Excitement Fills 2017 UNM-LA Graduation Convocation

Graduates, family members and friends fill the Crossroads Bible Church for  UNM-LA’s 36th Annual Graduation Convocation Friday evening. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

UNM-LA CEO Dr. Cindy Rooney speaks to the graduates at Friday’s ceremony. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Zandree Stidham delivers the Convocation Address to UNM-LA graduates. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

 

By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post

Excitement filled the air at the University of New Mexico – Los Alamos’ (UNM-LA) 36th Annual Graduation Convocation Friday evening at Crossroads Bible Church.

“It is my honor to share with the audience that UNM-Los Alamos is continuing to grow,” UNM-LA CEO Dr. Cindy Rooney told the crowd. “While enrollments in higher education around the state are declining, we are experiencing three consecutive years of significant growth. This semester we had 1,128 students enrolled in academic courses at UNM-LA, the largest semester enrollment at UNM-LA. We are not only growing in the number of students enrolled, we are also growing in the number of graduates. Tonight, we will be granting awards to some of the 97 students who collectively have earned 116 degrees. This is also a record for UNM-LA. We strive to provide a high-quality education at a reasonable cost and we believe that is part the reason for our growth. We are committed to serving our community and remain thankful to the community for their support, especially in the mil levy election held earlier this year.”

As the graduates entered the auditorium Friday evening, Dr. Rooney led the procession carrying the UNM-Los Alamos mace. In higher education, a mace is used as a symbol of university scholarship and integrity and is used to lead the academic procession at commencement and other special ceremonial occasions, signifying the importance of the event and the conformation of the academic process.

The new UNM-Los Alamos mace was constructed and donated by Advisory Board members Dr. Pat Soran. After learning that the college was interested in obtaining a mace, Dr. Soran volunteered to design and build this mace. He worked with Skip Canfield, who teaches in the UNM-LA machine shop to use a plasm cutter to serve as the emblem for this year’s mace. Dr. Soran’s wife Ann Hayes was very involved in this process as well, Dr. Rooney said. 

Dr. Rooney explained that at UNM-LA, staff often talk about the ways that the college serves its diverse students as preparation for transfer… pathways for careers … and passion for lifelong learning. 

“As you look at the graduates tonight, you will notice that a large number of our graduates have chosen transfer degrees, degrees in pre-engineering, pre-business and pre-professional health sciences,” she said. “We also have graduates in the Associate of Applied Science programs who have chosen a two-year degree that can allow them to enter the workforce immediately. And we have many students who have completed academic certificate programs. We are pleased to celebrate tonight our first graduates in the Personal Care Attendant and Certified Nursing Assistant programs that we began this year. We celebrate the commitment and the achievement of each student and each degree.”

During Friday’s ceremony, Dr. Rooney called on all the student graduates who are military veterans and all veterans and active military personnel in the room to stand and be recognized. The military veterans and active military personnel received enthusiastic and grateful applause.

Dr. Zandree Stidham delivered the Convocation Address to which she received a standing ovation. She is an Assistant Professor of Communications and the Writing Program Coordinator at UNM-LA where she teaches all levels of composition, linguistics and technical communications. Her professional research and writing focuses on equity and access in education, specifically among marginalized populations.

Each year, a student is invited to speak at graduation and Friday evening, Kaylen Pocaterra, Associate of Arts, Pre-Business Administration, delivered the speech. A student also is selected annually to represent the students receiving their High School Equivalency Diplomas. This year Zachary Braatz was selected for that honor.

Dr. Jerry Dominquez from the UNM Provost Office was unable to attend Friday’s graduation but sent his remarks, which Dr. Rooney shared with the graduates.

Greetings from UNM main campus. On behalf of the UNM Board of Regents President Robert Doughty and members of the Board, Acting President Chaouki Abdallah and Acting Provost Craig White we want to congratulate all the graduates of UNM-LA and their families on this wonderful achievement of receiving their diplomas and certificates today.

Your educational journey takes another step forward. Stay committed to your education. In today’s economy without an education your opportunities for a better job a better future are limited.

We also want to recognize and acknowledge the work of Dr. Cindy Rooney, the UNM-LA faculty, staff, administration and the UNM-LA Advisory Board for your hard work and dedication to the students. Your effort has made a difference. UNM-LA continues to make impressive advancements. When everyone pulls together good things happen.

We also want to recognize the community for supporting the mil levy. UNM-LA, its students and the community as a whole will all benefit and will build on this support to advance UNM-LA’s mission.

Once again congratulations to all the graduates, celebrate, be thankful and be safe. I am sorry I could not be with you this evening to be part of this important event.

Dr. Rooney announced several upcoming retirements at UNM-LA. She said that Lisa Wismer, who has served as the manager of Business Operations for seven years has recently announced her plans to retire July 1. Kay Willerton has served 30 years at UNM-LA, the past two years at Interim Dean of Instruction. She plans to retire July 1 as well. Dr. Cedric Page who has served UNM-LA for 10 years, seven as executive director, has been named the first Professor Emeritus at the college, Dr. Rooney said.

“As we talk about the retirements, we are also engaged in the process of filling these vacated positions,” Dr. Rooney said. “Today we received word that all of the paperwork has been completed for hiring our next dean. Tonight, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Sharon Hurley, who served as our Associate Dean this past year, will be our new Dean of Instruction beginning July 1.”

At the close of Friday’s graduation ceremony, Dr. Rooney encouraged the graduates to express appreciation to their support networks.

“Graduates, tonight’s ceremony is a time to celebrate your accomplishment, your milestone,” Dr. Rooney said. “Enjoy the occasion, accept the congratulations. But at some point, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, please take a moment and reflect on your family members, your friends, your professors, and others who have helped you achieve this milestone. Please, share with them your gratitude for the role they have played in your life. I encourage you to express your gratitude.”

Graduates honor Dr. Zandree Stidham with a standing ovation. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Kateri Morris welcomes the graduates and lets them know the ceremony is being streamed live on the UNM-LA Facebook page. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos High School NJROTC Color Guard. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

LAHS NJROTC Color Guard. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Grace Willerton and Joy Reynolds sing the National Anthem. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Thomas Beach, president of the UNM-LA Faculty Assembly as well as a lecturer in astronomy, announces that Dr. Zandree Stidham is this year’s recipient of the Bobbye Straight Faculty Initiative Endowment. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Interim Dean of Instruction Kay Willerton introduces speaker Dr. Zandree Stidham. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Interim Dean of Instruction Kay Willerton stands as Dr. Rooney announces that Willerton is retiring after serving 30 years at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Sharon Hurley, left, who served as Associate Dean this past year under Kay Willerton, is named the new Dean of Instruction beginning July 1. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Kaylen Pocaterra is the speaker representing students earning Associate Degrees and Certificates. She was awarded her Associate of Arts in Pre-Business degree Friday evening, graduating with honors. She is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa and also a member of the Student Government. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Zachary Braatz, is the speaker representing the students earning the High School Equivalency credential. Braatz is a three-year resident of the Delancey Street Foundation, which is a nonprofit designed to help men and women rebuild their lives. Braatz has committed to the process of changing his life and has become a role model for others in the community, Dr. Rooney said. With the help of UNM-LA, he is received his New Mexico High School Equivalency Credential. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

The ceremony allowed time for each graduate to be recognized and honored for their accomplishment. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Cindy Rooney, faculty and Advisory Board members congratulate each graduate including Victoria Rygh who earned certificates in Personal Care Attendant (PCA) and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) programs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

The graduates turn and express their gratitude to those who have helped them reach this important mile stone. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Gabrial Baca recognizes those students receiving their high school equivalency credential. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Recipients of the Certified Nurses Assistant Certificate. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

The graduates stand and move their tassels to the left. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

UNM-LA CEO Dr. Cindy Rooney poses with graduates including Victoria Rygh who earned certificates in both the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) programs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Cedric Page, center, has been named the first Professor Emeritus at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

New degree … new motorcycle? Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

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