TSJC succeeding after tough times


ALAMOSA — Trinidad State Junior College has emerged from a rough patch the last few years and is now looking forward to growth and expansion, TSJC President Dr. Carmen Simone told community members in Alamosa on Tuesday night.

Scheduled with the August Chamber Business Network, the gathering provided an opportunity for community members to receive an update on programs, staff and plans for the college, whose primary campuses are in Trinidad and Alamosa.

“When I first came here, we were not in very good shape,” said Simone who has been with the college about four years. “We had a lot of work to do when I got here. We have done that. We now are starting to grow, and we are committed as we grow to increasing the number of full-time faculty.”

She said TSJC currently has 42 faculty members but has a budget for 44 so will be looking at areas of greatest need for filling those remaining spots.

“We are holding steady,” Simone said.

Last spring TSJC created a new position focused on community, concurrent and continuing education and TSJC-Valley Campus Dean Jack Wiley has taken that position. Formerly working in the K-12 system and serving as a superintendent in the past, he is well suited to bridge the gap between the college and the 22 school districts TSJC serves between its Trinidad and Alamosa campuses, Simone explained.

Wiley has been visiting each of those school districts, with 16 of them under his belt by Tuesday night, to discuss concurrent enrollment opportunities. Wiley will also be working on work force training, especially in the Valley, Simone said, which will complement the programs already underway in Trinidad, such as the lineman program.

“We’ve got a great team,” Simone said.

Another new position at the Valley campus is a school resource officer. TSJC coordinated with the Alamosa Police Department to place an officer full time at the Valley campus. Simone said this will provide a service for the college as well as expand the police force, as the officer would be available for emergencies within the community as well.

In addition to its college campus sites, TSJC has off-campus educational programs such as the degree program for offenders in the Trinidad Correctional Facility, the law enforcement training facility in Alamosa and the automotive program at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa.

“We are looking for ways to serve the Valley,” Simone said.

She addressed the adult education program at the Valley campus for which the college lost grant funding earlier this year. She said this was an issue TSJC had to solve, since people would not likely leave the San Luis Valley for a GED program elsewhere.

“We simply could not let people down,” she said.

She said TSJC found a way to continue the program without the grant funding because it is so critical to the Valley. Tammie Mack, who has operated the adult education program on the Trinidad campus and in Walsenburg, is now also overseeing the program at the Valley campus, Simone said. Ten students signed up for classes at the first orientation for the program here, she added.

Simone said grants such as the one for the GED program are unpredictable, but TSJC is currently awaiting word and is hopeful of receiving grants for Hispanic serving institutions and math/science Upward Bound.

Simone said TSJC is pursuing new degree programs such as a degree in human services and a certificate in dental assisting. Local dental offices are partnering with the college to provide on-site learning.

Simone added that TSJC also has 18 new transfer degrees that will allow TSJC graduates to transfer to four-year institutions. These range from associate of science in ag/business to associate of arts in theater.

TSJC is also helping students to take the “Smart Path” to finish their degree programs at the college. Smart Path helps students to focus on the courses they need rather than “meandering” through coursework that will not help them reach their goal. This kind of focused education has been going on for years in some of the programs such as nursing but will now be expanded to all programs, Simone said.

As part of the Smart Path, the college will provide structured advising, frequent feedback and clear expectations, Simone said.

Taking the Smart Path, students have a better chance of earning their degrees in four semesters, Simone added.

She also talked about the athletic program, which is slowly expanding to the Valley campus. She said the initial TSJC Trojan sports program at the Valley campus, cross country, has performed well under the direction of champion runner Coach Lauren Martin, now Masterson since her marriage this summer. Simone said TSJC will slowly be growing its athletic program on the Valley campus.

“We are ready for another terrific year at Trinidad State,” she concluded.

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