UNM-LA Advisory Board candidates talk about education

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By Jennifer Garcia

Four of the five original candidates running for the UNM-LA Advisory Board shared their thoughts on the branch’s future during the League of Women Voters forum Thursday night at UNM-LA.
Constituents were given the opportunity to ask questions and got an idea of the changes each hopeful wanted to make if elected.
The question and answer session began with the candidates introducing themselves. Michael D. Di Rosa is running for position three on the advisory board. He started out by saying that the Los Alamos motto, “Where discoveries are made,” could be used for UNM-LA if it was changed a bit to read, “where transitions are made.”
“Lives are changed and enriched. It’s quite an asset to have that in Los Alamos,” Di Rosa said.
Stephen Boerigter, also running for position three said that drawing UNM-LA and Los Alamos together is a critical key part of creating active and vibrant citizenship.
“Having a branch here is a really amazing thing for us,” said Ralph Phelps, who’s running for position four. “The challenge is to make sure we keep it.”
Phelps’ opponent, Linda Hull said she’s always been supportive of higher education and lifelong learning.
“I don’t want to sit on this board,” she said. “I intend to work.”
Jody Benson also attended the forum. She was running for position four, but explained that she withdrew her candidacy after she realized that she’d be running against Phelps and Hull.
“The economy is suffering,” Benson said. “Education is taking a hit.  Branch colleges in New Mexico are bearing the most significant cuts in public funding. We need the best possible board members with the most contacts in state government and New Mexico businesses and the time and aplomb to use those contacts effectively.”
Following the introductions, the audience began asking questions which ranged from what the candidates intended to do about part-time instructors who didn’t have benefits, to how many hours the candidates had to devote to the board.
Though none of the candidates had a quick answer to how UNM-LA would go about providing benefits to part-time staff members, they did all say that the issue is something that would have to be examined.
“It’s an issue that’s an important one. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of help we can provide in that environment,” Phelps said.
Both Boerigter and Di Rosa said that they didn’t know enough about the human resources policy to be able to comment, but did say it’s something that should be looked into.
Hull said that any concerns the UNM-LA board has would have to be made to the board of regents at main campus.
One audience member said she was dismayed that UNM-LA doesn’t provide a program that prepares young students for jobs at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Hull said that the university currently has 15 different certification programs.
“UNM is very conscious about needing to be responsive to the employers. It’s best to use the talents we have here,” she said.
Throughout the forum, all four candidates made clear that they are each devoted to education and the future of not only Los Alamos, but the also the laboratory.
“It’s critical for UNM-LA to appreciate that it serves two different roles, and bring these roles together,” Boerigter said.