graduation 2011

UNM-Taos: onward and upward

By Bill Knief

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“The community college is a vital link between worlds,” observed UNM-Taos Executive Director Dr. Kate O’Neill after the 2011 commencement ceremonies, “and our graduation exercises are truly a community celebration. We are proud to play a part in helping people discover themselves and what life holds for them.”

May 13 Bataan Hall was filled to overflowing with the friends and families of 110 graduates plus another hundred students getting their GED diplomas. There was standing room only an hour before the ceremony started.

“Commencement brings the people of this community together,” reflected Jim Gilroy, Dean of Instruction, “from all cultural, social and economic backgrounds. In my eight years as Dean this was the largest number of graduates we’ve ever had. That speaks to the level of seriousness of all our students to commit themselves to either the workplace or ongoing degrees. It was significant that when our GED students came up on stage, almost to a person they stated either to myself or to Dr. O’Neill that they would see us in the fall. This is a gateway event for them.

“Afterward, I got an email from the Vice President for Academic Affairs congratulating UNM-Taos for having more graduates than our counterpart down at Valencia, which has a thousand students more than we do. They noticed that at main campus and wanted to extend their congratulations.”

Gilroy feels that much of the students’ success is a result of strong academic advising coupled with an exceptional faculty and staff.

“I had an opportunity to meet with the Department of Higher Education recently and what they are looking for is honestly what we are already taking very seriously here: academic success measured in degrees and certificates. Not just statewide but nationally, Higher Ed. is looking for that completion so that students can move on and engage the broader community in economic development initiatives that make our communities robust and vibrant. I am reminded of comments by our state legislators and our mayor that UNM-Taos serves as a powerful economic engine in northern New Mexico.”

But equally important are those students who simply want to sharpen their skills, or perhaps brush up on an area that they feel they are lacking in.

“I think what a lot of our students strive for and what many Taosenos love is the opportunity to be creative, to have autonomy, and to remain individuals. And if they are able to develop a good set of business skills, they can make a living in a way that is meaningful to them and to their families within their cultural background.”

Also during graduation Louis Moya, our Development Director, was signing up members for our newly formed Alumni Association. Moya feels that this long-overdue organization will give people throughout the Taos area a chance to participate directly in the growth, direction and continuing success of UNM-Taos. You can reach Louis at or give him a call at (575) 737-3737 to talk with him about the various ways each individual can support the vital role of higher education in our community.

In other news, last Friday, May 20, the UNM-Taos ADN-RN Nursing Program hosted 50 nursing deans, directors and educators representing 18 different nursing programs from across the state in Padre Martinez Hall on the Klauer campus.

The New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium got together to review standards, core concepts and curriculum, as well as to support the mission and goals of the NMNEC. According to Kathy Falkenhagen, Director of the UNM-Taos Nursing Program, the group was greatly impressed with the campus, the modern facilities and the panoramic landscape surrounding our college. They discussed creating a common core curriculum in nursing education and developing an efficient and easily accessible Baccalaureate program for students.

Just one more example of the significant, statewide role UNM-Taos plays in supporting higher education.

About The Bill Knief