Accelerating success at UNM-Taos

Re-printed with permission; originally published in the UNM-Taos Report on September 14, 2015

The UNM-Taos Accelerate Program, which is funded by a grant from the Department of Energy, is one of the programs I like to check in on every once in a while, because it embodies many of the best practices we try to employ in all our program and course offerings. While Accelerate starts with students who are statistically less likely to succeed in college, the results of in-depth support can be substantial. They just finished what they call their Summer Math Experience, an eight-week intensive, so I asked Avelina Martinez, who has been running the program for the last three years, to give us an update.

“Our students meet the demographic markers Accelerate has laid out: they are non-traditional, minority, first generation college students. The program is unique in the sense that we use an online curriculum so that students are able to go at their own pace, but we supplement that with two in-class instructors and a tutor,” Martinez said. “This summer, our students as a group logged over 200 hours of tutoring outside class, and I’m proud to say that one hundred percent of our students passed the summer program and will be continuing at UNM-Taos in the fall. When you compare that to other classes that don’t have that extra support, it’s a real victory over the math phobia that so many students have.

“We work with our students holistically. We try to determine what their career goal is, and then work backward from there to identify which academic program will help them get to that goal. That way we can lay out a really clear career path, and once a student is engaged with their education, they start to realize that they can actually attain that goal, and that it fits into the bigger picture of their life.

“Our first generation students are often not really familiar with the verbiage and culture of higher education. It’s new, it’s intimidating, and it’s a big financial commitment to take on. When you have financial and time commitments competing with basic needs and family, it can be really intimidating.

“But by being able to sit down with a student and really listen to what career goals they have, and align those with the right program, we start to see a lot of success in terms of graduations. That, in turn, helps our numbers at UNM-Taos and emphasizes the importance of having a community college with acceptable tuition and classes close to home. It then becomes practical for students to attend, and the impact on our community is a lasting one.

“For example, I had a non-traditional student, a single father, who came in and he wasn’t really sure that this was the place for him, but he did really well in his classes and we encouraged him to stay. Now he’s making efforts to enroll his child into early childhood programs, and I can see that, by him finding a place at UNM-Taos and knowing that he has a career goal that is attainable—it’s not just a dream—he not only sees the value of education in his own life, but he is also going to support his daughter in getting the education she needs in her life.”

I commented that this is the way our whole society can change with gradual improvement from one generation to the next, and Martinez said, “Right. Education just makes our communities healthier.”

The UNM-Taos Fall Semester begins August 17, and more than 800 of your friends and neighbors have already enrolled. You can reach the Enrollment Office by calling 575 737-6215, or you can walk in without an appointment any Wednesday. On August 11 the Student Affairs Department will be open until 7pm on the Klauer campus to help those who can’t come in during regular business hours.


Good News on the NM Education Front

Good news on the NM Education Front July 1 2015

Article on Accelerate Math Experience by Dennis Domrzalski published in the July 1, 2015 edition of the Albuquerque Free Press

Accelerate Intern Featured in LANLToday

Accelerate Student Intern Featured in LANLToday


1/30/15: Accelerate Helps Prepare Students for Careers

Accelerate Helps Prepare Students for Careers
Jan. 30, 2015

Santa Fe, NM –Non-traditional technology and business students from six northern New Mexico colleges will have an opportunity practice the skills vital to finding and establishing a career that they love.  The Accelerate program is partnering with local and regional employers to host a one-day workshop for students graduating in 2015 with associate degree or certificate.  The event is titled “On Course to Your Career”.


7/31/14: Accelerate Program Achieves Significant Improvement in College Graduation Rates

Accelerate Program Achieves Significant Improvement in College Graduation Rates
July 31, 2014

Española, NM, July 31, 2014 – The first three years of the Accelerate Technical Training and Job Placement program show significant increases in persistence and graduation rates. In a July 15th filing, the Regional Development Corporation (RDC) of Española reported that evaluation metrics proved northern New Mexico college students participating in the Accelerate program are achieving greater success in comparison with the general student population.

2/6/14: Students Court Employers at Workshop

Northern New Mexico Students Court Employers at Valentine’s Day Workshop
Feb. 6, 2014

Santa Fe, NM –Non-traditional technology and business students from six northern New Mexico colleges will have an opportunity to spend Valentine’s Day practicing skills vital to finding and establishing a career that they love.

The Accelerate program is partnering with local and regional employers to host a one-day workshop for students graduating in 2014 with an associate degree or certificate. The event is titled “A Date to Remember: How to Stand Out to the Employer of Your Dreams”. Accelerate is a program of the Regional Development Corporation in collaboration with Santa Fe Community College, Luna Community College, New Mexico Highlands University, Northern New Mexico College, the University of New Mexico – Taos, and the University of New Mexico – Los Alamos. The program increases timely technical degree completion, retention, professional readiness, and job placement for participating students.


12/6/13: Accelerate Featured in International Journal

International Journal Publishes Article on Accelerate Math Program
Dec. 6, 2013

Espanola, NM – The Regional Development Corporation (RDC) announced today that an article detailing the results of its Accelerate program’s developmental math classes has been published in the high-profile, high-impact international journal, Problems and Perspectives in Management.

“The most significant single finding in the 2013 evaluation is that the combined content mastery results of the Accelerate math program eliminate and even reverse the ethnic achievement gap often found in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects,” said Dr. Mario Rivera, co-author of the article and Regents’ Professor of Public Administration at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Rivera also served as consulting evaluator for the Accelerate program.


5/12/13: Accelerate Students Graduate From UNM-LA

UNM-LA Holds 32nd Annual Graduation
May 12, 2013

By Bonnie J. Gordon
Published in the May 9 edition of the Los Alamos Daily Post                                                 

Reprinted with Permission
Convocation Speaker Kathy Keith addresses the crowd Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon –

The UNM-Los Alamos Graduation Convocation was held Wednesday, May 8 at Crossroads Bible Church in Los Alamos. Two doctoral degrees, two master’s degrees, three bachelor’s degrees, 54 associate’s degrees and 16 general education development diplomas were awarded at the ceremony.

Kathy Keith, executive director of the Regional Development Corporation gave the convocation address.  The RDC is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to create new jobs and a sustainable economy in northern New Mexico.
“I wake up and go to sleep thinking about jobs,” Keith said. The number one factor for business success is a qualified, well-prepared workforce, she said. “The challenge to our education system is to make sure graduates have the skills employers need.”

Competing in the global economy challenges both businesses and employees, Keith said. It’s not only specific knowledge that is important. Employees are looking for employees who can innovate, collaborate, solve problems and think critically, she said.
“Find a good job where you can contribute, or start a new venture where you can do well by doing good,” Keith urged the graduates.
Paul Edelmann spoke on behalf of students receiving degrees above the associate level. Edelmann was receiving his Doctor of Nuclear Engineer degree at the ceremony.
He shared some advice gleaned from his struggle to get his Ph.D. Edelmann advised the graduates to set a goal and replace it with a new one when it is achieved, be persistent and focused, remember that we can defeat evil with knowledge, tell the truth, live a life based on duty and have faith in God.
Associate Degree Speaker Melissa J. Torres. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/


Melissa Torres spoke on behalf of those receiving associate’s degrees. Torres and her husband Paul are both enrolled at UNM-LA. The couple has three children and are members of San Ildefonso Pueblo. Torres was receiving her Associate of Science in Pre-Professional Health Science degree. Eventually, she plans to apply to a Ph.D. program in physical therapy at UNM.

Torres left school to raise her daughters and returned to college after 11 years.

“My husband and I were out of work and not very employable because we lacked skills,” Torres said. The couple discovered the Accelerate program at UNM-LA and are now on a path to good careers.

Returning to school was scary for Torres. “Don’t be afraid, just do it,” she urged.

Torres encouraged the graduates to celebrate their success. “This is a big deal and we deserve it,” she said. “We’ve reached this diploma and no one can take that away from us.”

This year’s graduation included 12 students from UNM-LA’s Fire Science Program. The group was the first to graduate from the program. UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page thanked Chief Troy Hughes and Capt. Joseph Candelaria of Los Alamos Fire Department for their contributions to the program’s success.

Page closed the ceremony by bidding farewell to Dean of Instruction Kate Massengale, who is retiring in June after many years of service at UNM-LA a member of the faculty and staff. The audience recognized Massengale with a standing ovation.