Schiferl: Why I’m Running For UNM-LA Board

Los Alamos

Why am I running for the UNM-LA board?  The challenges for UNM-LA revolve around careful allocation of resources and improving administrative procedures – numbers, details, budgeting. I’ve always been a numbers and detail person. I’ve been a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, working both in statistical methods and applied metallurgy. Even within the Lab, I was the “math/detail person,” checking whether the results of both experiments and computations made physical sense.  I have an MS and PhD in physics from the University of Arizona and a BA and MS in biology from the University of Chicago. I also have extensive accounting experience as a tax preparer for H&R Block (small business and foreign postdocs), as a volunteer tax preparer for AARP, and as a business owner.

I’ve been involved with the UNM branch and UNM-LA since the late 1970s, first as a computer programming student, later as an adjunct math professor, math and science tutor, and always as a continuing-education student (poetry and art).

Like most applicants for the UNM-LA board, I’ve been on other boards, usually for logistics – scheduling, managing resources, overseeing details.

Nevertheless. most of you know me as a musician.  I took early retirement from the Lab in 1997 to go back to music, my first love, a product of years of pre-professional training as a concert pianist and as a member of a musical family. I’m also the one carting the big harp around. After retiring from physics, I have volunteered at many of the Los Alamos schools:

Chorus accompanist and music coach, playing for contests and competitions for the high school and middle school for more than 10 years, coaching and accompanying for All-State and Solo and Ensemble — advocating for our low-vision students at the state-level auditions; Music director for two big Piñon Elementary School musicals. I’ve also had a private studio, and directed music at churches and local theatre groups, arranged music and even done a few commercials and tracks on vocal CDs.

I’m particularly interested in two challenges for UNM-LA:  First, with the new mil levy funding, we can restore missing personnel and shrunken programs.  It might even be possible to expand and consider programs for movie techs – a fast-growing jobs area in New Mexico.  Second, we should fix some major administrative problems — the needlessly complicated registration process, hiccups in transferring credits, and the lack of standardization between campuses for some mid-level courses, like statistics.

Course registration is a major issue. I’ve seen courses cancelled because students became so frustrated that they quit trying to register. In other cases, the conscientious staff dropped everything and helped several students get through the log-jam and the course could proceed. This week I heard from a dual-credit student’s family that gave up on courses because of registration frustration. Another student with an associate’s degree from UNM-LA struggled with contradictory instructions at registration, cancellation of required courses, and difficulties in transferring math classes. These problems appear to affect a good deal of the student body and should be addressed. A better system would bring in more revenue (fewer cancelled classes) – and lower expenses (less staff time fixing problems).

I am running for the UNM-LA board in large part to improve these processes. With the mil levy, there might be some breathing room to fix them.

If you are interested in continuing this discussion, I would welcome your support. You can email me at

The board elections are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Feb. 7, at the Municipal Building and White Rock Library. Everyone in Los Alamos and White Rock can vote for all positions on the UNM-LA board. Early voting ends Friday at the county clerk’s office.

I am running for position 5 on the UNM-LA board.