UNM-LA Advisory Board Candidates Identify Similar Issues During LWV Candidates Forum Wednesday


Three seats are open an the UNM-LA Advisory Board in the upcoming election and six of the seven candidates participated in Wednesday’s virtual forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Los Alamos. Running for the three seats are:

Position 1:           Alissa Grissom
Chris Luchini

Position 2:           Laura Woodring
                           Lee Weinland
                           Charles McCullough

Position 5:           David Hampton
                            David Hansen

The question and answer section of the forum may be watched at https://my.lwv.org/new-mexico/los-alamos/article/watch-video-candidates-forum-laps-board-and-unm-la-advisory-board or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QstSgUmME_Q

Alissa Grissom

Grissom noted that she has 10 years of experience teaching math at college level.

“I’m a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics  & Statistics at UNM-LA where I’ve taught for four years. I’ve been the chair of the Faculty Professional Development Committee and I’m currently on the Student Retention and Success Committee and the Technology Steering Committee. I’m running for the advisory board because I would like to be a student advocate in the room whenever new services or programs are being discussed. I’d like to see an expansion of some of our existing programs, especially to our new students and first generation college students,” she said.

Grissom said first generation college students especially don’t have the background to let them navigate the college experience for the first time.

“They don’t have parents or grandparents that can help inform decisions that are necessary throughout their career so that they can be successful in the classroom and in life,” she said.

Grissom would also like to look at improving the retention rate for students at UNM-LA.

“While UNM is one of the top schools in New Mexico for retention, we do lack behind the national average. I’d like to see what programs we can add to either meet or surpass that average. Some programs we can consider would have the results of helping with family, financial and health emergencies that take them out of the classroom and make them feel like they can’t return,” she said

Grissom said she also wants to look at ways to improve adjunct work environments such as reliable office space and benefits.

In closing comments, Grissom said her experience as a teacher and on multiple committees at UNM-LA informs her decision to run for the advisory board.

“I would like to be a student advocate whenever we’re discussing these programs to help the students in their day-to-day classroom and college experience. I plan to, while on the board, look at how we can help first generation college students, expand some of our graduation programs to help newer students, look at retention programs we could consider and look at how we can improve the adjunct work experience,” she said.

Chris Luchini

Luchini said his big interest in UNM-LA and being on the advisory board is his personal experience in having that institution helping people who are not going to be four-year college bound, specifically the dual-credit program with Los Alamos High School.

“I think this is an incredibly important program. It does help families and students who have not had the college experience historically with their family and don’t understand how to navigate it. It is a way for them to transition into a college environment. That program has been only funded by the state. Seven percent of all the credit hours at UNM-LA are allocated on an unpaid basis to the dual-credit program and I would like to pretty much be able to explore ways to capture money sufficient to cover that,” he said. “Those credit hours are allocated on a basis that the additional people in seats do not incur extra costs, in other words, seats that would otherwise be unfilled. It’s just not true. There are always going to be additional costs”.

During his closing comments, Luchini noted that he also has experience teaching at the graduate and undergraduate level at a small university in the south.

“The experience that I bring is a science background and as an employer trying to employ people that have technical skills and technical certifications as well as degrees from associate’s all the way up to PhD. So I’m keenly interested in this local resource being used effectively and certainly making sure it is in tune with the community it serves,” he said.

Lee Weinland

Weinland mentioned his daughter who has been very successful who started out her college education at UNM-LA at a time when they told her she could never succeed in high school.

“She is now in graduate having graduated magna cum laude from UNM-LA. I’m very proud of her success but we had to go to the UNM main campus to complete her degrees because the four-year programs that she wanted to in at UNM-LA were canceled. I am concerned that we are shrinking as a university instead of trying to think of ways to expand. As a resource for the entire community of Los Alamos – we’re an economic resource that I think is really undervalued,” he said. “I came from Durango, Colo., where Fort Lewis is a vital resource for the community and provides income and labor. Has anyone ever tried to hire a kid to come and mow your yard? Well, in Los Alamos we don’t have that. They do in Durango because they have a viable four-year school.”

Charles McCullough

McCullough noted that counting his two stints  in Los Alamos, he has been in the community for more than 40 years and was pastor of White Rock Baptist Church for 31 of those years.

“I have a deep interest in and appreciation for higher education. I have an undergrad degree in chemistry, a Master’s degree in Divinity. I studied at the School of Social Work at University of Texas-Arlington. I have a PhD in ethics; I taught courses in ethics and philosophy at the community college, university and graduate levels. School is kind of in my court. To this day, when I go on campus, I always want to go back to school,” he said. “I’ve been on numerous boards in our community. I’ve served on the YMCA Board, I’ve been chair of the advisory board for the Los Alamos Medical Center, and I’m currently on the board of a nonprofit that gives scholarships and sponsors ethics lecture series at universities across Texas.”

McCullough said he knows how boards work and how they should work and that he has been involved with budgets, strategic planning, administrators and staff.

“I have spent a large part of my life working with people and understanding human dynamics so I’m looking forward to helping build on the successes of an excellent community college and being part of helping it be all it can be to students primarily. There are big issues – budget and financial stability. Those will always be an issue as well as the funding formula, the state allocation, the cost of maintaining facilities, paying for dual credit courses, faculty recruitment and retention. From every indicator we have excellent faculty at UNM-LA and a remarkable adjunct pool but there’s always larger entities who can offer more and pull faculty away. That will always be a challenge as well,” he said.

In closing, McCullough said there’s no magic wand or very many avenues to success with all the issues that were covered.

“I will do what every good board member should do which is just listen carefully, ask good questions, explore options and engage with administration, staff, faculty and even students to the degree possible. Be engaged with the community, this is why this is an elected position. To listen to the community, explore options and suggestions, to be engaged at other levels with LAPS, UNM, the Legislative Finance Committee, the governor, show up at events, be a face of the university,” he said. “This is what I want – when a student says, ‘I got my start with the welding certification at UNM-LA’, I want parents and community members and employers to say, ‘That was a good choice’. When a student says ‘I got my Associate degree, a valuable start in my academic goals at UNM-LA’, I want parents, community members to say, ‘That was a good choice’, and we can make it more and more that way.”

David Hampton

Hampton said he has a passion for community building and currently serves on several boards including as president of the Los Alamos Co-Operative Market, treasurer of the Los Alamos Retirement Community and co-chair of the Los Alamos County Parks & Rec Board.

“My vision for UNM-LA is to support and expand programs to meet community needs. These programs would be both vocational and academic and would include certificates, associates in Applied Sciences as well as four-year degrees such as Nursing and Education. I’d like to engage other community entities such Los Alamos National Laboratory, the hospital, the schools and the County to cooperate in creating programs that would best serve them,” he said.

Hampton noted that he has attended UNM-LA advisory board meetings since May of 2019 and understands how the board functions.

I would be actively engaged if elected to the board,” he said.

Hi closing comment was that he is looking forward to representing the community and supporting Chancellor Cindy Rooney.

David Hansen

Hansen said his motto is common sense and science.

“These are two of the qualities that I as a retired scientist can bring to the table. I have degrees in Physics from the University of Oregon and the University of California-Santa Barbara. My wife and I arrived in Los Alamos in 1981 and like many of you we discovered what an amazing place Los Alamos is. Both of our children attended school here and graduated from the high school,” he said. “After retiring from the Theoretical Division at LANL, I realized what a privilege it has been to spend most of my life here. I’ve taken courses at UNM-LA and actually participated in a UNM-LA fundraiser that was organized by Juanita Madland, the instructor for a Music Theory course that I took.”

Hansen said the success of UNM-LA is measured by the success of the students and that vocations with certifications like welding and information technology can lead to well-paying jobs that contribute to the local economy.”

“Because of the continuing COVID pandemic though, UNM-LA faces challenges in how to operate in a post-shutdown world, how to provide a safe environment to ensure sustained in-person learning for the students. The pandemic has also affected the small and large business community which provides an important source of employment for UNM-LA graduates, particularly technical vocation students,” he said. “We need to ensure that the technical vocational courses stay aligned with these changing community needs. I would also like to help bring new programs to UNM-LA like a Nurses Associates Degree. UNM-LA is one of the reasons that make Los Alamos so special.”

In his closing comments, Hansen said his reason for running for the position is mostly for the gratitude of living in Los Alamos almost half his life.

“But it’s also out of the sense of disappointment with myself for never having given anything back to the community. As a retired scientist with the interest in philosophy and music, I believe I can contribute to the continuing improvement at UNM. If I’m elected to serve on the board, I’ll help keep the focus on student success –that includes support for building up the educational capabilities by enhancing the existing programs and hopefully new ones, but also supporting the safe operation of the campus, both its physical security and also following the guidelines of the governor and the New Mexico Department of Health. I have no political aspirations beyond serving on this board.”

Laura Woodring did not attend the forum but submitted the following statement:

My name is Laura Woodring and I am running for UNM-LA advisory board, position 2. I have resided in Los Alamos for 12 years and am a mental health provider in the community. I have a Masters degree in Counseling and have been practicing as a mental health therapist since 2013. 

Both of my parents were educators and have instilled in me the importance of a higher education. 

In my work, I have been able to recognize some of the challenges students face when they are attending UNM-LA. If elected, I will advocate for all students. I will bring a fresh perspective to the UNM-LA advisory board, with a strong desire to ensure that all students succeed, whether they choose to enroll in an academic program or technical vocational program. I see both as being important, and it’s important that UNM-LA identifies technical vocational programs that may be an asset to the current workforce needs in the community. 

The dual credit and free tuition issue is complicated. All students should have access to low cost or free tuition, but we will need further guidance from the Governor to implement it. This will also provide an opportunity to consider adding new degree programs to UNM-LA, such as a Nursing program. 

One of the issues that UNM-LA will need to address in the future is how to reach out to students that are not necessarily interested in pursuing an academic program. We also need to do more community outreach and let students know what resources are available to them. 

In conclusion, if I am elected, I will advocate for all students, identify ways to help UNM-LA bridge current gaps within their programs, and work towards having more community outreach. My name is Laura Woodring and I am running for UNM-LA advisory board, position 2