UNM-Taos: a branch with deep roots

By Bill Knief

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UNM-Taos has been many things to many people over the past decade, since the New Mexico State Legislature granted us official status as a branch of the University of New Mexico in 2003. In that time many thousands of Northern New Mexico citizens have come through its doors—an estimated 3,000 this academic year alone—each with a goal and a purpose in mind that the college must try to fulfill.

Some students seek out higher education primarily for personal enrichment. These are the lifelong learners that gain a sense of dignity and self-worth by delving beneath the surface to uncover the amazing beauty and complexity of the world around them. Some come simply for the stimulating social interaction a college can provide. Some are here as a starting point for an academic career, and will eventually move on to the UNM-Taos Bachelor and Graduate Program, or transfer their hard-won credits to a four year university. Some are working toward a degree or certificate that will sharpen their skills and make them more competitive in the workforce of tomorrow.

Others pursue a license or re-certification in a particular field. High school students can obtain both high school and college credit for core courses that give them a taste of college life while creating substantial savings in both time and money for their families. The list goes on and on. Single parents have told me they have gone back to school so they can provide a better life for their children, and be a more positive role model for them. One student said “I have to succeed at UNM-Taos because I don’t want to go back to the kind of life I was leading.”

All these reasons are perfectly valid. They are each a part of our mission to provide quality, affordable education for all who seek it and are willing to work hard to attain it.

We’ve come a long way in ten short years. According to the most recent Institutional Effectiveness Report, for the academic year 2003-2004, our headcount was 2,415 students taking 16,882 credit hours. Ten years later, headcount had risen to 3,228 students and credit hours had increased to 27,606. In other words, in ten short years UNM-Taos annual enrollment has increased by 813 students and 10,784 credit hours. This has enormous, positive social and economic implications for our community.

This Fall’s enrollment has been brisk throughout the summer months, and we expect to meet or exceed last Fall semester’s all-time high of 1,705 students. With a start date of August 19, there is still time to talk to an advisor, find out about financial aid and sign up for classes. But any student planning to enroll in the Fall shouldn’t wait any longer. We have limited space available, and a lot of exciting things going on as part of our ten year celebration.

We are revitalizing the snack bar on Klauer Campus and making the college more student-friendly. We have installed beautiful shade sails in the patio area outside Pueblo Hall and purchased additional furniture for social areas. In addition, we are putting the finishing touches on a 19-camera security network encompassing all outdoor areas. Even though we have had a decade of near-perfect safety on campus, we are determined that the next ten years will be equally secure.

As we approach the beginning of a new semester and a new decade of commitment to higher education in Taos, the UNM-Taos faculty and staff thank the many people who have supported their community college in the past, and look forward to serving them far into the future.

About The Bill Knief