Klauer Campus

What a little education can do

By Bill Knief

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Just this past spring, Krista Cibis graduated from UNM-Taos with a BUS degree (Bachelor of University Studies) focused on communication, sociology and psychology. At the time, after juggling course work, a job, the demands of family and many miles of commuting, when asked how the commitment to higher education had changed her life, she said with a laugh, “It has changed my life in that now I have no life!”

Two months later, thanks to a substantial scholarship—worth around $30,000.00—she is well on her way toward an Executive MBA (Master’s degree in Business Administration) at Anderson School of Business Administration in Albuquerque.

Cibis has been a familiar face around the UNM-Taos campus for the past couple of years. In addition to being a student she has served as a development specialist working out of the administration building on Civic Plaza Drive. She explained that this required, “…lots of research, lots of communication and financial reporting. The grant writing was a team effort with Chandler (Chandler Barrett, planning and institutional development director) because grant writing these days is a group effort. We do gift processing. I keep track of accounts and our donor relations—meeting with donors and maintaining those close relationships, and researching funding opportunities with corporations and federal organizations.

“Before that I worked for ten years for a not for profit in the inner city in charge of proposal writing, fundraising events, as well as payroll deductions for the University of Illinois and the Black United Fund.”

When she came to Taos Cibis realized that she could complete her degree and still be close to her family. Once she got her BUS she thought about continuing on toward a higher degree, but felt that because of the costs involved, she would have to wait at least a year to take on such a daunting challenge. But she took the GMAT exams anyway, and then, “I got a call and a couple of emails telling me that this scholarship was available. That made me decide to start now instead of waiting till next year.”

Cibis won the scholarship based on test scores as well as recommendations and her grades at UNM-Taos. Now she’ll be driving to Albuquerque every other weekend for the next two years.

“It’ll actually be easier than getting my bachelor’s, though,” she explained. “I was making a two hour commute six days a week to get that.”

Why doesn’t she just get a place in Albuquerque?

“I have my job at UNM-Taos and I don’t want to leave that, but the Taos community is really important to me as well. I have friends and relationships that I’ve built up, and I don’t want to lose those. So it’s worth it to me to remain here. There’s never been a question of moving to Albuquerque.

“I’m really looking forward to it, though. Classes are with executives who have been working for a minimum of eight years, so I’ll be going to class with CPA’s, people from Los Alamos, Intel—people who have been there. We’re divided up into very small groups, so I think it will be similar to what it was like here at UNM-Taos.

“It feels like a natural progression from my work here.”


Extended University, which oversees bachelor and graduate programs at UNM-Taos, is once again going to be administered through main campus in Albuquerque. Mary Lutz will continue to be the director of the program, but will now be employed directly through main campus. Staff members Gina Vigil and Maurio Suazo will remain as UNM-Taos employees. This administrative shift back to the original model will have no impact on past, current or future upper division students other than streamlining some bureaucratic functions.


The New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, which funds about 21 literacy programs throughout the state, recently bestowed their Program of the Year award upon UNM-Taos’s Literacy Center. According to program director Judy Hofer, their focus is with adult students who have reading, writing, math and ESL scores at the sixth grade level and below. She gives coalition money and volunteer coordinator Virginia Leighen much of the credit.

“When we first started people were cynical and said you’re not going to get people to volunteer. Three years ago we started to get funded by the Coalition and had one volunteer. Now we have around 25. A lot of that is Virginia’s doing.”

“I believe we received the award because of our outstanding educational services to the community, supported by our strong and vibrant pool of volunteer workers,” explained Leighten.

Something else that is going to help the estimated 45 percent of the adult population that has basic skill deficiencies is a recent Los Alamos National Laboratories grant in the amount of $45,000.00 awarded to The Literacy Center.

“With these funds we will eventually have a viable computer lab with ten new computers for our students, and we are very grateful to LANL for their support,” Hofer said. “LANL funds programs for the people who are most in need, and the fact that we don’t charge for our services was very compelling to them.”

Persons interested in programs offered through The Literacy Center, in volunteering as a tutor, or in finding out how literacy can be supported in our community should call 758-5904 for more information.

About The Bill Knief