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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 18, 2003 - Issue 98


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Zuni Among 1st to Benefit from UNM-G 'Distance Learning'

by Zsombor Peter Staff Writer Gallup Independent

Graduate tossing hatGALLUP — Thanks to another half-million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of New Mexico-Gallup is another few steps closer to offering its own distance learning classes.

The school currently offers a handful of upper division courses from its Albuquerque campus by way of three distance learning classes. With last week's $479,000, UNM-Gallup has received approximately $1.5 million in federal grants over the last two years to implement a distance learning infrastructure of its own.

The grants are coming from the Agriculture Department's Rural Development Office, which earmarks federal funds specifically for helping rural communities such as Gallup and McKinley County develop and expand public services, from water systems to health clinics to telephone systems, intended to promote their economic development.

"These grants are what are enabling us to set up the distance learning infrastructure at the university," said UNM-Gallup Director Beth Miller. "It's allowing us to open up McKinley County to these new technologies."

Like other communities benefiting from the development office's funding, the area's relatively decentralized residents and poverty can make transportation to and from classes an added obstacle toward gaining a post-secondary education. By developing distance learning classes in Zuni, Rehoboth and out of some of McKinley County's outlying public schools, UNM-Gallup will instead be able to bring its classes to its students and, said Miller, become a local leader in the technology in the process.

Dean of Instruction Helen Zongolowicz expects to start broadcasting four classes to the school's Zuni campus by the spring semester: one history and tree business classes. The equipment is all ready, she said; all they're waiting on is for local telecommunications provider Qwest to install the lines.

Zongolowicz estimates the initial distance learning classes in Zuni to serve approximately 30 students. But if there's enough demand, she sees the program expanding to other sites around the county, such as Navajo, Smith Lake and Crownpoint.

By offering students classes in their local communities, Zongolowicz said, "think of all the time they won't have to be on the road ... and it cuts way down on expenses.

"And when you're trying to raise a family, every penny counts."

Contract Grants Coordinator Robin Tice expects the school to receiving the funds within a month.

The Development Office awarded 57 distance learning grants nationwide this year worth $23.5 million. UNM-Gallup's $479,000 was the only grant awarded in New Mexico.

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