COVID-19 forever altered the world we live in — work places, retail habits and learning environments. While we’ve spent significant time and energy adapting, there is more to come, especially transitioning to a post-COVID community.
In the early days of the pandemic, JFF, a national nonprofit that promotes alignment between American workforce and education systems in order to support “economic advancement for all,” wrote that community colleges would play an important role in the COVID-19 recovery. The organization offers several reasons including that community colleges train many sectors of the workforce including those who “treat the sick and keep the nation safe” and that community colleges offer promising first steps for students seeking bachelor’s degrees.
So, how does your community college fit this framework? How will Doña Ana Community College support Doña Ana County’s transition to post-COVID life?
DACC has a long history of educating citizens of Doña Ana County for the local and regional workforces. This was DACC’s original mission when it began operating in 1973. Today, DACC offers more than 100 certificate and associate degree options for those interested in workforce training.
These options include many that are critical to “treating the sick” (nursing, respiratory therapy, EMS, etc.) and “keeping the nation safe” (fire science, criminal justice, etc.). At the same time, DACC offers other programs that, as we have discovered during COVID-19, are critical because they build and maintain the infrastructure of our country. Programs like welding, construction trades, and computer networking and security. Others like education, culinary arts, and public health.
Students work with faculty who have industry experience, in labs with up-to-date equipment, and in settings where they get hands-on experience en route to the workforce.
While career technical education was DACC’s original mission, for the last two decades DACC has offered another important educational resource for citizens of Doña Ana County: the opportunity to start on the path to a bachelor’s degree.
In some cases — criminal justice, education, public health, for example — students can earn the first two years of the degree before transferring seamlessly to NMSU. In other cases — drafting, information and computer technology, and applied studies among others — students can earn an associate degree and transfer many of the credits from that degree to a bachelor’s degree at NMSU. When a student comes to DACC saying they are interested in a bachelor’s degree, advisors quickly assess how our programs of study will help them start that journey.
These programs put students on the path in a way that offers direction and support: focused advising, small classes, faculty committed to teaching, and an affordable price.
Of course, not everyone wants to earn a college credential. And so DACC offers other instructional opportunities. Our adult education program offers instruction for students interested in learning English or completing their high school equivalency. Our customized training program develops classes to meet specific needs of businesses in our county. Finally, DACC houses the Small Business Development Center, a unit that supports those interested in starting, growing, or transitioning a business.
Of course, very little of this work gets done without significant collaboration with community partners. Local businesses offer internships, serve on advisory boards and hire our graduates. Structures in place within the NMSU System support students moving from DACC to NMSU. Agreements with nonprofits and government agencies provide additional support for citizens interested in educational opportunity.
It boils down to this: our relationship with you. It isn’t about DACC. It is about the people who take advantage of the opportunities the college offers to make a difference in their families, the workforce and our community.
Monica Torres is president of Doña Ana Community College.
To learn more, visit https://dacc.nmsu.edu/.
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