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The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos recently added some new degree programs to its roster.
They include two-year, associate’s degrees in Fire Science, Robotics, and Internet Technology with Cyber Security.
The programs represent a broad range of degrees that reflect demand in the immediate community. UNM-LA hopes they will benefit people already in the workforce as well as students trying the college experience for the first time.
“The Fire Science Program was in response to the needs of fire departments in the Northern New Mexico region to provide a formal training regimen for individuals in the fire service who want to advance,” UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page said.
Teaching the program is LAFD Capt. Joseph Candelaria, who is also the Fire Science Program Manager. It started as one class, but developed into a full-fledged degree program as it became more popular. According to Candelaria, the program takes its curriculum directly from the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education curriculum from the National Fire Academy. Candelaria added that the unique partnership UNM-LA has with the LAFD makes it easier for local firefighters advance in the ranks.
“Some of the things that are unique to Los Alamos are that we have a partnership with the Los Alamos Fire Department,” Candelaria said. “What’s unique about that partnership is that credits firefighters earn through our department’s Fire Academy can transfer to the Fire Science Program.”
He said they have the same partnership with departments in Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Albuquerque and others.
“It really works as a community partnership to enhance advanced education and degree requirements for the workforce,” Candelaria said.
The Internet Technology with Cyber Security program came about through a grant written by UNM-LA Dean Kate Massengale.
According to Dr. Monique Morin, the professor teaching the two year program, the Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology with Cyber Security program is replacing the school’s Applied Science in Network Administration program.
“We’re migrating from a network administration program to a more solid IT program”, Morin said.
She also added the school has a new computer science program as well, where students taking that course can go on to get a four year bachelor’s in computer science from the University of New Mexico’s main campus in Albuquerque or wherever they choose to go. The program is set to begin this fall.
“On the IT side, if they want to get their careers going right away they can get the A.A.S.,” she said. “In IT, if they’re thinking more of a four year degree, then they can work on the A.S. in computer science, where they can work more toward a four year degree in computer science.”
The university is also offering a program in Robotics, Page said.
Sort of like the Fire Science program, the Robotics program is in response to a growing demand for it. Professor Don Davis started out teaching a few classes about Robotics. UNM-LA also sponsors a robotics team at Los Alamos High School, where Davis also teaches Robotics. So, it was only natural when those students as well as others wanted to know more about this specialized field and UNM-LA responded with a two-year associate degree program on the subject.
“As a result of supporting that competition, Don felt that there was a degree program in the waiting for undergraduates who are interested in robotics,” said Page.
With robotics becoming more prevalent in the fields of manufacturing, medicine and space exploration, the course is already one that’s in high demand.
“If you’re not into robotics in the manufacturing world, you’re way behind the curve,” said Page. “As even the Los Alamos National Laboratory starts to do more in the field of robotics, having an educational institution that trains and prepares individuals to work in that area just seemed to be a natural fit.”
Davis said there’s a reason why the field of robotics is so popular with students and schools in general. First, it’s a program that aligns perfectly with the STEM program (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) that the schools are focused on, and second, robotics is seen by many as a key to making America strong in manufacturing again.
“Robotics is probably the one thing that will level the playing field for American manufacturing, so we can become competitive worldwide again when it comes to manufacturing.”
Page said UNM-LA plans to offer more popular courses in the future as well as partner with the major institutions in town in an effort to serve the residents of Los Alamos.
“We are not a community unto itself,” Page said. “We have to operate within the context of other institutions and partners. That’s how we support each other.”