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Beyond the borders: HRTM takes its program to the people of Laguna pueblo

Every day of the work week, Daren Bloomquist plans lectures, takes care of grades and does everything else other New Mexico State University professors do. But, every other Saturday, he hits the road as part of the latest program coming from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.


"I head out to Laguna on Friday night and teach all day Saturday," said Bloomquist, a college assistant professor for HRTM. "When I talk to the students, they tell me that they talk to each other about the classes and how they're coming along. They're very excited."

In addition to teaching the classes, Bloomquist helped design the new hospitality certificate program specifically for the Laguna pueblo, the first of its kind ever developed for a New Mexico tribe. It is being funded directly by the Laguna Development Corporation, a federally-chartered tribal corporation that operates the tribe's retail-based outlets, including three casinos on the reservation.

He added the program also helps NMSU fulfill its mission as a land-grant university, by making higher education available to people throughout the state.

"By reaching out to the tribal communities, the school is adding to the already diverse list of students whose educational needs we strive to accommodate," Bloomquist said. "Adding the certificate program increases the comprehensive nature of the educational offerings at the School of HRTM."

The program is made up of five 8-week classes held at the pueblo and similar in curriculum to those offered on the main NMSU campus.

"The school, led by our director Janet Green, started working with them in early 2006, investigating what their needs were," he said. "We started the classes in October and we're hoping to graduate around 25 people in the fall semester of 2007."

The certificate program also has major benefits for Laguna, which plans on putting the graduates to work at the tribe's 200-plus room hotel slated to open in late 2007.

"It's a great opportunity for the Pueblo of Laguna to get qualified personnel promoted into key management positions." said Al Kozal, training and development manager for LDC. "The program allows us to grow our own people and provide significant job opportunities to pueblo members. Laguna Development Corporation is committed to its role of building a prosperous Laguna through business development and business success.

"Plus," he added, "the people in the program serve as role models within the tribe. We are hoping that upon completion of the program, many of them will continue on with their education and complete their bachelor's degree and maybe even move on to get their master's degree."

The Laguna Development Corporation employs a number of New Mexico State graduates, including current president Jerry Smith and the newly-elected governor of the Pueblo of Laguna, John Antonio.

Bloomquist said by taking the classes to the pueblo, staff members don't have to leave the reservation in order to get their certificate.

"They all have full-time jobs and families, so they and the corporation can't afford to have them come down to school in Las Cruces," he said. "Distance education makes is possible for them to go to classes and still keep their jobs."

Those interested in the program may contact Janet Green at (505) 646-5995 or via email at jgreen@nmsu.edu.