University Of New Mexico-Los Alamos Celebrates 40th Commencement

UNM-LA graduates celebrate. Photo Courtesy UNM-LA


This year UNM-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) celebrated its 40th graduating class.  The annual ceremony and graduating students were unlike any before them. As colleges all over the country are holding celebrations in various formats, UNM-LA planned a series of graduation events that closed the semester with a personal touch.

On Thursday, May 13, students were invited to campus by appointment where they were greeted by staff and faculty and recognized by Chancellor, Dr. Cynthia J. Rooney and Interim Dean of Instruction, Dr. Irina Alvestad. Students were able to bring with them a limited number of guests and the atmosphere provided an environment for presentation of degrees, congratulations, smiles and some tears.

The by-appointment format of the on-campus celebration allowed an opportunity for students to share stories about their experiences while attending UNM-LA as well as their plans for the future. Some students talked about opportunities for new employment.  Others shared about their admission to UNM-Albuquerque and other universities. A few of the students earning a degree in Pre-Engineering have plans to continue in the Mechanical Engineering (BSME) Program available at the Los Alamos campus. Rooney said, “My favorite part about the event was meeting the graduates and their families and hearing about the many ways that a degree or certificate will advance the lives of the students.”

The 90 names in the graduation program include students who are parents, veterans, high schools and many students working while going to college. While each student has a unique journey, all of them shared the goal of obtaining a higher education credential as well as the determination that carried them through the challenges created by the ongoing health pandemic. Tony Gallegos, Student Success Manager, shared, “We worked with students who had changes in work schedules and children in an out of school. There were days when some of them felt like they would not make it, but together we pushed through. UNM-LA rallied behind them and the celebration of their graduation was emotional at times.”

Also included in the program were students earning a high school equivalency credential (HSE). Some are residents of the Delancey Street Foundation in Northern New Mexico. UNM-LA has a long-standing partnership with the Delancey Street Foundation and numerous students have successfully earned an HSE after benefiting from the instruction that UNM-LA provides on-site.

After the ceremony wrapped up and darkness set on the campus, farolitos were lit in the “kiva” area. “Last year when we knew that an in-person celebration would not be possible, we started the tradition to honor our graduates,” said Rooney. “The lighting of farolitos allows us to celebrate each other and reflect on our purpose which is to light the way for students.”

On Friday, May 14, UNM-LA shared an online celebration to the campus website. The page includes the names of the graduates as well as video messages from Rooney, Alvestad, Dr. Thom Mason, Director of LANL, Dr. James Holloway, UNM Provost, and Stephanie Rodriguez, NM Higher Education Secretary. The website also includes photos of some of the graduates and a printable program. The website can be accessed from the campus homepage at or directly at

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