Blogging @ CNM

Central New Mexico Community College


How Can We See the Future Workforce More Clearly

Hello CNM!

Hope you’re having a great week. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about what other community colleges around the country are doing to help support economic development and job creation, looking for new ideas that can help us increase our impact on economic development in central New Mexico.

Sometimes I come across great new ideas we haven’t considered before at CNM. But many times I come across things that might be new at other colleges that we’ve been doing here for a number of years. It always makes me feel so proud of CNM when I realize that we’re ahead of the curve in a certain area.

That was the case when I read a Community College Journal story headlined “Community Colleges Use Detailed Reports to Design Smarter Workforce Training and Education Programs.” It talks about a community college in Washington state that used data produced by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) to figure out what programs it should be offering to spur economic development and provide community members better job opportunities. EMSI uses labor market data and economic impact studies to assess and forecast employment trends.

At CNM, we’ve been using EMSI for several years to help us anticipate job market changes and adjust our programs accordingly. We’ve even provided EMSI data as a tool to inform students on education and career decisions. CNM’s Career Coach web page gives students extremely valuable information to consider when making the choices that will shape their future.

Say a student is considering a path leading to a career in nursing. Career Coach gives students the average salary for nurses in the area, the estimated number of annual job openings, the number of nurses nearing retirement age, and current job postings, among other valuable info. It’s a terrific resource.

Relying on data when making important decisions is always a prudent way forward, when reliable data is available and relates to the decision at hand. The right data, however, isn’t always available at the moment we want it. Sometimes, for instance, as the story points out, you have to keep your ear to the ground. We often hear from the business community about what they need now, before the need shows up in big data reports.

In recent months, we’ve been hearing from many business leaders that our business community needs more computer system developers and more entrepreneurs. So, right now, we’re looking into ways that CNM could better meet those needs for our economy.

Are there other ways that CNM can be proactive in figuring out what our economy needs now and in the near future? Can we do more to better interpret big data and anticipate the future?

Please read the Community College Journal story and let’s talk about it.


How Can We Generate More Revenue to Train the Workforce of Tomorrow?

Hello CNM!

I hope all of you are having a great spring term.

Just felt the urge to write a blog post after coming across a compelling and very timely story that recently aired on National Public Radio. The story reiterates a commonly held belief these days – that community colleges are the natural solution for quickly providing Americans with the skills they need to improve our workforce, which spurs economic growth and quality job creation. Obviously, we desperately need all of the above in New Mexico.

The rub is that training the workforce of today isn’t cheap. As a Board representative for a community college in Iowa says in the NPR story, “The concerning thing is that training the workforce is very expensive. We can’t afford to train someone to be a welder on a welding machine that was donated to us 10 years ago. And the cost of training those workers is so much higher. We actually lose money on every single student we train.”

Plenty of studies have shown that community colleges are woefully underfunded. And with persistently challenging economic conditions, there are no signs that the state or federal governments are going to significantly increase community college funding in the foreseeable future.

So how should we adapt to help our state and our country? Could we generate new revenue streams? Could we develop new partnership prototypes with private industry that would lead to more funding?

I encourage all of our faculty and staff to read the transcript of this NPR story and let me know what you think. Please post your thoughts and let’s have a conversation.


The Real Meaning of “CNM Connect”

Hello CNM!

Hope the fall term is going great for all of you.

After absorbing a lot of the feedback from last month’s Convocation, I feel the need to unpack a couple things and have a discussion about what CNM Connect really means.

First, I would like to admit that I’m not the best public speaker. Even though I speak fairly frequently at functions at CNM and in the community, it’s still not easy for me. Getting up in front of large crowds and delivering clear messages that resonate in the way you intended for them to resonate sometimes is a tough challenge, especially for me.

Every year after I speak at Convocation, people always remind me what I forgot to say. Or they let me know that the way I said something was misunderstood by some in the audience. That seemed to be the case this year. When I spoke about CNM Connect during Convocation, I didn’t explain what CNM Connect means to me.

When I talked about our 2013 Student Success Award that was presented to CNM by the American Association of Community Colleges, I cited our graduation increases and the success of CNM Connect as reasons why we won the award. But when I refer to the big picture of CNM Connect, I’m not referring to CNM Connect locations. And I’m not referring only to CNM Connect staff members.

To me, CNM Connect is a college-wide philosophy that helps us achieve our vision of “Changing Lives, Building Community.” CNM Connect is a mindset that has been embedded in the culture of CNM since it opened in 1965. We have always connected students to the services and resources they need to succeed. Our employees have always cared about our students. They’ve always helped counsel students and they’ve always passionately provided the kind of personalized support each of our students need.

CNM Connect did not start when signs were put up on offices in February 2011. And CNM Connect representatives aren’t just the ones who work under the signs.

Even the name “CNM Connect” was chosen to help all faculty and staff understand that we need to facilitate connections that serve the best interests of our students, the community and CNM.

Every faculty and staff member in every department on every campus is part of the CNM Connect that I was referring to during Convocation. Any time we help a student find a tutor. Any time we help connect students with job opportunities. Any time we lend an ear and help a student find a solution to their challenges. Any time we create new education pathways to careers. Any time we help a student, in any way, we are a part of CNM Connect.

Yes, we have branded one department at the college as CNM Connect. But it’s only a portal, albeit a very important one, into the culture of our college.

That’s the way I look at it. We all are CNM Connect. It’s not simply a location or a staff of Achievement Coaches. It’s a philosophy. When we first opened the physical locations of CNM Connect, we passed out t-shirts to employees across the college that said, “I Am CNM Connect.”

That’s because, “We Are All CNM Connect.”

What do you think? Please post your thoughts.


Let’s Talk Convocation, Poetry and One of the Most Important Professions in the World

Hello CNM!

It was fantastic to see so many of you at Convocation last week!

I hope you enjoyed the program, especially the powerful poetry that was performed by some amazing poets. I was moved and inspired by their words, so many of which were in honor of faculty. I hope you were too.

We all know that teaching is one of the most honorable and important professions in the world. It’s fundamental to human progress, in every sense. Everybody knows this, yet too often it’s taken for granted. It deserves to be honored, appreciated and celebrated much more often.

At CNM, we know that our faculty members are awesome and second to none. We know that they make our community a better place to live. And we know that they give our students the best chance to reach their potential and have a successful life. At this year’s Convocation, we wanted to show our appreciation for our faculty.

But it’s always fantastic to hear people outside of the education community trumpet the prolific importance of teachers, like Albuquerque Poet Laureate Hakim Bellamy did so powerfully at Convocation.

If you missed his performance of his inspiring poem, “Stand,” or if you would like to see it again, click here.

I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this year’s Convocation and the poets who performed – Hakim Bellamy, Taylor Mali, faculty member Don McIver, and our two terrific students, Mike Kimball and Sirena Rayes.

And I’d also like to hear any thoughts you’d like to share about our faculty or the noble profession of teaching. Please post your thoughts and let’s have a conversation.

Thanks, Kathie


CNM Is Answering the Call of Our Leaders and Community

In my blog post last week, I talked about the degree-audit program being a “win-win-win” for our students, community and economy. It’s also a win for CNM.

But before I talk more about the degree-audit program and the state funding formula, I want to unpack some terminology that was used in last week’s comments.  Some of the responses referred to “gaming” the system. When I read that term, it seemed the author was suggesting that CNM is doing something wrong. “Gaming” implies that we are providing degrees or certificates that have not been earned, giving credits to students they did not deserve, or creating awards for programs that do not exist. None of that is true.

For the past 15 years, the New Mexico Legislature has been trying to overhaul the funding formula from inputs to outputs. Policy makers have been clear that they want to change the behavior of higher education institutions from trying to simply get students in the seats to making sure they stay in school to graduate. They finally accomplished their goal through the current performance-based funding formula, which provides incentives for us to focus more on graduating students.

The changes in the formula reflect the realities of our country. In the Albuquerque Journal op-ed I wrote about the degree audit subject, I referenced studies that clearly show the importance of higher education degrees to individuals, communities and states. I also referred to the national focus on increasing the number of graduates. There is no need to repeat that information. But there is a need to keep repeating this message: in New Mexico, having more students graduate with associate’s and bachelor’s degrees is crucial.

CNM has been paying attention to the messages from our state-wide policy makers and our national leaders. We started efforts to increase graduation numbers many years ago. And CNM faculty and staff have done some nationally recognized work focused on helping more CNM students succeed.

We have definitely been moving in the right direction, and we will continue to explore ways to do even better. The degree-audit pilot is only one example. Our graduation numbers have been steadily increasing since 2008. And this has contributed to our work to improve our budget situation. CNM has slowly, but steadily, improved our financial situation since the height of our state budget cuts in 2009.

Because of the hard work of faculty and staff, CNM has been able to fend off the more drastic effects of the Great Recession that many other public organizations were unable to dodge, such as layoffs, furloughs and salary cuts. We fared better than most because of the Budget Reduction Plan we instituted in 2009, which included reorganizations to streamline operations, reductions in administrative positions, and a Voluntary Retirement Incentive program that saved us several million dollars.

CNM’s budget improvements have helped us invest in our most important resource – our employees. Although most state agencies, universities, colleges and school systems in New Mexico did not receive salary increases, CNM provided a 5 percent salary increase last year. This year, CNM exceeded the 1 percent salary increased provided by the state, providing employees with a 2 percent salary increase. Also, CNM announced in April that funding was being set aside to continue evaluating how staff and faculty salaries measure up against the same positions at peer institutions or in comparable markets. The staff adjustments have already occurred and CNM will be providing our full-time faculty an opportunity to receive an adjustment as well.

As I’ve said many times before, I strongly believe that CNM is one of the best community colleges in the country. To continue our ongoing journey toward being the best, we need to continue to be responsive to our policy makers and our community. And most of all, we need to focus on student success.

I’d love to hear what you think. Please post your thoughts.



Degree Audits a Win-Win-Win for Students, Community and Economy

Hello CNM!

Hope you’re having a great summer term.

Did you happen to see the story in the Albuquerque Journal that was headlined “Surprise! You Graduated!” on July 26? It reports on a developing degree-audit effort at CNM that identifies students who have completed all requirements for a degree or certificate and then automatically presents them with the graduation awards they have rightfully earned.

This is something I wish we would have started years ago. It’s a terrific effort – a win-win-win for students, our community and our economy. We all know our region and our state desperately need more college graduates to attract new economic activity, which improves the job prospects for our students and community members while improving the quality of life for all.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of implications made in the story that have caused confusion, which I want to clear up.

First, officially earning an associate degree does not affect a student’s financial aid status. Students are eligible to receive financial aid for 150 percent of the credit hours required to complete their program. For example, if a particular associate degree program requires 70 credit hours to complete, a student is eligible to receive financial aid for 105 credit hours. The Journal ran a correction on Tuesday.

Secondly, there was an unsubstantiated claim in the story that a student was awarded an associate degree without completing a required math course. CNM absolutely refutes the notion that any degree or certificate has been knowingly awarded without a student completing all requirements. The degree that is referenced in the story requires a math or biology class.

The Journal story fairly reported that a significant number of students were not notified that they had earned degrees or certificates early enough to participate in the spring graduation ceremony. This was an unfortunate lapse on our part and we have put plans in motion to make sure this doesn’t happen again. This is a pilot program and we will continue to improve it.

The awesome news is that this initiative helped us to award 4,182 associate degrees and certificates to students in the spring term, which set an all-time record at CNM for graduation awards in a term.

Students who have an associate degree or certificate on their résumé, whether they’re moving on to pursue a bachelor’s degree or not, are in a stronger position to compete for a job and land a higher salary. Our No. 1 job at CNM is to help our students succeed. Making it easier for them to receive the degrees and certificates they have rightfully earned is a no-brainer for me.

Up until now, students have had to voluntarily fill out graduation application paperwork in order to officially receive the associate degrees or certificates they have completed. For quite a while at CNM, we have known that many students do not bother with the process or they are unaware of it altogether. Many of them move on to a university or have already secured a job at the end of their time at CNM. But what if unforeseen life circumstances stop them from achieving that bachelor’s degree or they get laid off from that job? They should have the associate degree or certificate diploma in hand to fall back on – they earned it.

We don’t force students to apply to pass a course. When they earn a passing grade, it automatically goes on their transcript. Should graduation be any different?

Many colleges and universities around the country are in the midst of similar efforts. Here’s a link to a story in the Community College Times about it.

One of the most pressing issues of our time, both in New Mexico and across the country, is the need for more college graduates. Our economic future, and the future of younger generations, will hinge on the success of higher education. As the leading community college in New Mexico, we must continue to lead and do our best to advance this cause.

Before we discuss, I just want to express my great appreciation for all of the tremendous work that has been done by faculty and staff across CNM for the past several years to help more of our students graduate. Since 2008, the number of students graduating from CNM has increased 208 percent, from 2,188 in 2008-09 to 6,732 in 2012-13. Cheers to that!

So, what do you think of this new effort at CNM? Do you see any drawbacks? Or should it be full-steam ahead?


Let’s Talk About the New College and Career High School at CNM

Hello CNM!

Hope you’re enjoying summertime!

I can’t believe that before the end of this summer, we’ll be opening up a new APS-CNM early college high school, which is now officially named the College and Career High School at CNM.

This school truly marks a major milestone for the progress of public education in our region, and we hope it will lead to many other new efforts that will improve educational outcomes for students and families across the state. As educators, as community members, as parents, we all must be vigilant about making progress on improving the rates of educational success in our state.

Of course, I think this new College and Career High School is a huge step in the right direction, not just for CNM, but for everybody in the region. The idea behind this school is much bigger than CNM – it’s about laying the groundwork for meaningful education reform across our community and state. And I think we all understand how important it is to enact meaningful education reform across the entire public education system, for the good of all. The current education stats in New Mexico, as we all unfortunately know, don’t bode well for our state’s future. As a community and as a state, we have to speed up progress. And as the largest postsecondary institution in New Mexico, we at CNM have to help lead.

Right now, this high school isn’t going to have a big impact on our normal operations. We already have about 2,000 high school students taking dual credit classes across our campuses. The new school is only going to add about 150 or so high school students to that number this upcoming school year. Half of their day will be spent in the S Building taking APS classes, and the other half will be spent in regular CNM classes across the campus.

Just as our dual credit numbers continue to grow year by year, we expect the College and Career High School will steadily grow as well.

When high school students and their families are considering enrolling in this school, they will be clearly informed that the curriculum will be more rigorous. They will be informed that this school is for motivated, goal-oriented students who understand that they’ll be entering a unique environment that blends high school and college settings. The students will need a certain level of maturity to succeed, and that will be conveyed to the prospective students and their families.

And as they succeed, they’ll leave this high school with an associate degree, a certificate or enough college credits to enter a university as a junior. That thought puts a big smile on my face!

This is obviously an endeavor that is new to CNM, bringing new challenges and new hopes. But I’m curious about what you think of this effort? Do you think CNM is on the right track with this College and Career High School? Do you have reservations about high school students being on campus?

I’m really interested to hear what you think. Please continue the conversation below.