Jim Gilroy

The wave of the future at UNM-Taos

By Bill Knief

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He will still be around for another year, but as most people know, Jim Gilroy has decided to step down as UNM-Taos Dean of Instruction in 2012.

“Words can’t convey what a remarkable job he has done as dean over the years,” Executive Director Dr. Kate O’Neill said in an interview last week. “He is just a phenomenal human being. His energy, his dedication, his way with people—it’s hard to describe all the ways he’s had a tremendously positive impact on this college and on this community, and he will be sorely missed. Jim Gilroy’s contributions to our institution will be felt long into the future.”

Under Gilroy’s leadership, the Department of Instruction went through major structural changes over the past year. Anticipating the current budget cuts to higher education and a new funding formula in the works for two year colleges, the DOI went from offering dozens of narrowly defined certificates and degrees to broadly structured degrees supported by areas of concentration which closely align with minors at main campus, and they did this while expanding the number of faculty responsible for student success and completion. Continuing this work is Dr. Randi Archuleta, appointed this summer as Associate Dean of Instruction to help guide the transition to the new paradigm.

Dr. Archuleta holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, Berkeley/Alameda campus. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with ten years of experience at UNM-Taos as an adjunct psychology instructor, coordinator for the psychology program, and, starting in 2010, department chair for social and behavior sciences. Her husband Anthony Archuleta was born and raised in Taos, and they moved back here soon after the birth of their son.

“Nearly everyone I speak to tells me I have very big shoes to fill, and some give me their condolences,” Archuleta said with a laugh. “But I know I can never fill Jim Gilroy’s shoes. Nobody can. It will take a team of people to even begin to do that. I’ll have to create my own footprints.

“The shift from six or seven academy heads governing what has become well over 100 faculty members to the new structure of over 20 department chairs means we have more people filling more diversified positions over areas that they are directly knowledgeable about and can directly oversee. It allows new people to come in and the structure opens up to more faculty involvement, more diversity of opinion, and more experience. Cost wise, I think we are even saving money with this structure, but the greatest benefit is that there is more interaction between students and department chairs, particularly in advising within their subject area.

“The funding formula—how and how much the legislature supports us—is still evolving, but everything appears to be headed toward emphasis on degrees and graduates, and that can be restrictive. From now on, you can only get financial aid for movement toward a degree. You’re not going to get funded just for taking courses for your own edification; you need to be degree-minded and show progress.

“Yet there is a certain amount of education that is an end in itself. You cannot quantify an educated individual. Through education people improve their lives in so many ways. I don’t know that you can say that if you have a degree, that makes you a better person, or more worthy of funding, compared with, say, being a better mother or improving your work skills.

“But this is the wave of the future, and I believe that we have to look on the bright side of the new funding formula. If we’ve got to deal with it we should try to look at what’s best. And what’s best is increasing both student and faculty accountability.”

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