ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was warm summer day, July 1, 1965. With little fanfare and only 150 or so students, Central New Mexico Community College – back then known as Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute – opened its doors for the first time.
At the time, the school fell under the jurisdiction of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education. Its initial curriculum included automotive repair, carpentry, clerical occupations, electronics, groundskeeping, health occupations, machine trades, sales occupations and silversmithing. Today, besides a large number of certificated programs, CNM offers associate degrees in applied science, arts and science.
“I feel so lucky to be the president of CNM during this 50th anniversary year,” said President Kathie Winograd. “This community college has meant so much to this community since it opened in 1965.
“Virtually everybody in central New Mexico knows somebody whose life was changed for the better by attending CNM, or TVI as it’s still fondly referred to by many,” she said. “That’s one of the great joys about working at CNM. Almost every time I meet somebody and they find out where I work, I get to hear about how CNM changed their life, or the life of somebody they care about.”
“Those encounters always inspire me to work harder to help more people benefit from education,” she added.
The school’s first principal was Louis E. Saavedra. He was elevated to president in 1979, when TVI seceded from APS and a TVI Governing Board was elected. Saavedra would later serve a term as mayor of Albuquerque, beginning in 1989.
The school’s first permanent building was the former University Heights Elementary School. It has since been renamed the Louis E. Saavedra Administration Building. It sits on the Main Campus and today houses CNM’s administrative offices.
Change and continuity always have been mainstays of CNM. In 1978, when it was still known as TVI, the college was accredited by the North Central Association of Schools. In 1986, when the Legislature authorized it to grant associate degrees, it became a full-fledged community college.
Jump ahead to 2006. Reborn as Central New Mexico Community College, TVI became a thing of the past. The name change, it was felt, better reflected the breadth of offerings and the part of the state it served. The following year, voters decided to incorporate Rio Rancho into the CNM District and, in 2010, CNM opened its Rio Rancho Campus.
In addition to the 60-acre Main Campus and the Rio Rancho Campus, CNM operates the 42-acre Joseph M. Montoya Campus in the Northeast Heights, the South Valley Campus, the Westside Campus and the CNM Workforce Training Center. In 2011, the Advanced Technology Center opened in northern Albuquerque. CNM also offers classes at off-campus sites, including UNM, middle and high schools in Rio Rancho, and Edgewood Middle School.
Eight years ago, the CNM Governing Board unanimously chose Katharine Winograd as the college’s first female president. She took over at the helm on July 1, 2007. Previously, she had worked as vice president for Planning and Budget.
In 2008, CNM, APS and the University of New Mexico agreed to a partnership that has led to tremendous growth in dual-credit opportunities for high school students, and a more seamless transfer process between CNM and UNM.
Enrollment at CNM leapfrogged over UNM’s in 2009, making it the largest institution of higher education in the state, at least in terms of enrollment – and at least for a while. The following year, CNM’s enrollment hit an all-time high just short of 30,000. From that high-water mark of 29,948 in 2009, enrollment has slipped to 25,249 this semester, slightly behind UNM.
Two years ago, CNM and APS opened a dual-credit high school, the College & Career High School, on CNM’s Main Campus. Last fall, systemwide, 2,755 students were signed up for dual-credit classes.
A year ago, in the spring of 2014, the CNM STEMulus Center opened in downtown Albuquerque. It offers compressed and accelerated educational opportunities.
This past January, the center’s IGNITE Community Accelerator program kicked off, helping 10 startup companies jump-start business.
But not all the news is good at CNM. These days, major ongoing issues facing the college include the continuing enrollment erosion, sometimes contentious salary and benefits issues with adjunct faculty members, and lower than anticipated oil and gas revenues the state depends on.
Earlier this year, warning of impending budget cuts, Winograd said some classes might have to be cut and other cost-saving measures enacted, including the strict review of all hiring requests, limiting travel and carefully evaluating the need for “every renewal and replacement capital project that isn’t funded by bonds.”
Despite these and other ephemeral troubles, as the years come and go, CNM’s mission remains the same: “To create education opportunities and community partnerships while pursuing a level of community college excellence that is worthy of local and national recognition,” it reads.
“The core mission of our college will continue,” said Sydney Gunthorpe, vice president for academic affairs.
Looking toward the future, Winograd is just as enthusiastic.
“It’s such a pleasure to be able to look back and celebrate the extraordinary progress that has been made at CNM and to be able to share our 50-year history with the community,” she said. “There are so many thousands of students and former employees who have made this college the special place it is today. For 50 years, faculty and staff have been remarkably united in the cause to help our students achieve their dreams and goals through education. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.”
During the 2012-13 school year, CNM ranked 11th of more than 1,100 community colleges in the number of associate degrees awarded. It was No. 2 for associate degrees awarded to Hispanics, No. 2 for associate degrees presented to Native Americans and among the nation’s top 10 colleges for the number of certificates awarded.