Collaboration Between UNM-LA And LANL Leads To Creation Of Bachelor Of Science In Mechanical Engineering Program

From left, UNM Provost James Holloway, LANL Director Thom Mason, UNM-LA Dean of Instruction Paul Allen, UNM President Garnett Stokes and UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney celebrate Monday afternoon the news of UNM-LA offering a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering program. The program is a collaboration between UNM-LA and LANL. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

From left, Los Alamos County Council Chair Randall Ryti, Dist. 43 Rep. Christine Chandler and LANL Director Thom Mason speak before the event begins Monday. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

From left, UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney, Office of UNM President Chief of Staff Terry Babbitt and UNM President Garnett Stokes speak before the event begins. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
kirsten@ladailypost.com

  • “This is a collaboration that can really change the world.” –UNM President Garnett Stokes

It took some time, but the wait was worth it. Monday, the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) campus along with representatives from the University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory shared a piece of good news: UNM-LA is offering a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.

The extension of the existing two-year pre-engineering program was made possible through a collaboration between UNM-LA and LANL.

To celebrate this accomplishment, UNM-LA hosted an event Monday afternoon at its campus. Various officials including LANL Director Thom Mason, UNM President Garnett Stokes, UNM Provost James Holloway and Cabinet Secretary of Higher Education Stephanie Rodriguez were among the attendees. In addition to speeches, tours were given of the various lab rooms that students in the degree program will utilize.

UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney said this accomplishment was a long time coming. In fact, she said she found in her office a feasibility study about offering a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering that was dated 2015.

“When we said these things take a long time they do because it has to be the right players and the right environment and I think we have all of those things come together,” Rooney said.

She explained she met a lot of engineer majors at UNM-LA who would find employment at the laboratory and planned to finish their degrees at UNM in Albuquerque. However, during the course of going to their job, they didn’t want to travel to Albuquerque.

“So it became a personal mission of mine – how do we help these individuals,” Rooney said.

Collaborating with LANL allows UNM-LA to assist its mechanical engineering students, she said. Students can take the first two years of the program at UNM-LA and finish their degree at the UNM-LA campus through the UNM nationally accredited college of engineering.

To gage how successful this would be, a pilot program was started last year. According to a UNM-LA press release, 40 LANL employees were enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering program. Of these 40 individuals, 15 were in the pre-engineering program through UNM-LA and 25 in the Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering program taking upper division courses.

It was emphasized throughout the event Monday that teamwork was key in making this program a success.

“… This is such a team effort,” Stokes said. “This is a group and community effort. And it is a perfect example of the kinds of initiatives we take at our branch campuses and where we can really reap the benefits … in the communities where our branch campuses are. That’s something to celebrate.”

Dist. 43 Rep. Christine Chandler told the Los Alamos Daily Post she also saw the Bachelor of Science degree as a product of great teamwork between UNM-LA and the laboratory.

“I think this is a long time coming and a commitment of UNM to support the lab and a commitment of the lab to support UNM-LA,” she said. “It’s going to be a great program for laboratory employees to reach their professional goals.”

Los Alamos County Council Chair Randall Ryti told the Daily Post, “It’s just a great opportunity for the employees and for potential future employees of LANL. We (at the County) look for opportunities to support education and we’re pleased to see this collaboration going on between LANL and UNM-LA. It’s a really great effort.”

Throughout the event, it was emphasized that all participants – LANL and UNM-LA – will mutually benefit from this program.

“Our lab has been working particularly hard over the last couple of years to build stronger connections with regional education departments … We’re doing this for a number of reasons,” Mason said. “The main driver is that we need the people with the skills that are going to come out of this program. We are growing, we’ve got a lot on our plate on behalf of the nation, on behalf of the National Nuclear Security Administration, and we’re only going to get that done if we can get the people who meet those skills.”

Stokes pointed out that it is a symbiotic relationship – students have access to a local employer and the potential to begin their careers and the laboratory can hire employees with the skills it needs to achieve its mission, which has effects far beyond Los Alamos.

“This is a collaboration that can really change the world,” Stokes said.

It can also make a positive impact on the students’ lives, Rodriguez said.

“For many New Mexicans college serves as a gateway to bigger opportunities … often times we start that journey at community college,” Rodriguez said. “What I love about this opportunity is these students can go to their local community college, that they can stay in their community and have that impact as opposed to leaving it and leaving their families … with this connection of our two year programs to our four year programs we are letting those students make the decision to stay home with their families and then have a family sustaining career after their degree program and that’s what makes this program so unique and so fulfilling for New Mexico and New Mexicans at this time.”

UNM-LA student and LANL employee Mario Medina, who is currently enrolled in the pilot program, attested to the benefits it gives students.

“One of things that resonated with me was how accessible it was,” he said, adding that UNM-LA is very welcoming and the laboratory is very supportive.

Interested students can apply now at unm.edu/apply/. To learn more about the program, contact Dr. Irina Alvestad, UNM-LA Associate Dean of Instruction and Mathematics and Engineering Division Chair at irina@unm.edu.

Cabinet Secretary for New Mexico Department of Higher Education Stephanie Rodriguez speaks during the event Monday. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

From left UNM-LA Dean of Instruction Paul Allen, Dr. Mario Velardi and UNM Provost James Holloway speak before the event begins. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

From left, LANL Director Thom Mason, Council Chair Randall Ryti and Dist. 43 Rep. Christine Chandler at the event Monday. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

From left, UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney, UNM President Garnett Stokes and Office of UNM President Chief of Staff Terry Babbitt at the event. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Scene from UNM-LA’s special event Monday. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

UNM President Garnett Stokes. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

UNM Provost James Holloway. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

LANL Director Thom Mason. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

UNM-LA student Mario Medina speaks about his experience in the pilot program for the Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Scene of the event. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

CSTsiteisloaded