2021 Winners of Women In Non-Traditional Careers Awards

Congratulations to the winners!
April 15, 2021

We come together today to acknowledge and celebrate our students pursuing non-traditional careers. While we have made great strides in shrinking the gap in male dominated careers, there is still much work to do. 

The median weekly earnings of women who worked year-round, full-time in 2019 was $821, in comparison to the median weekly earnings of men which was $1007; meaning women make about 82% of what men do. The wage gap has shrunk from 62% in 1979, to 82% now, but that number hasn't moved now in almost a decade. Construction trades and non-traditional careers earn 90% of what men make, shrinking that wage even more. 

CNM boasts being one of hundreds of higher institutions with a female college president; 30% of college presidents are women, a number that is slowing growing annually. Opportunities are growing for women in leadership positions slowly. Nearly 40% of businesses are woman owned! One in four females report their greatest challenges in attending college are confidence, motivation, and support. It is important to say, that the women we recognize today, are making a huge impact and will continue to make a difference on the future success of girls, women, and families everywhere.

WIN Award recipients will receive gift cards donated from the School of Applied Technologies and the American Association of Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC). Their support is motivated by their desire to encourage, and celebrate women pursuing careers and the belief that career choices should be based on interests and abilities and not gender stereotypes. None of this is possible without the nominators: Eric Barros, Phelan Gavaldon, Sonia Crawford, Barry Mills, Marcel Hesch, Jim Chong, and Janet Hughes. Thank you to the nominators, and donors!

Alexandria Biggs—WIN Student of the Year

Nominator: Jennifer Klecker, Instructor

I met Alex in my class this term. It is her last term in the automotive program. I found Alex to be one of the most engaged students I have met in my class in some years. She always showed up to every virtual class lecture right on time, she emailed all issues professionally, and helped AT improve our student experience.

She is a woman who cares enough to speak up and ethical enough to say something when things need improvement; the program and college are the better for it. She inspires others in her class, leading classmates in study groups and helping each other get through work. She is courageous enough to stand up when so many turn away. She is connected through the CNM Auto Club as President before COVID hit. She is exceptional in every way. I am so proud of Alex and all I have seen her accomplish in just the weeks I have had her in class and cannot wait to see what strides she makes for women in CTE once she graduates.

Nominator: Barry Mills, Instructor

Alex brings a new level of critical thinking skills to the idea of Auto club. I've seen Alex resurrect a really broken car of hers all by herself. Her determination and voracity to have that car going was amazing.  She had an additional car that wasn't running that required some real Ingenuity and she removed the transmission all by herself and repaired the car using very minimal parts. You see, the car was an all-wheel drive Subaru that part of the clutch had failed on. In order to repair, she was required to remove the transmission to gain access to the failed part.  She jumped right in and got it done with success and pride. Here determination is contagious. 

This award is to recognize a student who has achieved a skill level respected by their peers and instructors that show a passion for their chosen field. This individual will exemplify CNM's core values of being caring, ethical, inspiring, courageous, connected, and exceptional.

Nominee Bio:

I am a 28-year-old, married, homeschooling, mother of two, and decided to go into the CNM Applied technologies automotive program because it has been my passion ever since I was 18 years old. I had my oldest child when I was 18 and was a single mother at the time, who did not have the funds to take my first vehicle into the shop to get repairs done. I googled and looked up on YouTube how to change my alternator. That was an amazing accomplishment for me and surprised a few of my family members because they didn't believe I could do it. That is when I found out that I adored and loved getting my hands down and dirty. 

The CNM automotive program has allowed me to branch out of my comfort zone and learn about the science behind vehicles and the instructors are so encouraging and helpful. Any problem I faced they welcomed with opened arms and gave me the encouragement to continue even when I had doubts about myself due to my gender in this field. I also gained the courage to join auto club and went from Vice president to President due to my commitment and passion for this trade.

If there is any advice I can give to anyone else looking to go into this industry and if they have doubts due to judgment, fears, or negativity in their ear would be to just do it. Do not allow anyone else's words or negativity to stop you from achieving what you want to do in your life. You can do anything you set your mind to. It will be difficult, but if you reach out, stay positive, and take it day by day; in the end it is such an amazing, wonderful, and rewarding journey. You have the strength inside! I believe in you and know you will do fantastic in achieving the goals you want for yourself. 

Jessica Miranda—Community Leader

 Nominator: Phelan Gavaldon, Instructor

Jessica Miranda is enrolled in the Electrical Trades Program at Central New Mexico Community College. She has successfully completed the first term of the program and is currently enrolled in the second term of the program. I have had the pleasure of having Jessica as a student for the theory classes of the second term. Jessica’s current GPA is 4.0.

Jessica shows a lot of promise in the electrical trades. Her knowledge of electrical theory is growing exponentially and it shows in her performance. Jessica is extremely thorough in her research and goes above and beyond when completing her assignments. Jessica doesn’t just answer a question but goes into detail on the topic and explores the various aspects of the specific topic.

The work ethic that Jessica applies to her studies lets me know that she will have a very rewarding career in the electrical trades. Jessica’s focus and determination to be the best that she can at this trade will be rewarded greatly as she achieves her career goals.

Nominator, Eric Barros, Instructor

In the first term electrical trade classes that I taught this past Fall semester, Jessica Miranda stood out from the other students. She frequently offered articulate and perceptive insight in class activities and lab projects. Additionally, she was very punctual, and eager to participate in class activities despite the fact that the pandemic was in full swing. Jessica has an excellent electrical knowledge base and demonstrates great leadership potential. She has demonstrated both passion for the electrical industry and exemplified CNM’s core values of being caring and exceptional while here at CNM.

I can add that Jessica volunteers for the Women Advancing in Technology & Trades (WATT) student group and is interested and engaged in helping create a space for all women in CTE careers.

The Community Leader Award is to recognize a student who has encouraged and supported women at CNM and/or in the community in pursuing non-traditional pathways. This student can be seen volunteering in the classroom, community, or locally. They engage with CNM, other students in their program, demonstrates exceptional leadership, and has the highest ethical standards.

Nominee Bio:

I have no words to describe how honor I feel in receiving the 2021 Women in Non-Traditional Career Award.

My name is Jessica Miranda, and I am currently coursing my second term in the Electrical Trades program at CNM. I am expanding my knowledge in the electrical trades by specializing in the area of photovoltaic and at the same time conducting independent study to obtain my EE98 contractor’s license in the state of New Mexico. I am the co-founder of The Specialist, an electrical company that will be launching officially mid-May. I have an Associate degree in Business Administration obtain through the Fast-Track Business program at CNM.

I left my formal career as a pediatrics Occupational Therapy provider to embark on an adventurous career in the Electrical Trades.

CNM has provided me with a strong foundation in embracing my new career, all of the instructors and faculty are full of knowledge and are extremely dedicated in their student’s success.

My most important goal is to create new opportunities for people but most important to empower women in the trades and be an inspiration. I believe in programs that give back to the community, I am a firm supporter that this is a great way to give back and to cultivate strong values in generations to come: “where there is a will, there is a way.” The CNM Women Advancing in Technology and Trades is the organization committed to carving the way for women who have that will.

As a woman in the electrical trades, I want to inspire people and make a positive impact in their lives. My vision is to constantly be striving to be the best version of myself, to help and inspire, live life with integrity and empathy, but most important be a positive influence in the life of others.

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish” Michelle Obama.

If you are a women in a nontraditional trade please don’t hesitate to contact The WATT student group, it offers networking opportunities, access to resources, and a chance to help encourage more women to enter trades occupations.

Elizabeth Ryan—Oustanding Student

 Nominator: Sonia Crawford Instructor

I have found Elizabeth to be an extraordinary student. She received a well-deserved “A" in the FDMA 2287 class, which is difficult to accomplish. All of her design work is impressive, but I remember a series of seasonal goddess digital pieces, that were truly spectacular. She showed great execution and creativity in the production of the goddess series.

Elizabeth was a delight in class and always met deadlines with major projects, class challenges and homework assignments. She is extremely imaginative, talented, highly motivated, and hardworking. In class, she worked well with others and demonstrated leadership skills by often talking to other students about her design process. I have found her design skills to be of the highest quality and have no doubt she will continue to be successful in any of her pursuits within the design realm.

The Outstanding Student award is to honor a student who shows qualities of an outstanding and successful student in a non-traditional program. This student should show exceptional work ethic, tenacity, and determination in the achievement of their goals. 

Nominee Bio:

Being a woman and an adult-learner in a non-traditional career path has been both challenging and rewarding. Seven years ago, I relocated to New Mexico to find a new life—a life that included being the first in my family to receive a college degree. In Spring 2021, I will be receiving a degree in CIS with a Digital Media Concentration. The next step will be to transfer to UNM to pursue a higher degree in Film and Digital Media. I’m not going to lie—it’s been a difficult journey at times—but my advice would be to please not give up on your dreams. The road may seem long, yet you WILL arrive at your destination. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to learn. I’ve met amazing mentors and professors at CNM who have helped me along the way and have given me the courage to keep moving forward. Keep your head up and your eyes on your educational goals. You will succeed if you continue working at it. After all, if I can do it, so can you!

 Zarina Muscato – Emerging Leader

Nominator: Marcel Hesch, Instructor (AT)

Zarina Muscato is the student I'm nominating. She began attending CNM Machine Tool Technology courses due to her interest that was sparked by her watching a video about the process of taking a piece of raw stock and machining it into a functional part.

I respect Zarina's skill level she has achieved with offhand grinding of cutting tools for use on the metal-cutting lathe, her ability to machine parts on a lathe and milling machine as well as her motivation for the academic courses in machining reflected with grades that require effort and are achieved by only the best students.

She brings an uplifting attitude every day, she does not get discouraged or frustrated when she is experiencing the challenges of learning a new skill. She is more than willing to share her recently learned and techniques with other students.

In my role of instructing Zarina I have easily noticed that she is a caring person who naturally possesses the core values of CNM and a good attitude as I'm sure you will notice as well.

The Emerging Leader award is to recognize a student in a non-traditional program who shows leadership characteristics in their given program/career. A leader is someone who is responsible, accountable, honest, and willing to share best practices with their fellow students. 

 Nominee Bio:

My name is, Zarina Muscato. I am currently enrolled at CNM in the Associates of Applied Sciences Degree program for Machine Tool Technology. I am also currently working as a Machinist Intern at Jaguar Precision Machine in their inspections department.

Last year I became fascinated with many YouTube videos about manual machining, but lathes and mills are expensive to buy, especially just to see if I would like it. One YouTube creator, Quinn Dunki of Blondihacks, mentioned looking into local community colleges for machining programs. It turned out CNM offered exactly what I was looking for. 

I was terrified about beginning a journey of this magnitude as a woman. There do not seem to be many women in this field, and I was afraid that I would be written off, treated as an outcast, or fail entirely. After much deliberation, my friends and family convinced me to sign up and take the first set of machining classes. After all, I could always walk away if I didn’t like it. 

Thankfully, my fears were laid to rest on the first day of class. The instructors, staff, and even fellow students welcomed me immediately. The instructors made me feel at ease and never hesitated to answer any of my questions. I fell in love with machining within the first few weeks and haven’t looked back. 

I look forward to finishing my degree and seeing where my new career takes me. There is a saying that has become a personal mantra. I repeat it to myself when I become afraid or anxious. The saying goes, “F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything and Run,’ or, ‘Face Everything and Rise.’ The choice is yours.” I, personally, chose to rise and I hope that others will, too.

Michele Gothard – The Rosie Award

Nominator: Jim Chong, Instructor

She attends five of my classes: HVAC 1105, HVAC 1110, HVAC 1115, HVAC 1120, and HVAC 1130. She attends classes regularly and actively participates in class discussions and lab assignments. When she is in the laboratory, she pays attention to detail, safety rules, and operating instructions of the equipment. In addition, she is very motivated to learn and willing to help other students. Her talent and learning ability enable her to succeed her goal in HVAC/R. As an instructor, I am very proud and fortunate to have her in the HVAC/R program.

The Rosie Award is to recognize a first-year student (including dual credit students) enrolled in a non-traditional program that shows a sign of future excellence and achievement in their program and field. The student nominated for this award will be optimistic, an agent of change, and a mentor to other students. They will display integrity, civility, and respect.

Nominee Bio:

My name is Michele Gothard. A bit about myself: I grew up in New Mexico and love living in Rio Rancho. I stomp in the garden for fun, and have great hopes for many grapes this year. When it comes to landscaping rocks, I recruit my children to help.

Journalism and media research focused my studies at New Mexico State University and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The University of New Mexico partnered with the Journalism in Germany program, and I was able to use my German language skills and develop my interests in journalism.

I have great experiences from working in the customer service industry. Skills in customer support and troubleshooting transition well to the role of HVAC technician. I enjoy the HVAC program with Jim Chong, and am delighted to study at CNM.

Ray Trujillo – WINograd Award

Nominator: Jennifer Klecker

Ray used to work for CNM teaching plumbing and has moved on to become the lead trainer with the plumbing and pipefitters local 412 Union. In his time with the union, he has made huge strides in increasing and retaining women in industry.

When he began in 2016, there were two women in the program. Ray reached out to women’s groups through the Albuquerque community, including CNM. The number of women in the program today is 14! His goal is to increase females to 25%; 23 is 10% so he is well on his way. Ray is doing all this through innovative training programs and on-the-job mentoring at the union to ensure everyone is instilled with the notions of equality and inclusion.

The WINograd Award honors a person in Industry who has increased the number of women in their trades field. This person will show high integrity, a passion for changing the culture of Industry, and creating an equitable environment for women. This award expresses our WINogratitude to anyone in Industry with the courage to make a change in the culture by creating a place where women can thrive.

Nominee Bio:

  • Training Director of State Registered Apprenticeship Programs in NM and TX (Current)
  • Workforce Connection of Central New Mexico Disability Standing Committee Member (Current)
  • Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act Board Member (Current)
  • New Mexico Mechanical & Electrical Examination Review Committee Member (Current)
  • New Mexico Mechanical Technical Advisory Committee Member (Current)
  • Northern New Mexico College Plumbing and Pipefitting Advisory Committee Chair (Current)
  • Central New Mexico Community College Plumbing/HVAC Advisory Committee Member (Current)
  • Contracted Consultant for At Your Pace Online for Wyoming State Plumbing License Prep (Current)
  • Member of Women in Construction New Mexico
  • Former CNM Applied Technologies Instructor
  • Retired US Army First Sergeant
  • Military Equal Opportunity (EO) & Sexual Harassment Prevention (SHP) Facilitator Qualification Course, Vilsek, Germany
  • Military Unit EO and SHP representative for 16 years

Women are more than capable of finding and retaining work in the skilled trades.  There is great pay and benefits in our fields of Plumbing, Pipefitting, Welding and HVAC Technicians and I hope get more women applying for our program.  Attached are slides we have been posting in celebration of Women’s History Month concentrating on their contributions in the Labor Movement

A link to our Heats-On video featuring Sasha Sun, a graduate of the CNM Weld Program: 

Magda Martinez-Baca – CNM Employee Advocate, Trio Program

Nominator: Jennifer Klecker

This was a difficult choice, there are so many I would like to thank for all their help each year with WIN awards and helping advance women in non-traditional careers. When I thought about a person that is always there, always contributing, it’s Magda. Every year since I began with WIN, she is a mentor, helps run the event, volunteers for anything that is needed. She can be counted on anytime she is needed; one need only ask her.

Magda is the Director CNM Federal Trio Student Support Services Program; 20 years; 4 successful grant competition proposals lasting 5 years each. Past president of Trio New Mexico; NM’s association of Colleges supporting Federal Trio Programs. Active member of UnidosUS, advocates for Latinos in the areas of civic engagement, civil rights and immigration, education, workforce and the economy, health, and housing. Active member of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico (HRTNM), which was originally formed in the mid 1980's as a coalition of local, state and national Hispano organizations. These organizations formed as a coalition in order to. effectively speak with one voice on many issues that affect and impact. the Hispano community.

This award will be presented to a CNM faculty or staff member of any gender who has played a positive role as a teacher, mentor, and/or advocate for women's success in a specific non-traditional career or program at CNM.

Honorable Mention: Ashlee Simpson

Nominator: Janet Hughes

Ashlee Simpson has been taking the PV courses during spring term. I would like to recommend her for a WIN award this year because she has shown me again, as I have seen many times, that women excel in electrical trades and solar energy work. 

Every woman that I have had in my classes is one of the best. Ashlee is no exception. This has been a difficult term due to COVID. I had 4 people decide to wait until another term to take the lab classes because of COVID. I also have had 1 person drop because of getting too far behind due to days missed when he had to stay home because of symptoms and another person considering dropping for the same reason. 

I had another person drop because his business was taking too much of his time and he could not focus on his classes the way he needed to for a successful completion. We are now completing the term with only 3, and maybe soon 2 people in the Advanced lab class. Ashlee is one of the survivors. With only 2 students in these Advanced Labs, it is very demanding because they are building complete systems, rolling the roofs outside, testing, and commissioning the systems. 

Ashlee has stepped up to the challenge with enthusiasm and a strong desire to complete successfully. I have been impressed and know that she will take this energy into the workforce to be successful there. She is an excellent candidate for a WIN award.


I’m Ashlee Simpson, I’m 22 years old. I got into and stayed in electrical trades because I see it as another way to help people. Growing up, I’ve always had the drive to help others in one way or another. I’ve found this as a different way of helping others out. I say this because my father and brother helped people in Florida after hurricane Irma struck them, knocking out power lines and leaving millions of people without power. I saw it as a really cool opportunity of helping in a different way. Learning about electrical trades and seeing how I can help others is amazing.

A lot of encounters and experience in my life have come in by chance. Like how I got into PV by pure chance. I couldn’t get into third term for the electrical trades. Because I couldn’t into third term, I got to experience a completely new way to wire systems and learn more about PV systems. I had some interest in first term, because of a final project I did with my lab partner. The project was a rechargeable battery bank that used a small PV system. Now, learning so much more about PV systems, I want to help people on the reservations to install and maintain the systems such as schools and chapter houses.