Lifelong Learners Find Discoveries and Dreams at UNM-LA

Lifelong learners, Craig and June Martin enrich their busy lives through classes at UNM-Los Alamos. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

“It’s hard for me to believe it, but I wasn’t really aware of UNM-LA before I started taking classes,” June Fabryka-Martin said. “Now it’s such a big part of my life. UNM-LA is such a treasure.”

In the seven years since June began taking classes at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos, she has taken more than a dozen courses, some of them more than once. Subjects have ranged widely, and include microbiology, political science, accounting, statistics, biochemistry, Spanish and five different music classes.  

June recently retired from her job as a groundwater hydrologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Now she’ll have time to take even more UNM-LA classes.

One reason June loves taking classes at UNM-LA is that it helps her understand her children’s interests, she said. Daughter Jessica is studying conservation biology at Stanford and son Alex is a music major at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

“It makes me feel in touch with my kids to have a better understanding of what’s important to them,” she said. “I’m also building skills that will allow me to pitch in and help Jessica with her research, such as statistics.”  

Everyone in her family except June is a musician and she began taking music classes to better understand this family passion. She talked her husband, Los Alamos County Open Space Specialist Craig Martin, into taking Jazz Theory with her.

“Since high school, I always dreamed of being in a jazz combo,” Craig said. “Thirty-nine years later, UNM-LA helped that dream happen.”

Craig met drummer John Frary and pianist Aaron Anderson in the class, and the instructor, Lenny Tischler, introduced Craig to bassist Rob Heineman. The musicians began jamming together regularly at the Martin’s house, and the result was The Craig Martin Experience, what Craig calls “the largest and loudest jazz combo in Los Alamos.

Tischler is a working musician (he plays bass) and gigs regularly with his trio in Santa Fe.

“One thing that makes UNM-LA so different from my undergraduate experience is that so many of the instructors are working professionals in their fields,” Craig said. “They bring stories from real life into the classroom.”

One of June’s favorite classes at UNM-LA was American Politics with instructor Mike Wismer, Physical Security Division leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“It’s a treat to take a class taught by someone who works in the field,” June said. “I love his style of teaching.”

June has signed up for another class taught by Wismer, International Politics, for next semester.

“The teachers at UNM-LA are so passionate about their subjects,” June said. “They inspire you.”

The Martins said one of their favorite things about taking classes at UNM-LA was getting to know people of different ages and backgrounds.

“The classes at UNM-LA are small. You get to know the other students and instructor and that doubles the fun and the rewards,” June said. “UNM-LA is so convenient for people who are working and trying to advance themselves. It’s so inspiring to meet students who are pursuing a dream by being there.”

The Los Alamos motto, “where discoveries are made,” resonates with June’s experience at UNM-LA, she said.

“At UNM-LA, you experience self-discovery and make discoveries about how the world works. You also discover community members and learn from them. You discover your community and your neighbors and meet kindred spirits,” June said.

Currently, June is trying to tempt Craig into taking History of Rock and Roll with her this fall at UNM-LA. She’s taking the class for the second time.

“Taking classes in different areas helps to refine your perspective on the world,” June said. “We’re a town that values lifelong learning. UNM-LA offers so much opportunity. I hope we never lose it.”

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about the people behind the scenes at UNM-LA. The UNM-LA special all mail election is Sept. 17.

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