Campus News - October 15, 2001
UNM's best kept secret
Taos blends academics, trades
By Carolyn Gonzales
James Rannefeld, dean of instruction at UNM-Taos, is passionate about
integrating academic education with career training.
UNM-Taos has six Career Academies offering programs created around the needs of the Taos community, says Rannefeld.
Offering programs in arts and culture as well as science and math dispels
the myth that Taos is only an arts town, says Rannefeld, noting
that a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program is being added next year.
Other Career Academies focus on business and computer technology, professions
and liberal arts, health and human services, and trades and industry.
Each academy integrates both academics and career-technical courses and
programs. By intermingling we hope to prepare our students for a
career that is relevant to them, whether they want to become professors
or plumbers, he says.
Taos offers only one four-year degree, a BUS, through Extended University,
16 associate degrees and 17 certificate programs for its 1,200 students
in 170 classes. Student enrollment is split almost 50-50 between academics
and career-technical programs.
Taos also offers concurrent enrollment for high school students. Since
opening up UNM-Taos to those students, the area high school has adapted
the academy system model. We can offer a seamless K-14 educational
environment, says Rannefeld, noting that they are also working with
Questa, Peñasco, Cimarron and Mora. Getting students involved
and thinking ahead helps them to move to UNM-Taos or main campus readily,
UNM-Taos is a bargain, too. At $38 per credit hour, classes are one-third the cost of main campus.
Being responsive to community requests has led UNM-Taos to offer outdoor education to train river rafters and ski patrols and healing arts. The healing arts program is expansive. It includes courses in oriental medicine, acupuncture, drumming, massage, yoga, akido, holistic health and more, says Rannefeld.
Rannefeld looks at German education
UNM-Taos Dean of Instruction James Rannefeld took part
in a trip to Germany offered through UNMs Atlantic Bridge on the
Camino Real. The program provided participants the opportunity to look
at the German dual vocational educational system.
He appreciated the opportunity to see the historical guild
system at work, but more importantly, he says, Vocational studies
are not looked down upon in Germany. Vocational training and academics
are mutually respectful of one another, he says, adding that everyone
should be respected for who they are and what they do.
He says there is no such thing as one size fits all education and we cant view those outside the college track as failures. Some people learn on the job, as we saw in Germany and we see here. That is a valid education. Learning is a key survival skill.
Rannefeld says that instruction is excellent because many teachers retire in
the area and want to remain involved. Finding people to teach trades is
more difficult, though, because good trades people make more money practicing
their craft than working in the classroom, he says, noting that the same
holds true with computer technicians.
One-fourth of our students go on to UNM or another institution,
says Rannefeld who notes that students who come out of UNM-Taos or a community
college setting are more successful, more prepared for the remaining two years
of their education than those who start at a four-year school.
Rannefeld points to a corollary benefit to integrating academics and trades.
Increasingly students who start out in career technical programs decide
later to pursue academic programs.
Rannefeld is typical, perhaps, of many of his friends and neighbors in Taos.
Hes well-educated with a bachelors degree in paleontology from Texas
Tech and a masters degree in oceanography from Texas A&M. He got burned
out in academia and became a carpenter. Like many other Taoseños,
he went into business for himself, at one point having 10 craftsmen working
for him and showing and selling his furniture internationally.
He ended up at UNM-Taos after his wife suffered a serious accident completely
altering their lives. He taught woodworking, revamped the art department, became
vocational coordinator, director, and now dean of instruction and oceanography
He says UNM-Taos has come a long way in the eight years hes been there. He credits its affiliation with UNM for much of it.
Prior to this, the school had been affiliated with the Northern New Mexico
Community College in Española and had an association with Highlands,
in Las Vegas, as well.
Resources hadnt been forthcoming before UNM. Career and technical programs jumped by 40-50 percent for awhile, he says.
Taos gets its money through a state allocation, just as main campus does, and
it provides a fee to main campus. They also recently received a Title V grant
of $2 million over five years. It helped us double our full time faculty
from four to eight, says Rannefeld, indicating that the school employs
120 adjunct faculty.
Were worth paying attention to, says Rannefeld. Were UNMs best kept secret.
University of New Mexico
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