UNM-LA Serves Broad Community Interests

By Sonja Velazques
Los Alamos High School Junior

The following story based on a series of interviews done by Sonya Velasquez, a junior at Los Alamos High School. She was a part of the Community Internship Collaboration (CIC), a UNM-Los Alamos  program in which UNM-Los Alamos undergraduates and LAHS juniors and seniors take part in project-based mentored internships while also taking a class that covers topics such as business communication, problem solving, and time management. Velasquez’s internship was based on promoting several programs at UNM-LA that positively impact the community. Her mentor, Laura Loy, who is the CIC coordinator, helped her to learn how to interview and what to include in the reports.

Dr. Cindy Rooney
Making a Difference in People’s Lives

Last month I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Cynthia Rooney about her role at UNM-LA. Rooney was asked to be interim CEO of UNM-Los Alamos in August of 2015 and named CEO in March 2016. With her 23 years of experience teaching and passion for higher education, Rooney indicated she was willing to serve. Rooney has lived in Los Alamos for 18 years and throughout her time working for UNM-LA has been able to appreciate what the campus has to offer, she said.

As a campus, UNM-LA has more to offer than some colleges, Rooney said. UNM-LA is both a branch campus and a community college. Because it is a small campus, classes are small and personal. This makes it easier for students to learn and easier for teachers to teach, she said.

According to Rooney, one  of the advantages of UNM-LA being both a community college and a branch campus is that students can choose to take their first two years here and then transfer to UNM in Albuquerque. They can also transfer to other colleges. However, that is not the only option for people who go to UNM-LA; the college also offers numerous associate degrees and certification programs that prepare students to enter directly into the work force.

A lot of the programs offered at UNM-LA directly impact the Los Alamos community. For example, UNM-LA offers an in-depth EMT training. The graduates of this program often become EMTs for the Los Alamos Fire Department and end up helping people in Los Alamos. UNM-LA worked together with the LAFD to make this program; people working for the LAFD need training to be promoted, and so UNM-LA answered the need to provide the training, Rooney said.

Asked about the importance of UNM-LA, Dr. Rooney had countless things to say. In respect to the role it serves in the community, it serves a very diverse group. There are an increasing number of LAHS students, and students from other areas in New Mexico, choosing to start at UNM-LA. There are also students who live in this community who decide to change careers, or just take a class. Los Alamos National Laboratory attracts employees from around the world, and many times, their family members choose to take classes at UNM-LA. People in the community come from different backgrounds and have different life experiences. Students at UNM-LA benefit from that diversity.

 “UNM-LA is a community college that strives to serve the Los Alamos community and make a difference in the lives of the citizens of this community,” Rooney said.

Niccolo Snyder
LAHS Junior Expands Horizons at UNM-LA

Niccolo Snyder, a junior at Los Alamos High School, has always been interested in sports. One thing he has been particularly interested in has been writing sports articles. When he found out about the opportunity to write sports articles for the Los Alamos Daily Post through the Community Internship Collaboration(CIC) at UNM-Los Alamos, he was very excited and interested. Unfortunately, when Niccolo heard about the program he was a sophomore and so not old enough to participate, but decided that he would apply for the program as a Junior.

After applying for the internship and being accepted, he was enrolled in the CIC program. Through this program he has been able to have his dream job, get paid for it, earn both high school and college credit, and learn about the business world. Snyder has learned a lot about sports, being a journalist, and being in the workforce; he is extremely pleased with the internship and the CIC class.

Snyder said he feels that UNM-LA is seen as a last resort rather than a first choice for many newly graduated high school students, and he hopes that this view will change. Snyder commented that UNM-LA is an amazing resource for high school and college students, as well as other people in the community who may have already finished school. He mentioned that there are so many different classes that there is something for everyone in the community. For example, UNM-LA offers a variety of music and art classes, including a class on learning how to play the Didgeridoo, a traditional Australian wind instrument.

One thing that Snyder was really excited about is the possibility of food services being offered on campus. He said that this change could help bring the community together, even if just for lunch. He especially thinks that the food will interest high school students, whose classes are just across the street from the college. Snyder said he is very hopeful for a more united and supportive community.

Snyder is very grateful for all the opportunities UNM-LA offers and hopes that the community is as supportive and enthusiastic as he is.

Kristy Ortega
Earning a Degree, One Class at a Time

UNM-LA is a college that serves the community, and Kristy Ortega, executive director of  Northern NM United Way  is a clear example of this. Ortega has been working on getting her associate’s degree in liberal arts, and she is taking it at her own pace. Being a busy employee and mother, she is unable to take normal classes or take many classes to get her degree. Instead, she is taking online classes-one or two a semester-through UNM-LA.
For Ortega, online classes are a critical part of her being able to get her degree. The flexibility of the classes is what makes it possible for Ortega to take her classes while keeping up with her busy life. After she gets her associate’s degree, she is planning on moving on to her bachelor’s in liberal arts; again, she will be taking online classes. The majority of the program can be done online. Another very important asset is the teachers and tutors available to student like her. Ortega said the tutors have helped her to succeed. “All of my online professors have been very helpful”, which shows how the teachers at UNM-LA care about their students and students’ educations,” she said.
Ortega  mentioned that the online classes offer diversity. She has taken online classes with different people of different ages, experiences, and backgrounds. This diversity of people is very interesting and engaging. The online classes make that kind of diversity possible, she said. Online classes offer another learning opportunity for people who are unable to take classes at UNM-LA. An additional component of UNM-LA is that it  helps people get the education they want at an inexpensive cost of attendance, Ortega said. Each class at UNM-LA costs less than $100, which is very affordable, especially compared to many other colleges. The low price of classes helps give lower income people and families a chance at getting a higher education without worrying as much about the price of it, she said.
UNM-LA and United Way are working together to offer a class about retirement. This class is geared towards helping people close to retiring to know what they will be doing while in retirement. Hopefully the people who take this class will find it beneficial and relevant, she said.
Alex Zubelewicz
UNM-LA Helped Local Resident to Transition Into College and the Workforce

Whenever someone at UNM-LA needs a building opened, or needs to rent a space for a meeting, or just needs a smile, Alex Zubelewicz is who they know to go to. Zubelewicz is the special events coordinator at UNM-LA, and is always ready and willing to help. After graduating from Los Alamos High School in 2005, he did not know what he was going to do next. He was accepted to both the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, but he realized he did not want to go to such big schools. Luckily, he heard about the Summer Bridge Program at UNM-LA and was able to take summer classes, not only free, but while being paid a stipend. This gave him a kick start and helped to prepare him for the years ahead, he said.

After that first summer with UNM-LA, Zubelewicz stayed for two more years to complete his prerequisites before transferring to UNM-Albuquerque. In Fall 2005, he decided that he wanted to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and started applying for an internship. Although it took a few months, Zubelewicz finally got an internship at the protocol office and was extremely excited, he said.  His job as an intern was to help plan conferences and different events for LANL employees. Even though he did not have any experience in his field, Alex was determined to make the most of his experience, which he did.   

A little while after finishing his degree at UNM, Alex came back to Los Alamos and got a job at UNM-LA as the special events coordinator. He absolutely loves his job. He still plans events, just like he did at LANL. He is passionate about his work and his life and loves doing what he does, Zubelewicz siad

Also, Zubelewicz pointed that UNM-LA offers a quality  education. A large portion of the instructors at UNM-LA have Ph.Ds and share their knowledge with their students. This shows how UNM-LA really cares about what they give to the community, he said.

“UNM-LA gave me the opportunity to start off my career early”, Zubelewicz said.

Heather McClenahan
Diversifying Los Alamos, One Language at a Time

Many people in Los Alamos know the Los Alamos History Museum has been closed for renovations, but not so many know about the new multilingual project the museum is working on. Executive Director of the Historical Society Heather McClenahan was interviewed about the collaboration the History Museum is having with the English as a Second Language (ESL) students at UNM-LA. The students are working with the museum to provide translations of exhibits for people whose main language is not English.

The project between the museum and UNM-LA started in early November. However, the idea for the project is almost a decade old. With the new additions to the museum, McClenahan thought now was the best time to start the project. The translations will not be available until March, but that is just in time for the museum’s biggest visiting season, McClenahan  said.The idea is that the ESL students will not translate each exhibit word for word, but instead will take the main ideas and points of the exhibits and translate those. Once the exhibits are translated, the translations will be made into pamphlets. To insure that the main points are being included, each of the five languages are being translated by small groups. The five languages that are being translated are Russian, Japanese, French, German, and Spanish, which will be in at least three dialects.

The Los Alamos History Museum gets visitors from 140 countries, many of whom do not have English as a main language. The translations will help many people feel more welcomed and included and will better their understanding of the exhibits, McClenahan said. Also, the museum is hoping to get even more language translations, starting with Chinese and Korean, but that will happen after the first five are finished.

The Los Alamos History Museum’s project with UNM-LA’s ESL students will definitely impact the community and will continue to do so for a while. Altogether, the Los Alamos History Museum’s project with UNM-LA will lead to many positive changes in the community, especially for the museum itself, McClenahan said.

Tim Shroyer
Los Alamos County Partners with UNM-LA

UNM-LA does a lot for their students and their community, but it is not always obvious. Tim Shroyer, the training manager for Los Alamos County, was interviewed to talk about the County’s relationship with UNM-LA especially about the trainings they do together. The County does a nine-week training to help increase the education of their staff. UNM-LA’s involvement includes providing teachers and classrooms.

The trainings are given twice a year for nine weeks at a time. Trainees meet for one full day every other week. This training is mostly meant for employees at a supervisory level or higher, and focuses on skills needed for those jobs. Some of the topics of the course include stress management, problem solving, decision making, and management of employees.

Shroyer’s involvement in the program is planning it and teaching parts of it. However, there are others who teach the program. Shroyer, members of the Senior Management Staff, and instructors at UNM-LA teach different sections of the training. One benefit that Shroyer mentioned about having UNM-LA instructors teach the lessons, is that it helps expose the employees to different styles of teaching. They are not being taught by one person alone. UNM-LA provides classroom space at no cost to the County once per every training cycle.

“We’re good for you [UNM-LA] and you’re good for us, ” Shroyer said. Shroyer is confident that the partnership UNM-LA has with the County is bound to become stronger.

Ufemia Bernal Rios
Local College Student Acquires A Job Through UNM-LA Program

Ufemia Bernal Rios, a UNM-LA student and participant in the Community Internship Collaboration (CIC) program, was ready to give up her dream of getting her degree in order to get a full time job to support her family. During the semester, in the midst of her studies and internship, she was actively seeking full-time employment. A true gift came when she applied for, and was offered, a full-time job by her internship mentor at the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, who was also supportive of her continuing her education. UNM-LA’s CIC program gave her the opportunity to provide for her family and continue her dream.

Now that Bernal Rios is employed full time and can support her family, she is able to focus again on her studies, which is what she has always aspired to do. Moreover, she declined a job that could have paid her more and instead continued her position with the Chamber of Commerce, so that she could continue going to college. When asked about education, Bernal Rios said that it “is the key”.

Before someone can apply for internships through the CIC, they must attend an orientation in which the instructors of the class, Laura Loy and Ken Holmes, talk about how to write a resume and cover letter. One of the things they mention is the possibility of getting hired by the mentor of the internship after the semester ends. This is exactly what happened to Bernal Rios. The CIC program gave her the opportunity to work and continue her studies.

Bernal Rios’s experience with UNM-LA has helped her to obtain more knowledge on what she is interested in and on what she feels is relevant. However, sometimes a resume does not show enough about a person, she pointed out.She has strong feelings about the importance of meeting people and of giving people opportunities to show their skills and abilities. Bernal Rios said how valuable and meaningful it is to give people the chance to show their talents and to show who they really are.

Bernal Rios will continue to study at UNM-LA in the spring. Her main interest is in business administration, and she is practicing this at her current job. Bernal Rios’s experience with UNM-LA is not over, and is still a beneficial relationship for both the college and for her.