—no small challenge when we have gone from 350 students to over 1,800 in a short period of time. “Don’t wait until a disaster happens to make it a priority,” Koch advised. Later in the year we funded a system of security cameras protecting the grounds around Klauer Campus.

Academically, we have remained strong, with a faculty with a higher percentage of advanced degrees than the faculty at UNM main campus. In addition, we supported the free Fall Lecture Series and the annual Keystone public lecture at the Harwood, which faculty member Dr. Marty Hewlett facilitates. This year’s guest speaker was nationally respected Dartmouth professor Lloyd Kasper, who spoke on immunology and the gut microbiome.

New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich came to see us in February. He wanted to become more familiar with UNM-Taos, discuss federal programs, and talk with local business owners in the field of solar energy. Senator Heinrich took special interest in the 3.5 acre solar array that powers the Klauer campus. “Here in Northern New Mexico people understand that so much of the local economy is built on the quality of the landscape,” the Senator said. “There is no conflict here between a better job future and the incredible, God given resources that we have.”

To be an HIS—a Hispanic Serving Institution—you have to have at least 25 percent Hispanic student enrollment to qualify for major federal programs. UNM-Taos has over 60 percent, and has become a major participant and contributor to the national organization, AHSIE, the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators. In April UNM-Taos was the third most highly represented institution at their annual conference. The current President of AHSIE is our grants administrator, David Trujillo; President-Elect is UNM’s Jennifer Gomez-Chavez; and this year’s Secretary is Anita Bringas, our Institutional Research and Title V Grant Administrator. Other attendees were Patricia Gonzales, Student Affairs Director; Bella Rodriguez , Advisor; Diego Trujillo, head of our CASA Tutoring Program; Rosina Chaparro, Financial Aid Officer; and Dr. Jessica Hernandez-Guzman, HIS STEM Grant recipient.

Playing a prominent role in national Hispanic organizations doesn’t stop here, however. In October our Executive Director Dr. Kate O’Neill was asked to comment for The Voice, the primary publication of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

About The Bill Knief