Rotarians Hear From New UNM-LA Chancellor Dr. Michael Holtzclaw

Dr. Michael Holtzclaw, the new Chancellor of UNM-Los Alamos, speaks at the Rotary Club of Los Alamos about his visions for the local campus. Photo by Linda Hull

Vice President
Rotary Club of Los Alamos

“I’m really blessed to be here,” affirmed University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) Chancellor Dr. Michael Holtzclaw as he addressed the Rotary Club of Los Alamos in October.  Holtzclaw, a native of Oregon, moved here at the end of June from Northern California and assumed his new position as Chancellor in July.

During his presentation, Holtzclaw addressed key projects and partnerships including sizeable grants received and programs developed to support Los Alamos National Laboratory, such as a Bachelors of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (ESME) and certificates in Nuclear Enterprise Science and Technology (NEST), Radiation Control Technology (RCT), Nuclear Waste Operator, and Electro-Mechanical Technology.  A variety of other certificates are also offered in healthcare and science.

The path forward for the branch campus has its challenges, though, as “competition for labor is fierce,” whether in general staffing or in faculty hiring.  The current building, the site of a former elementary school, also poses its own set of difficulties, as “many buildings are past their life-cycle or the layout does not work best for today’s higher education needs.”  He added that the last new building on the campus dates to the 1990s.

To move the UNM-LA campus into the promise of the next 25 years, Holtzclaw’s long-range goals involve proposals to rebuild the campus.  He envisions UNM-LA offering “state-of-the-art educational and training facilities to serve our students, community partners, and the community as a whole.”  Becoming a “workforce hub that will serve as the key training center in the region for various sectors” will enhance UNM-LA’s relationship with LANL.   

In closing Holtzclaw expressed his gratitude for the support the Los Alamos community has given UNM-LA and reminded Rotarians that the campus is “locally funded.  There is no branch campus funding from the University of New Mexico.”

To learn more about UNM-LA and the educational opportunities offered to “tradition and non-traditional students, from teens to senior citizens,” please go to

Dr. Michael Holtzclaw has over 27 years of experience in higher education and “a deep gratitude to community colleges for the vital role they play in student achievement, equity and social justice.” He was born and raised in Grants Pass, Oregon and is the first in his family to attend college.  It was his childhood love of reading that helped prepare him for the classroom and the award of a college athletic scholarship that led him to higher education and academia.

Dr. Holtzclaw holds a B.A. in International Affairs with a minor in Soviet and East European studies from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Geography from Ohio State University.  While an undergraduate student, he participated in study-abroad programs in Costa Rica, Hungary, the Soviet Union, and Indonesia. 

Holtzclaw began his career in higher education serving as Assistant Dean of Admissions at Lewis & Clark. He taught English as a Second Language in Taiwan, and for 13 years he was a professor of geography at Central Oregon Community College. 

In 2012, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to be the Dean of Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Ohlone College. Prior to joining UNM-LA as Chancellor, Dr. Holtzclaw served in California as Vice President of Instruction at the College of San Mateo and as the Senior Dean at Diablo Valley College, San Ramon Campus. 

Holtzclaw has “a passion for learning foreign languages and about other cultures” and has lived in seven countries.  He believes in being active in the community and has held roles as a City Planning Commissioner, served on many educational boards, and is currently participating in Leadership Los Alamos.  He is married with three children and lives in Los Alamos.

The Rotary Club of Los Alamos, through its Club Foundation, is a 501(c)3 non-profit and one of over 34,000 clubs worldwide.  Rotary, which now has 1.5 million members, was founded in 1905; the local Club was chartered in 1966.  Rotary areas of focus include promoting peace; fighting disease, particularly polio; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; supporting education; saving and enhancing the lives of mothers and children; growing economies; and protecting the environment.

The Rotary Club of Los Alamos meets in person Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00, in the Community Room, Cottonwood on the Greens, at the golf course.  A Zoom option is available by contacting Linda Hull, Rotary Club vice-president, 505-662-7950.  Hull is also happy to provide information about the Club and its humanitarian service.  The community is invited meetings and to become members.