UNM-LA offers new programs

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By The Staff

The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos in collaboration with Doña Ana Community College and Central New Mexico Community College will manage a new, unique collaborative higher education project.

Chief Justice Edward L. Chávez of the New Mexico Supreme Court introduced the New Mexico Center for Language Access on the steps of the Supreme Court building Wednesday.

The Center will help those interested in enhancing their bilingual abilities earn certificates in medical interpreting, justice system interpreting and bilingual communication. The program will begin accepting students this fall.

“The Center for Language Access will help the justice system and other public agencies ensure that all New Mexico citizens have equal access to services regardless of their English language ability,” Chávez said. “Equally important, the Center’s programs will offer a wonderful opportunity for those multilingual citizens among us to leverage their language abilities into a professional career.”

The New Mexico Center for Language Access will use a unique, hybrid, on-line and face-to-face learning model to ensure access across New Mexico and beyond.

All Center programs are multilingual including, but not limited to, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Navajo, and American Sign Language.

Assignments and mentoring with language experts and working professionals in each target language and on-the-job internships will round out the students’ experience.

“The New Mexico Center for Language Access is impressive in the degree of collaboration and commitment by our public agencies and higher education institutions to serve the needs of New Mexicans engaged with our judicial and healthcare systems,” UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page said.

“We encourage service among our students and among our faculty. What better example of service than this endeavor?”

There is a great need for qualified interpreters around the state, especially in rural areas, said Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

“More than 40 languages were spoken in our courts over the past year,” Pepin said. Adding that there is an especially pressing need for Spanish interpreters.

Pepin pointed out that many current court employees are pressed into service as translators. The training offered by NMCLA will allow such employees to learn the skills they need to better communicate with non-English speakers.

UNM-LA Dean of Instruction Dr. Kate Massengale served on the team that developed the NMCLA.

“The creation of this center is an example of what community colleges can do when they collaborate in serving the needs of New Mexico,” Massengale said. “New Mexico now has the only online training program for interpreters that includes languages other than Spanish in the United States. Regional face to face weekend intensives or video technology will provide language practice and feedback as well.”

Those interested in learning more about the NMCLA and its programs should visit http://nmcenterforlanguageaccess.unm.edu.

Classes will begin in October. No prior formal education is required to participate in the program. The bilingual communications certificate programs are appropriate for those who wish to train as informal or community interpreters, while the interpreting programs are appropriate for those who wish to train as formal interpreters.