UNM-Los Alamos Chancellor Cindy Rooney To Step Down From Her Leadership Role

UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney is stepping down from her leadership role. Photo by Sarah Jimenez/UNM-LA 

UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney, far left, and NNMC President Rick Bailey, far right, pose with recipients of the Danny Nichols Memorial Scholarship at the 2020 Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix. Recipients pictured left to right are Aaliyah Sandoval, Andrew Ortiz and Reyes Roybal. Photo Courtesy N3B 

Chancellor Cindy Rooney speaking at the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) event with President Stokes and Provost Holloway in the foreground. Photo by Sarah Jimenez/UNM-LA


After serving as a leader of UNM-Los Alamos from 2015 to the present, through a period of progress and challenges, Chancellor Cindy Rooney has announced that she will be stepping aside as Chancellor, effective on June 30, 2022. The timing of the decision will allow the campus to conduct a nationwide search and transition. 

“It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to serve as the leader of the Los Alamos campus. I especially appreciate the opportunity to work with excellent people, both on campus and in our community,” said Chancellor Rooney. “This was a difficult decision, but I do believe it is the right decision for both UNM-LA and me.”   

While Rooney desires to step aside as Chancellor, she is not retiring, but plans to reduce her work commitment to no more than .5 FTE with UNM. The discussions on specific roles and responsibilities are ongoing and will be determined by the UNM Provost, working with the leadership at UNM-LA. 

UNM-LA Advisory Board Chair, Steve Boerigter commented, “Chancellor Rooney has been instrumental in growing and strengthening UNM-LA for Los Alamos and Northern New Mexico.  She came onboard during a time of great uncertainty for UNM-LA – we had weathered a long period of interim leadership and the legislature had doubts about our viability. With her leadership, a new mil levy was passed that provides a strong financial base for the college.  Many programs focused on the community’s needs have grown under her leadership – such as the new collaboration on a Mechanical Engineering degree.  Her energy and commitment to students, faculty, and the community will be missed.” 

In addition to her role with the Los Alamos campus, Dr. Rooney has served as the President of the New Mexico Association of Community Colleges and works with the UNM Executive Cabinet. 

“Cindy Rooney has been a wonderful partner in leadership at UNM,” said UNM Provost James Holloway.  “She has been creative and super effective as Chancellor of UNM-Los Alamos, and a dedicated advocate for the educational needs of Los Alamos and the surrounding communities.  She has also been a thoughtful leader in higher education across the State of New Mexico and is respected for her work by all her colleagues both at UNM and beyond.   We will miss her in the Chancellor role, but I know she will continue to contribute and strengthen New Mexico and UNM.” 

UNM-LA Director of Student Affairs, Kathryn Vigil, also expressed her appreciation for Rooney’s leadership.  “I have had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Rooney over many years and see the ongoing passion that she has for higher education and for the advancement of the students, faculty, and staff at UNM-LA.  She sets a daily example of what it means to work hard and give your best effort which translates throughout everything that we do– from delivering quality instruction to providing excellent customer service. The positive impacts of her leadership can be seen within the many organizations where she serves, and New Mexico has benefited greatly from her contributions.” 

Through numerous collaborative efforts, the campus has made progress on a variety of fronts.  A few highlights for UNM-Los Alamos include: 

  • Improved financial stability: increased local funding for operations through mil levy; increased state funding for capital projects; funding from industry partnerships for special programs; federal and state grants (including a $2.3 million Department of Education grant); and a growing endowment program. 
  • New and expanded programs to target workforce needs: Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (in conjunction with UNM School of Engineering); a Nuclear Enterprise Science and Technology program for selected LANL employees; programs in RCT and Waste Management Operator for N3B employees; Personal Care Attendant and Certified Nursing Assistant programs, and an expansion of the welding program. 
  • New local scholarship and internship opportunities for students: Community Internship Collaboration (CIC); the Graduation Project; and the recently announced Scholarship for Education and Economic Development (SEED) program. 
  • Stable and increasing enrollment: Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the number of students enrolled at UNM-Los Alamos has grown over the past several years, with a record high for the campus this Spring 2022 semester.  
  • Expanded relationships with Los Alamos County, Los Alamos Public Schools, LANL, N3B, Los Alamos Medical Center, local businesses, regional community colleges, and within the UNM system. 

Rooney references the importance of gaining positive momentum for the Los Alamos campus and noted, “My hope is that during my time as the campus leader, we set the stage for amazing things to come.” 

Rooney is consistently passionate about the value of higher education and the opportunities that it can create. She is a first-generation college student and has degrees, which include a BS in Accounting, an MBA, and a Ph.D. in Accounting, with a minor in Organizational Psychology, from the University of Tennessee. 

Rooney has been involved in higher education for over 30 years. Previously she taught at the College of William and Mary, Xavier University, and UNM-Albuquerque, before coming to UNM-Los Alamos. Like many in our community, she arrived in Los Alamos as a “trailing spouse.”  She joined UNM-LA in 2000 as part-time faculty, teaching Accounting and Economics and later serving as the Department Chair for Business. In 2013, she became Dean of Instruction. She was asked to step in as the Interim Executive Director in August 2015 and the “interim” title was removed in early 2016.  Although the title for the leader at branch campuses in the UNM system has changed from Executive Director, to Chief Executive Officer, to Chancellor, Rooney notes that the leadership role has remained the same.   

Last year, Rooney received the Institutional Leadership Award from the International Economic Development Council for her work with UNM-LA, her commitment to economic development, and for her efforts in advancing career pathways for underserved youth. Rooney also serves on the boards of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, the Los Alamos Community Foundation, and the United Way of Northern New Mexico.  

The search for the next Chancellor at UNM has started and will be facilitated by the Isaacson & Miller search firm. Information about the search can be found at https://executivesearch.unm.edu/chancellor-for-unm-los-alamos/index.html

 “I am extremely thankful for the opportunities that I have experienced with UNM-LA. The transition to a successful new leadership, the continued success of this campus, and the future of higher education remain very important to me.” Rooney continued, “I look forward to continued service to this university, while also having time to pursue some new opportunities.”  

University of New Mexico President Garnett Stoke and Chancellor Cindy Rooney at an event on UNM-LA campus. Photo Courtesy UNM-LA 

UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney with Lauren Johnson and State Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard at a Community Internship Collaboration (CIC) event. Photo Courtesy UNM-LA