Candidates For UNM-LA Advisory Board Make Their Case

Los Alamos Daily Post

This is part two of coverage of the League of Women Voters of Los Alamos (LWV) Candidate Forum held Wednesday, Oct. 6 via Zoom. It covers UNM-LA Advisory Board positions. Read the part one focused on school board candidates here.

Voters registered in Los Alamos County may vote for one candidate for each position on the UNM-LA Advisory Board.

Alissa Grissom and Chris Luchini are running for Position 1.

Grissom said she has 10 years experience as an instructor on the university level and teaches at UNM-LA. Her first priority is first generation college students and new UNM-LA students who may have trouble adjusting to college, she said.

Retention is a high priority, Grissom said. She would like to see the college look into what it can do when health, financial problems or other factors cause students to leave school.

It is important to make sure our vocational programs are up to date with what is needed by employers, she said.   

Luchini said he has personal experience with how dual credit students (those who attend high school and college simultaneously) benefit from the program but he is concerned that the college must bear most of the cost.

“The program is minimally funded by the state,” he said. “We need to find ways to capture money to cover the program beyond what the state pays.”

Outreach is important to Luchini.

“We need to let potential students know what’s available at UNM-LA through better outreach,” he said.

Position 2 candidates are Charlotte Woodring, Lee Weinland and Charles McCullough.

Weinland is running because he wants to give back to the college after the help UNM-LA provided to his daughter, who is disabled.

“When she started at UNM-LA, Katie was being told she couldn’t succeed in high school,” Weinland said. “She graduated magna cum laude from UNM-LA and is now pursuing a higher degree at UNM-Albuquerque.”

Weinland said he wants to think of ways to expand and promote UNM-LA as an economic resource for the County. The college is currently “undervalued”, he said.

Weinland would like to help build UNM-LA into a better resource for Los Alamos. Revitalizing four year programs is one way to do this, he said.

McCullough has lived in Los Alamos for 40 years and was the pastor of White Rock Baptist Church for 30 of those years, he said.

McCullough said low faculty salaries are a concern. He would like to see a balance of academic and vocational programs, with equal emphasis on both.

“I want to help UNM-LA be the best it can be,” McCullough said. “We have an excellent faculty but larger institutions can offer higher salaries,” he said.

“Dual credit is an unfunded mandate that the legislature needs to fix,” McCullough said.

Expanding four year programs in nursing and education is a goal of McCullough’s. Recruitment and retention also are important, he said.

“People need to know what a treasure and resource UNM-LA is,” McCullough said.

Laura Woodring was unable to attend the forum. She sent a statement, which was read at the event.

Woodring is a mental health therapist with an MA in counseling, she said.

“I have been able to help struggling students in my practice,” Woodring said. “I want to be an advocate for all of the students.”

Vocational programs in occupations needed by the community need to be identified and provided, Woodring said. Filling the program gaps and community outreach are important priorities, she said.

David Hanson and David Hampton are running for Position 5 of the UNM-LA Advisory Board.

Hampton said his passion for the community is what motivated his run for the seat.

“My vision is to support and expand vocational programs as well as four-year degrees,” he said. “We need to engage the Lab and County in our efforts.”

Increasing enrollment is an important goal of his and would help UNM-LA financially and help it better serve the community, Hampton said.

Hanson said that since his retirement he has taken courses at UNM-LA and helped with fundraising.

“Common sense and science are my motto,” Hanson said.

How to operate during the ongoing pandemic is still an important consideration for the college, he said, transitioning from online to in-person learning is an area of concern.

“Security and success of the students is paramount,” Hanson said. “Safely providing an education during the pandemic and making sure we don’t move backwards must be the goal.”

Hanson also said that he would like to see program expansion, especially a nursing associate degree, adding that outreach to local employees would help UNM-LA determine their needs.