by George Zamora
SOCORRO – New Mexico Tech has initiated a pre-college division at the state-supported research university, which allows high school students from throughout the state, as well as freshmen enrolled at the school, to enroll in preparatory courses in core subjects such as math, chemistry, physics, and English.
“The main goal of this new effort is to adequately prepare current high school seniors and recent high school graduates for freshman courses that are being taught at New Mexico Tech, especially if these students may not have the necessary educational foundation to master these introductory level college curricula,” says Osman T. Inal, dean of engineering at the university and one of several Tech faculty members responsible for developing the new pre-college division.
“Also, according to the established structure of the pre-college division at Tech, students who enroll in freshman-level classes and are having a difficult time in their studies are now able to easily transfer into a relevant preparatory course and will thus be better prepared to take the more difficult course in ensuing semesters,” Inal adds.
Most of the preparatory courses offered through New Mexico Tech’s pre-college division are already in place at the university, but had been handled in the past on an “as-needed basis” by individual academic departments.
“Our having created a semi-autonomous pre-college division has further allowed academic departments to focus all their resources and efforts on their college-level offerings, rather than having any one department be tasked with handling a disproportionate amount of pre-college courses,” Inal points out.
According to the university’s developing plans, New Mexico Tech’s pre-college division will eventually be staffed mostly with faculty recruited from a statewide pool of retired scientists, engineers, and technicians, many of whom may have previously worked in high-tech environments such as Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.
“By employing these types of non-traditional instructors, we’re hoping students will be able to draw on the many years of experience in scientific and technical fields that these teachers will bring to the classroom,” Inal says. “We feel they can teach with a clearer and more relevant perspective than most teaching assistants, who would typically end up teaching preparatory courses.”
By later adding a distance education component to the university’s pre-college division offerings, New Mexico Tech administrators hope to be able to offer preparatory courses to high schools throughout New Mexico.
“In addition, we have hopes that this pre-college package that we’re continually improving will ultimately increase student retention at New Mexico Tech, while at the same time improving our lines of communication and coordination between the university and the state’s high schools,” Inal says.
The New Mexico Tech pre-college division is currently being administered by a campus-wide committee of Tech faculty members, acting as the division’s “school board,” Inal says.