WNMU/San Juan College Partnership Addresses Teacher Shortage, Maximizes Student Investment

A partnership between Western New Mexico University and San Juan College is expected to alleviate the state’s severe teacher shortage and address other workforce needs by supporting students along their educational pathways and enabling them to continue living and working in their local communities.

© Western New Mexico University

A new partnership between Western New Mexico University and San Juan College allows for seamless transfers, centers support for students within their home community, and remedies critical shortages of workers in select disciplines, most notably education.

“We are saving students tuition dollars and time by outlining what they need to take at San Juan College to transfer into our programs,” said Dr. Patti West-Okiri, who is WNMU Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs.

This so-called 2+2 program empowers students to complete two years at the community college then matriculate for their final two years at WNMU. “The goal is to make it so that students don’t repeat content or don’t take more classes than necessary to attain a bachelor’s degree,” Dr. West-Okiri said.

The first round of programs for SJC students looking toward enrolling at WNMU include natural sciences, business, psychology, social sciences and education, an area in crisis that both institutions are specifically working to resolve.

WNMU School of Education courses will be offered in hybrid format on the SJC campus, as the agreement allows students to attend SJC and WNMU concurrently in pursuit of an education degree.

More immediately addressing the dire need for educators at all levels throughout New Mexico, WNMU is joining forces with school districts in San Juan County to ensure students jobs in classrooms while they’re going through their degree program. “They are able to apply immediately what we teach, which allows us to fast-track our courses,” said Dr. Debra Dirksen, who is WNMU Associate Dean of the School of Education.

With more than 1,000 teacher openings statewide, WNMU will be increasing the number of teachers at all levels, and the SJC partnership will help keep teachers in the communities that need them most. Only 3% of the state’s educators identified as American Indian, compared with 11% of students, according to New Mexico Kids Can.

Providing students with the opportunity to work in schools also enables them take advantage of state teacher education scholarships and earn income to cover living expenses during their training. “I’ve never heard of another program like this in the country,” Dr. Dirksen said.

WNMU will provide the added benefit of on-site advisement services. “Our partnership with San Juan College is demonstrative of our commitment to develop a strong, capable workforce and to serve students across the region,” said Dr. Patti West-Okiri, WNMU Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Submit Feedback