Former CNM Student Takes Unusual Path to Becoming Chair of Faculty Senate

September 21, 2016 -- David Valdés, chair of CNM’s Faculty Senate and former Presidential Fellow, almost never made it to college.
September 21, 2016

He dropped out of high school when he was a sophomore, worked at a string of low-paying jobs and got in trouble with the law. One day, after he had a run-in with the law with a few of his buddies, he had a heart-to-heart talk with the father of one of his friends who suggested that he go to college. He decided to go to TVI (now CNM).

He started out at TVI, initially getting his GED. It took him three years to graduate with his associate degree (taking summers off), and then he moved on to the University of New Mexico where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and astrophysics with a minor in math. Valdés is now completing his master’s thesis and will soon have a master’s degree in optical science and engineering (science of light) from UNM.

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 2007, he took a math teaching job at West Mesa High School where he stayed for two years until a math instructor position opened up in CNM’s School of Adult & General Education (SAGE).

Since beginning his teaching career at CNM, he has been a highly engaged and highly successful faculty member. He was named a Presidential Fellow of Innovation for the 2013-2014 academic year, when he spent the year researching new and innovative ways for CNM to evolve.

“I started with focus groups and then formed research groups based on the findings of the focus groups,” Valdés said.

Both groups consisted of students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members. From the five research groups’ efforts, he compiled a report and presented it to the President’s Council with the hope of “planting ideas and seeds” for future innovative projects.

He used some of his fellowship stipend to fund classes in Mental Health First Aid taught by CNM Dean of Students Rudy Garcia and Jim Johnson, psychology professor in the School of Communication, Humanities & Social Sciences. As a result of Valdés’ efforts, more than 200 CNM faculty, staff and students learned methods that helped them better understand how to assess a mental health crisis situation, identify signs and symptoms of mental illness, select and implement appropriate interventions, and provide assistance to a person in the early stages of a mental health crisis.

Towards the end of his fellowship, Valdés developed a proposal to have a high-tech space where faculty can experiment with new teaching technologies and potentially institutionalize them.

He soon turned his attention to the Faculty Senate. A Faculty Senate position in SAGE was freed up and Valdés opted to put his hat in the ring. There was an election, but no one ran against him. As a result, he became one of the representatives from his college in the senate.

“The Faculty Senate is concerned with policies that affect curriculum, faculty life, and major curriculum changes,” Valdés said. “It’s also about communication.”

Two years ago he was elected Faculty Senate chair. In this role, he is involved in CNM’s Strategic Direction Oversight Committee, which oversees the implementation of the college’s Strategic Direction.

He also sits on the statewide general education steering committee, which is studying core requirements for associate and bachelor’s degrees. Also serving on the committee from CNM are Erica Volkers, dean of the School  of Communication, Humanities & Social Studies, and Nathan Saline, co-chair of CNM’s Student Academic Assessment Committee (SAAC).

“I love teaching here and I love my involvement with the CNM community,” Valdés said. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”