August marked the anniversary of Mary Gutierrez, Ed.D., as head of UNM-Taos. As chancellor, she maintains community, legislative, state, and federal relations; provides leadership for strategic planning; and ensures the fiscal integrity and stability of the institution. As a leader, she is guided by a deep commitment to student success and equity, and is recognized for her integrity, communication and inclusive leadership.
UNM-Taos recently caught up with Gutierrez to hear his thoughts on his freshman year.
Q: Why did you want to lead this quorum?
A: I knew I wanted to run a small quorum because small quorums can be focused, nimble and responsive. When I interviewed at Taos, I noticed how many community members showed up, which showed me how important the college is to the community. Some community colleges are “community” colleges in name only. UNM-Taos is truly the college of the community. This community connection is important to me and to the faculty and staff at UNM-Taos.
Q: After living and working in Taos for a year, do you, your husband and your dogs feel acclimatized?
A: Our first year at Taos has been more than we could have ever hoped for. Our dogs jumped in the snow, chased lizards and rabbits and an unimpressed moose, and enjoyed the sun. We enjoyed walks, hikes, snowboarding and snowshoeing, sunsets and more stars than we have ever seen. We were grateful to know our neighbors and many other wonderful Taoseños.
Q: On your first day of visit, where did you go and what did you think of what you saw?
A: The views of the gorge on the drive to Taos took my breath away that first day and still do. My husband, I and our dogs spent much of our first few days in Taos on the gorge trails at the end of (County Road) 110.
Q: What were your goals during your first year at UNM-Taos?
A: My first and most important goal was to listen and learn. My main goal was to expand workforce programs and collaborate with high schools. We are right on that.
Q: Did you accomplish what you hoped for?
A: I believe so. Taos is rich with people who are invested in the community and work hard to protect our resources, serve the community, and ensure that Taos is a place of opportunity for future generations. I had the opportunity to learn and hear from these people over the course of this year. As for our workforce focus, we have hired an associate dean, Dr. Jeannie Baca, to focus on workforce development, we are teaching plumbing courses this fall and working on a welding collaboration with Taos Valley Ranch. We have longer term plans to support the workforce, but I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished in a year.
Q: What concerns you most about the current student outcomes at our college? What excites you the most?
A: Last year we were concerned that we were not fully serving our local community. With online courses, UNM-Taos was accessible to students living anywhere. While it’s great to provide such broad access, UNM-Taos is invested in serving our local community – our high school students, our adults who want to change jobs, who want a degree after years in the workforce. , who want to learn English or complete the equivalence of secondary studies or wish to enrich their lives by taking courses in subjects that have always interested them. This fall, we are excited about the number of new students and new classes. We are committed to bringing face-to-face classes back and working to provide more New Mexicans with access to trades like welding, plumbing, and sustainable construction.
Q: Please explain how you plan to systematically make changes in the culture of a college to improve student access and success. How does your experience influence your understanding of how change processes work in community colleges?
A: Whenever we want to change, we start with what works nationally and then make sure our data matches national trends. If so, we share research, local data and build understanding. By doing this, we start building the property. Change can happen when everyone feels connected and involved. At UNM-Taos, everyone is part of the solution.
Q: What are the hardest things to change on a college campus that you think need to change to improve student access and success?
A: Identifying the problem is never the problem. Driving change means rethinking for the benefit of students.
Q: What educational vision do you have for Taos?
A: To create a university culture. Economic well-being can be affected by education. Whether it’s what happens to a young person after they graduate from high school or what happens to adults who want more opportunity, education creates opportunity.
Q: What do you want Taoseños to know about UNM-Taos that they may not realize?
A: I would like people to know and understand better that it is not necessary to obtain a 4-year degree to go to university. Many trades and industries pay well and are in demand, such as plumbing, truck driving, welding, and construction technology. Associate’s certificates and degrees in these fields can provide salaries to support families and satisfying careers. UNM-Taos offers more options than just a path to a 4-year degree.
Q: Red or green?
A: When I first came to Taos I was ordering Christmas, but started getting some amazing reds, so now I’m leaning towards red.