Taos Pueblo Leadership Academy: a collaborative effort to support Native American workforce training

March 9, 2022


Photo by Scott Gerdes


In a local effort to build an economy that works for everyone — specifically to support Native American job seekers, employees, and businesses — UNM-Taos and Taos Pueblo created a workforce training program.

“A few years back, Chenoa [Velarde, Senior Student Program Advisor] reached out to me regarding noncredit workforce training (at Taos Pueblo),” recalled Victoria Santistevan, UNM-Taos Department Chair, Professional Skills and Community Engagement. “The Taos Pueblo Education and Training Division was looking for staff professional development, specifically computer training. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship/partnership with our friends at Taos Pueblo.” 

Around that same time in 2019, Gov. Richard Aspenwind began his tenure as the leader of the Pueblo. The Taos News reported education as being one of his priorities. The Pueblo has an established education center next door to the Red Willow Farm. He told the Taos News they “would like to expand services there, such as offering continuing and higher education classes.” 

Santistevan, Velarde, and UNM-Taos Strategic Support Manager Anita Bringas were instrumental in creating this collaborative relationship between UNM-Taos and Taos Pueblo.

“We began meeting with Pueblo leadership on developing a training program and began with Customer Service held in Bataan Hall,” Santistevan said. “From there, we began planning a full-fledged Leadership Academy initiative. Unfortunately, COVID shut us down.”  

However, during the summer of 2021, Velarde asked if UNM-Taos could help the Pueblo’s Tiwa Language Program with computer training. “We were able to teach this noncredit course live and the office has asked for more,” said Santistevan.

As for the immediate future of the collaborative efforts, Santistevan relayed, “We are back to planning Leadership Academy. Last year, I met with the Pueblo’s human resources and central management directors to begin discussing training. We started in December (2021) with Leadership Essentials and Customer Service, and will continue trainings this year.” 

The next class is March 15 and will cover Emotional Intelligence (EI), which is most often linked to empathy and refers to the ability to identify and manage one's own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Studies show that people with high EI have better mental health, greater job performance, and enhanced leadership skills.