By Bill Knief
Compiling and then interpreting the core data that defines who we are and how we are fulfilling our mission to the students and communities in our service area is a year-round challenge. Anita Bringas, who just this spring got her associate’s degree in pre-business administration at UNM-Taos, has been charged with that task, and her Spring, 2012 Institutional Effectiveness Report will be available to the public in the next couple of weeks.
Bringas, who claims to be “geeky and proud of it,” says that her job as Administrative Officer at UNM-Taos is about half computer savvy and half people skills. Her roots in Taos run deep. She grew up in a small suburb of Chicago and lived for twelve years in California, but her grandparents spent most of their lives in Taos, and her mother, Isabel, was born in Taos and resides here to this day. Bringas had a life-changing experience that brought her to Taos when she was working in a four star restaurant on the west coast shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit.
“At the time there was such a contrast between my lifestyle and reality,” she recalled. “It really changed my priorities. There we were, talking about the disaster, saying why doesn’t somebody do something, and in my mind that turned into, well, I’m somebody and I can do something. I went through the Red Cross certification process and was deployed to Mississippi and Louisiana three weeks after the hurricane hit. I saw the very best and the very worst of humanity, and when I got back to my old job in California, something had shifted. I realized I was in the wrong business. I packed up my little car, sold or gave away the rest and decided to drive across country.”
Taos was the first stop, and as is often the case in these matters, it was also the last. She worked at a bank, made friends, got involved with the Chamber of Commerce and Taos Entrepreneurial Network, and began taking classes at UNM-Taos.
“If UNM-Taos hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have been able to continue my long term educational goals. After a long and arduous journey, just this spring I finally got my associate’s degree. Call it stubbornness or tenacity, but I’ve always enjoyed taking on new challenges. It took discipline and a desire for self-improvement to hold down a job and take classes at the same time, but it finally paid off. Now I work with David Trujillo in the grants department and Louis Moya in the development office, compile data research for the Branch and support the administration in whatever comes up.
“The Institutional Effectiveness Report tells us how we are doing and shows us how effective we are as an institution. It gives us a snapshot of where we are each semester, and helps us project where we should be in the future. Behind the numbers there is a story to tell about how we can be more responsive and serve our students better. In the next few weeks you will be able to go online at taos.unm.edu and review it.”
The director of the acclaimed UNM-Taos Nursing Program, Kathy Falkenhagen, came back from the National League of Nursing offices in Atlanta last week with good news. The Evaluation Review Committee, made up of 17 deans and directors of nursing programs from around the country, had just completed a two hour review of our program including a self-study and site visit report. Falkenhagen, participating as an observer, said that there were many positive comments and no issues identified. “The group made a unanimous vote for Initial Accreditation that will now go before the Board of Commissioners for final approval,” she reported. “We should have written approval soon, and by mid-August I anticipate full accreditation”
This is just one example of how our small, rural, underfunded community college can compete successfully with its peers on a national scale. Those students who are admitted to the challenging program must not only sustain excellent grades, they have to be highly focused, highly motivated individuals willing to make a personal commitment to excellence on both the personal and community levels. Those who are successful deserve not just our congratulations but our gratitude as well.