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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: October 28, 2002
Volume 38, Number 8

Extended University meets community needs

By Frank D. Martinez

UNM’s Extended University is further extending its reach to serve more New Mexicans.

Extended University has six field centers —some co-located with UNM branches in Gallup, Los Alamos and Taos, as well as in Santa Fe, Rio Rancho and at Kirtland Air Force Base. Several communities throughout the state also have the capacity to support the delivery of one-way video, two-way audio instruction. In addition to satellite-downlink instructional television, Extended University courses are also delivered on-line via computers, via correspondence and via traditional classroom settings, depending upon local capabilities and resources.

Extended University coursework is also available to UNM main campus students who are employed full-time or who otherwise experience scheduling problems.

Extended University, which began operations at UNM in January 2000, is actively seeking ways to provide student support services in addition to delivering degree completion and upper division and graduate programs to students, especially those at remote locations in New Mexico.

“We’re more student-focused than ever before,” says Jeronimo Dominguez, Ph.D., UNM vice provost for Extended University and dean of Continuing Education and Community services. “The Extended University staff is working hard to ensure that all student service support systems are available to distance education students. We realize that access to library resources, bookstore services, technical support, advisement and other student services is critical for students who are far away from main campus.”

Additionally, he says, the Extended University staff is trying to package and provide degree completion programs that are needed by local communities. “We’re now master planning three-to-five years out, not just year-to-year. We’re using an organizing approach that follows a sequential order so that students can complete degree courses,” he adds.

Courses and programs are developed to serve the identified needs of individual communities, including credit toward UNM degrees in engineering, education, nursing and the Bachelor of University Studies degree.

Of all of the Extended University field centers, the one located in Gallup “is where we’re seeing the most substantial growth. A big part of that is because Gallup is the largest of the UNM branch campuses,” Dominguez says.

The Extended University staff has selected Gallup as a site to offer the Bachelor of Business Administration degree in conjunction with UNM’s Anderson Schools of Management. As part of the three-year pilot program, now in its second year, regular main campus faculty drive to Gallup to teach courses. However, “we want to grow the capacity for teaching those courses at that end. We want to use local resources,” he says.

Although some 190 UNM main and branch campus faculty “have been supported to teach Extended University courses, our capacity to grow faculty at local sites is important to Extended University’s success,” he points out. Expanding partnerships with the state’s local community colleges is also key.

Expansion is also occurring in Farmington where “we’re hiring two faculty members whose appointment will be through the UNM College of Education, but their home base would be the San Juan Community College,” Dominguez says.

Helping New Mexico meet its need for teachers and nurses is a big priority, he says. Currently, there is a need for some 1,500 teachers. “The state has recognized this and we very much appreciate the support we’ve gotten from the state,” he says.
Further, Dominguez says, Extended University has converted from satellite delivery to a fully on-line, web-based program in nursing leading to Registered Nurse/Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN/BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing Administration (MSN) degrees. These students take all their coursework online and perform their clinical internships and practica in hospitals and clinics throughout New Mexico.

Working with the UNM Civil Engineering Department, the Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute and the Construction Advancement Institute, Extended University is preparing to offer an online certificate program in Construction Supervision. “The benefit is the construction industry gets a high-quality product on-line which will help boost the economic development of the state. It’s another program that will help develop the state’s human resources,” says Richard Howell, Ph.D., special assistant to the Vice Provost.
Senior Program Manager Melissa Hilleary says another advantage is that Extended University operates from a centralized management system. “UNM hasn’t added more money to the overall distance mission, but through coordinated programming there is added value at the other end,” she says.

Dominguez projects that, by the end of the 2003 spring semester, about 16,000 students will be engaged in UNM’s Extended University online course offerings. Of this number, approximately 1,300 students will be enrolled in an estimated 65 wholly online courses. However, Extended University is still working to overcome barriers such as funding and infrastructure issues. “We’re trying to figure out how to provide computers to students who need them. They’ll also need technical support for those computers and the local communities need to have telephone systems that support access to online courses,” he says.

“There’s also the question of how fast we can develop emerging technologies. For example, now that KNME-TV (PBS, Ch 5) has converted to digital technology, their ability to broadcast educational programming via KNME-TV will significantly expand the reach of Extended University.”

Ultimately, Dominguez sees Extended University as an asset for both UNM and the state. “It allows us to help the state develop the way it needs to develop, both educationally and economically.”