UNM-LA Advisory Board candidates unveil their platforms

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By Jennifer Garcia

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series


Four candidates will be running for two spots on the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos Advisory Board. Linda Hull and Ralph Phelps are running for position four, while Stephen Boerigter and Michael Di Rosa are running for position three.
There were going to be five candidates, but current LAPS school board member Jody Benson, who was running for position four, withdrew this week.
Here is the explanation from Benson as to why she withdrew.
“The economy is suffering,” Benson  wrote. “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.
“Linda Hull has those talents and contacts, especially in the business world.  So does former County Councilor Ralph Phelps. We want to expand the programs at UNM-LA and ensure the funding for those programs, which means passing the mil levy and going to the private sector for support.  Either Linda or Ralph will use their superior influence to energetically and effectively speak for our branch.”
Tonight, the League of Women Voters will host a forum, introducing the eight candidates including the three running for the LAPS school board, from 7-9 p.m. at the UNM-LA Lecture Hall.

Name:Stephen T. Boerigter



Marital status:Married


Education:Bachelor’s degree, University of Arizona; master’s and doctorate degrees from M.I.T.


Which position are you running for?UNM-LA Board position 3


Why do you want to be on the UNM-LA Advisory Board?  I believe in serving my community. UNM-LA needs continued and fresh input to help it survive and thrive in these tough budgetary times. I think that I help provide that input and guidance. As a current student in the Leadership Los Alamos course, I desire to put my energy for this community to good use.


What qualifications do you bring to the board?  Education is a central element in how our family functions. It’s what my wife (Kathy Boerigter, a science teacher at Los Alamos High School) and I talk about over dinner. I believe that I can couple these interests with my experience in strategic planning and my desire to see a better Los Alamos. 


Do you have prior experience in serving on a board? If so, which one(s)?  I recently completed four years on the Parks and Recreation Board (three years as chair). I am also a member of the White Rock Implementation Subcommittee and chair of the subcommittee that led the efforts to develop the White Rock Visitor Center. I have also served as chair of the White Rock Baptist Church Council for two years.


What would you improve if elected?  I am particularly interested in evaluating alternative or improved methods to integrate web-delivered technologies and streamed video from other university sources into the UNM-LA curriculum.


What do you think are the major issues facing UNM-LA?  Clearly, UNM-LA has some budget issues. However, I believe that a more significant issue is the sense of “self” for UNM-LA. Is it a community college? Is it a Lab prep school? Can it really be where young people get four-year degrees? 


How would you resolve those issues?  Well, first I would listen and learn. The staff of UNM-LA know much more about what works and what doesn’t than I. My goal is to follow the pattern of: listen, understand, think, act, repeat. I plan to work with other board members and the staff to identify creative solutions.


What would you do to fix the UNM-LA budget?  That is a complex question that has many facets. I believe that a quality education comes about through a desire to learn. In some cases, tuition increases may be warranted to help ensure that students appreciate the importance of their endeavor. Education taken for granted doesn’t typically lead to life-long learning.


Do you think that cuts can be made to the budget without affecting the quality of education that UNM-LA provides? If so, how?  Again, there are many issues and I am not an expert in the current budgetary situation. However, I think that a lot of quality instruction is available free on the Internet and finding more effective and integrated ways to tap into that treasure could improve the learning per dollar.  


Name: Michael Di Rosa

Age: 47

Marital status: Single

Education: Doctorate degree

Which position are you running for? UNM-LA Advisory Boardposition 3

Why do you want to be on the UNM-LA Advisory Board? I want to help impress upon UNM-LA and Los Alamos County citizens that the growth, vitality and cultural breadth of each is interdependent and mutually beneficial. An equally important “want” is to gain far greater notice for UNM-LA’s outstanding programs and potential within and outside its traditional service areas.

What qualifications do you bring to the board? I bring the experience of managing programs and budgets, a patient capacity for working with others, a professional kinship with the educators at UNM-LA, and a strong interest in seeding and serving life-long learning.

Do you have prior experience in serving on a board? If so, which one(s)? Since 2006 I’ve served on the Executive Committee of Los Alamos’ Pajarito Group of the Sierra Club, where my duties include monitoring local and regional environmental issues, attending public-scoping sessions, writing reports and providing input to NEPA, the Park Service, the Forest Service and other federal, state and local entities.

What would you improve if elected? Marketing. Public education. Public exposure. UNM-LA’s extensive service to just Los Alamos — from adult learning in the fine arts to dual-credit classes for high-school seniors — goes remarkably unnoticed, as does its financial and political realities. I would ask the UNM president to hold a public forum here about the latter issue and explain how local support can build a bright future for UNM-LA. Regular engagements with the public, such as through monthly academic talks, would help stitch UNM-LA into the local fabric.

What do you think are the major issues facing UNM-LA? This year’s legislative session is almost certain to squeeze more funding from branch campuses, which might have UNM-LA further cut its salaries, faculty, curriculum development and proposal writing. However, Los Alamos citizens can invest in UNM-LA apart from the legislative outcome by supporting the previously failed mil-levy request. Passage of this mil levy is the major issue facing UNM-LA.

How would you resolve those issues? The School Board began its resolve to pass its mil levy with professional market surveys and by enjoining the county and the Chamber of Commerce. The UNM-LA board should do no less in its campaign.

What would you do to fix the UNM-LA budget? The Board can help UNM-LA grow, or stretch, its budget by recommending programs that exploit resources. As an example, through its recently obtained gateway to New Mexico’s own supercomputer (Encanto), UNM-LA has the potential to build curricula in using and programming supercomputers, making it a regional nexus in this specialty.

Do you think that cuts can be made to the budget without affecting the quality of education that UNM-LA provides? If so, how? Additional budget cuts will further weaken UNM-LA, which is already training staff to provide multiple services and enlisting volunteers to classes afloat. It will be up to the Los Alamos electorate and a convincing case for the mil levy from the UNM-LA Board to keep our campus outstanding and away from decisions likely to sacrifice both quality and quantity, of classes and people.


Name:  Linda H. Hull

Age:  57


Marital status:  husband, Bob Hull


Education:  Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from Florida State University


Which position are you running for?UNM-LA Advisory Board, position 4


--Why do you want to be on the UNM-LA Advisory Board?  Higher education has always been an important part of my life.  My parents both held graduate degrees; my mother was a college professor, and I have a career background in museum education. I am a firm believer in life-long learning. The advisory board offers me an opportunity to pursue this commitment with UNM-LA friends and former colleagues and to serve the community through my experiences in supporting education and mentoring students.


What qualifications do you bring to the board?  I have a 13-year association with UNM-LA as both a volunteer and employee. Following the death of friend and UNM-LA teacher Jim Sagel in 1998, I began volunteering at the university as a way to honor his legacy in language and literature. Nine years ago, Dr. Carlos Ramirez, executive director at the time, asked me to serve on the Foundation Development Committee, fundraising for much-needed student scholarships. For many years, I was behind the scenes for such fundraisers as the Taste of Autumn at Balagna Winery in White Rock and was involved in the Celebrity Waiter dinners UNM-LA hosted. In 2008, I was hired as the coordinator for the ESL and GED programs.  During that time I became acutely aware of the significant impact the university has on foreign students seeking English skills and U.S. citizenship, and on the non-traditional learner seeking a diploma.


Do you have prior experience in serving on a board?  If so, which one(s)?  Yes. For the last 11 years, I have served on the board of the local chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and for the past four years, on the board of the Rotary Club of Los Alamos, where I also serve on the GED Scholarship Committee. I have also served on the boards of the Art Center at Fuller Lodge (three years) and Mesa Public Library (one year).


--What would you improve if elected?  Building upon the university’s current public relations foundation, I would like to see a concentrated focus on marketing. To gain community support, and eventually increased financial support, high-visibility marketing is crucial for reaching out to Los Alamos and our Northern New Mexico neighbors.  In addition to newspaper ads and the Facebook page which UNM-LA already has, and the movie theater advertisement which is in progress, I would suggest a YouTube feature, as well as consideration of a lighted marquee near campus to create a more visible presence for the University and its programs. When necessary, I would recommend that the board hold meetings more than every other month and include action items on the agendas. I would also like to nurture further the good relationship UNM-LA already has with UNM’s President Schmidly and the Board of Regents, to whom the Advisory Board reports.


What do you think are the major issues facing UNM-LA?  As elsewhere, funding is the major issue facing UNM-LA today: funding while expanding to meet the growing demands for high quality, affordable, locally-based education. Although UNM main campus provides UNM-LA with in-kind services, such a website support and HR services, main campus does not provide our branch campus with any funding; it comes entirely from the state, from auxiliary services, grants and private donations. Also, UNM-LA receives its state funding based upon data collected two years earlier, not upon current data which reflects current needs.

   I also think community perception is a major issue facing UNM-LA:  what the University offers individuals, families, and employers, and how the University already serves Northern New Mexico.


How would you resolve those issues?At this time, our community does not appear to be ready to consider a mil levy, the clearest solution to the university’s financial woes. In lieu of a tax increase, ideas I would like considered are: establishment of a UNM-LA Foundation to generate alumni support; assertive recruitment of benefactors; recruitment of accomplished adjunct professors; exploring the possibilities of becoming a small research facility; examining opportunities to work with industry; and application for UNM-LA to become a certified GED Testing Center.  I would also like to see the resumption of Children’s College and more collaborative programs with LANL, the public library, local museums, PEEC and so on. 


What would you do to fix the UNM-LA budget?  In addition to the ideas mentioned above, I would like to see UNM-LA emphasize and further explore income-generating services, such as conference planning, an outreach which met with great success last year. Also, I would encourage more flexibility in the renting of UNM-LA housing, investigating multiple uses for the facilities during non-peak rental seasons. I would also suggest working more closely with our lobbyist to the Legislature and continuing partnerships in workforce training similar to those already in preparation with emergency services and Microsoft IT.


Do you think that cuts can be made to the budget without affecting the quality of education that UNM-LA provides? If so, how?  Yes.  Significant cuts are already being made, and will continue to be made, through more efficient use of resources, careful student advisement in degree programs, and revised class schedules. The essence of UNM-LA’s strength is its student-centered philosophy. The campus is staffed by faculty and others who are deeply committed to student success.  Budget cuts will not diminish that commitment.


Comments:  Last fall, when a UNM-LA administrator approached me about running for an Advisory Board position, I realized that election to the board would provide an opportunity for me to continue serving the community and the university’s many students. I would be honored to serve UNM-LA. With its enviable 9-1 student-teacher ratio, UNM-LA offers the best educational base in Northern New Mexico for those students who do not choose yet to attend a four-year college; those who are returning to the workforce; and those seeking career certifications. Students at UNM-LA can receive a four-year degree, participate in 15 different certification programs and 19 associate degree programs. UNM-LA students entering UNM main campus have consistently higher GPAs than students who begin at UNM as freshmen.  Serving on the Advisory Board will allow me to be an active part of the university’s — and its students’ — continued success.


Name:    Ralph L. Phelps


Age:    65


Marital status:  Married. My wife, Linda, is director of the Grief Counseling Program at French Funerals and Cremations in Albuquerque. I have two grown children, Joshua and Jennifer. Josh is a chiropractor in Ogden, Utah and Jennifer, a former fourth grade teacher in Los Alamos, is in the Peace Corps in Khazakstan.


Education: Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Manhattan College, New York; master’s degree in nuclear engineering, University of Virginia.


Which position are you running for?  UNM-LA Advisory Board, position 4.


Why do you want to be on the UNM-LA Advisory Board? The UNM-LA Advisory Board is a good fit for my background and capabilities. I also want to be a representative for all our community in ensuring that the real needs and desires for higher education offerings are communicated to the University administration. In turn, as board member, I will need to keep this communication two ways, so that our community is informed about the issues facing the University, and what may be needed to support continued quality educational opportunities. 


What qualifications do you bring to the board? I have extensive experience in senior management and understand the value an involved board can provide by advising in the ways UNM-LA can benefit the communities it serves. I also have a broad understanding of educational and continuing training programs. As division manager of engineering at Omaha Public Power, I was responsible to establish and execute a full scope training program that met industry standards for nuclear engineer qualification, and to maintain the program. I have also participated on review boards of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) where peer teams examine and verify engineer and operator training programs at different utility nuclear power plants to certify the quality of their training programs. I have also assisted DOE in evaluating university and industry proposals for certified training in Smart Grid training programs for engineers, technicians and service employees.


Do you have prior experience in serving on a board? If so, which one(s)?  I have just finished two years as a Los Alamos County councilor. I have also served on the Utility Board, as chair, and was on the first CIP Evaluation Committee. I am currently chair of the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board. Prior to retirement, I served on several nuclear power industry advisory boards.


What would you improve if elected? Los Alamos is very fortunate, for a city our size, to have a branch community college with the scope and capabilities of UNM-LA. By its charter, UNM-LA is subordinate to the Board of Regents of UNM. The Advisory Board must carefully watch the evolving scrutiny of all the New Mexico branch colleges by the legislature to ensure UNM-LA remains strong in supporting our community. There are also emerging opportunities associated with the increased use of information technology (IT) for expanding training and course offerings both for degree and certificate programs. Close communication with the UNM Board of Regents will hopefully open new opportunities for UNM-LA to take advantage of more open classroom sharing with UNM programs using IT capabilities.


What do you think are the major issues facing UNM-LA? Clearly, funding is a major concern. The state budgets for higher education are likely to be reduced about 5.2 percent, with branch campuses receiving increased scrutiny. Another issue is identifying and meeting the educational needs of our broader community. There are increasing mandates for course offerings which help some, but there are also needs in the community for completing high school diplomas, college preparatory work, vocational technical training, emerging technology training, all which promote the goal of advancing students to higher educational levels. This needs to be accommodated while not compromising the quality of degree programs. In order to assist the mission of LANL, the university also needs to ensure it maintains the diversity and quality of technical degree programs, and maintains instructors who are highly qualified in these areas, including solar, wind and smart grid topics.


How would you resolve those issues? I will discuss the issue of funding in the response to the next two questions.

 The value of a branch campus is in providing needed educational offerings to the community it serves. Accordingly, it is essential to recognize what the community desires, and avoid unnecessary duplication of services and avoid over extending the diversity of courses. Classes should be reviewed for size and relevance to prioritized needs. This may result in a more focused set of course offerings.

In addition, the community should be surveyed to ensure specific needs are identified. In Los Alamos, there will be needs for IT skills, environmental engineers and technicians, radiation workers, quality assurance and control workers, welding engineers, project managers and experts in all components of smart grid design. UNM-LA must ensure it is structuring its courses in both degree and certification programs to support these needs.

There are opportunities for utilizing the power of the web to share classroom training with other campuses interconnected by fiber or wireless modes. This would allow pooling of resources to optimize class size and make needed class offerings available to community members through the UNM-LA campus. It would also allow sharing of expertise both by the instructors and by the students, in more diverse areas. 


What would you do to fix the UNM-LA budget? UNM-LA revenues come from the state, from grants, from Los Alamos county taxes and from tuition. Ideally, operating expenses should be covered by revenue while encompassing a scope of service that meets all community needs. So “fixing” the budget is not the issue. The issue is to operate as efficiently as possible using what you have to provide responsive higher education to our community. The Advisory Board can help in this regard by ensuring open communication with the community on areas of need, to allow prioritization of course offerings. There is also a need to open communication with neighboring universities and branches to ensure duplication of class offerings is reduced or eliminated, and there may also be opportunities to combine administrative services that are currently duplicated.


Tuition policy must be reviewed to ensure there is a consistent and fair approach to this source of funds. It may be necessary to have a graded approach to tuition where those who can afford to pay more do so. Dialog with our State Representatives on unfunded mandates (eg, dual-credit classes) should also be started, to explore alternative ways of supporting these classes.


Grants present an opportunity for increased funding, but require skilled writers to both identify and apply for them. There are emerging opportunities from both federal and private sources for developing training in new technologies. It may be possible to combine resources with neighboring campuses to design programs which would compete favorably for this grant funding. It may be necessary to invest up front in applications in order to receive the benefits.


Generally, I do not favor increasing taxes without a detailed plan on how the tax dollars will be spent, and showing how other potential sources of revenue have been exhausted. As an elected Advisory Board member, I consider it essential to communicate with those I represent that an absolute need has been demonstrated for this funding based on the prioritized review of educational and training desires and an optimized structuring of expenses. 


 Do you think that cuts can be made to the budget without affecting the quality of education that UNM-LA provides? If so, how? Again, the issue is not “making cuts” but wisely using what you have. The priority that I see for achieving the mission of our UNM-LA branch campus is quality, quantity and focus. In order to maintain the quality of our branch educational offerings, it may be necessary to prioritize what is being offered consistent with the budget we have. And this means ensuring that the range of community needs, that includes degree programs, certificate training and classes that support preparatory work for higher educational opportunities need to be accommodated. The end result may be reduced scope in some areas of class offerings.


Budget allocations to support class development in the emerging technologies is also essential to ensure long term excellence of UNM-LA, so this need may also affect the budget available for quantity of offerings.


There are two other areas of the UNM-LA budget that require close scrutiny to demonstrate the correct focus on wise use of resources:


1.  Maintenance of the Bernalillo Branch of the UNM-LA Branch of the university. At the time this remote location was established, it may have filled a genuine need due to demographics and resources. However, in 2011 things have changed, and a review is required of whether it makes sense for UNM-LA to expend resources from Los Alamos taxpayers to maintain this remote branch. There are now several new branches or colleges in that area (eg, UNM Rio Rancho) which might better serve the need and which may be  duplicating services.


2.  Maintaining student residences. The focus on our branch campus is to provide educational offerings and training. The “college experience” of dorm living is provided at UNM. A branch campus by design serves the local community, so providing residences appears to be inconsistent with the mission. A possible source of revenue for UNM-LA might be to consider leasing the apartment property to a company who would then have an incentive to renovate and rent the apartments under the county’s recently approved Affordable Housing Program. Thus, some housing could remain affordable for students, while the lease income could help address budget concerns.


Comments: I really hope everyone will vote for me for the UNM-LA Advisory Board. I’m sure our community recognizes what a tremendous asset the branch campus is to our community, and I’m truly excited to be involved in the opportunities we have in the near future to expand the class offerings to take advantage of emerging technology needs and to partner using IT advances with other campuses, especially UNM. There is also opportunity to more fully develop technician training in areas helpful to LANL and the whole Northern New Mexico area, perhaps in partnership with private or government groups. One concept I have previously mentioned while on Council is a Workforce Training Center in Los Alamos, which specializes in certified programs for technology associated with solar, wind, environment, smart grid, quality class welding and other areas which can provide a trained workforce for new jobs and a path for advancement to higher education. UNM-LA is uniquely suited in our area to provide the infrastructure, materials and instructors to support such a center.