I moved to Los Alamos in 1969. At that time there was no institution of higher learning present in the community. The community was negotiating with UNM to establish a branch. They wanted a way to enhance the learning opportunities for those in the community. In 1970, UNM established a branch and it became known as UNM-LA.
I was the first biology teacher hired at the new branch. For the first seven years I taught General Biology, Plant Taxonomy, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Ecology. Then later I taught community education classes.
In the early years, we were housed in what is now L-Wing of Los Alamos High School (presently the home of PEEC.) There were a handful of us teaching the basic college courses. It was both an exciting and challenging time. Resources were limited. I had to conduct my labs in the High School with the wonderful cooperation of the high school teachers.
The student ratio was interesting and dynamic. There were high school students, housewives going back to school, senior citizens working towards a degree, and scientists from the Laboratory changing their careers. In the classroom, the idealism of youth met experience of age making for a rich educational exchange. But the most important thing was the excitement about having the opportunity in the community to experience higher education.
Today we have a dedicated building with labs and library and a wonderful listing of classes. UNM-LA has come a long way since the early 1970s, 40 years ago. Over the years, the institution has provided for learning of all age groups. UNM-LA has provided training in specialized areas and served the public through community education. It is hard to remember a time when we did not have an institution of higher learning.
UNM-LA is part of the quality of life for Los Alamos and the surrounding area. Having access to education without having to travel far is an important part of our community. It is easy to forget a time when there was no UNM-LA and not such opportunity. Let’s support UNM-LA in this election to assure that both present and future opportunities still exist in Los Alamos.