Students Return To Campus At UNM-LA

BioClassUNM-LA students maintaining their social distance and wearing mask as they wait to enter the Biology Lab today are from left, Christopher Velasquez, Diane Rascon, Dylan Romero, Jackie Frost, Olivia Chavarria. Photo by Nancy Coombs/UNM-LA

EMSInstructor Rick Acedo welcomes UNM-LA students Destiny Shelburn, Helena Pena, Ryan Salmon, Rebecca Elmore and Jade Gonzales-Rivera to the EMT-Basic class. Photo by Nancy Coombs/UNM-LA


The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) hosted students on campus this week, for the first time since the COVID pandemic led to all-remote instruction last March. This fall, 81% of the classes at UNM-LA are meeting fully online; with the remainder meeting as hybrid classes (a mixture of face to face and online instruction) or fully face to face.

UNM-LA staff members were stationed on campus at various locations on campus to welcome students, model positive behaviors of mask wearing and social distancing, explain the newly designated entrance and exit doors, and answer questions or provide directions as needed.

“As we reopen campus slowly, safety is our primary concern. At this point, our campus has less than 25% of faculty, staff, and students on site. The majority of employees continue to work remotely,” said UNM-LA Chancellor, Cynthia Rooney, Ph.D.

Rooney continued, “I visited a hybrid Physics class Monday morning that started with a face-to-face meeting, and on Monday afternoon, I met with an EMT class. The students are all following COVID safe practices, which include wearing masks, as required on campus, following the marked pathways, and proper social distancing. The environment may be different, but I am so proud of the strong commitment by all of our instructors to provide a safe and quality learning environment.”

“I am excited to have a full class and look forward to teaching our future health care providers,” said EMS 113 Instructor and Los Alamos Fire Department Fire Fighter and Paramedic Rick Acedo. “I admire all our students for their commitment to education through our current pandemic.”

The staff at UNM-LA have worked diligently to create a COVID-safe environment for students meeting on campus. Classes are meeting in rooms large enough to keep all students at least six feet apart, and all classrooms are disinfected after each class meets. Buildings are only open when classes meet, to limit foot traffic and track all potential contact. Additionally, all doors are marked for one way use, and hallways are marked with arrows for one way traffic as much as possible.

UNM-LA has face masks available to all students and employees who may need one, many of which were made possible by a donation from Barbara Yarnell, a recently retired faculty member. Additionally, thanks to a donation of touchless thermometers by the Los Alamos Department of Commerce & Development Corporation, students who enter certain spaces, such as the library, will have a temperature check. All students are asked to self-screen for COVID symptoms through an automated UNM system prior to entering campus.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, UNM-LA faculty and staff have had regular contact via Zoom, sharing information about state and University requirements for safety and preparing options for online alternatives should the state require more stringent distancing in the future.

“Last week, in preparation for classes starting, our Dean of Instruction, Sharon Hurley, and our Director of Business Operations, Bob Harmon, walked around campus to assess our plans and to make final adjustments,” continued Rooney.

UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. More information about UNM-LA is available at