A Fresh New Space for CNM’s Ted Chavez Hall

When the Applied Technology faculty of Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) realized that Ted Chavez Hall no longer fit their needs, they sought an architecture firm to re-design–and ultimately re-envision–their workspace.

Dyron Murphy Architects (DMA) assigned two of their best and brightest to the project: Oscar Tovar, Project Manager, and Vanessa Garcia, Project Architect. They met with CNM project managers and faculty to determine how to best address the faculty’s needs.

The consensus was that they needed to maximize the existing space in order to create more work stations, while simultaneously creating a sense of openness. In addition to creating more work stations, the client also requested a conference room and a collaborative work area. Aside from these requirements, the client didn’t have a specific vision in mind. While this presented Oscar and Vanessa with the challenge of determining which design would be the right fit, it also gave them wide latitude to come up with creative design solutions.

Our designers started with what they knew: The Applied Technology faculty often get their hands dirty, and some work with circuitry. These details influenced a number of design elements, including the color palette (grey accented by key lime) and the use of resilient flooring rather than carpeting (to make cleaning easier). They also incorporated industrial accents into the design: Metal accents and clean lines were softened by a wood partition that created a physical barrier between work areas and the break room without making the space feel smaller.

CNM Ted Chavez Hall Renovation Wood Screen Wall

A wooden partition separates the break room from work stations in the newly renovated Ted Chavez Hall at CNM.

Oscar and Vanessa also toured the campus’s new library and STEM building to get a sense of the architectural vision the campus had for its future and to ensure that DMA’s design reflected that vision. They also proposed various work station seating configurations to help CNM solidify their vision for the Applied Technology Department.

Another challenge for our architects was designing around the existing concrete masonry unit (CMU) walls; Oscar and Vanessa were tasked with creating more space without resorting to demolition. Ultimately, they enjoyed the challenge of working around the existing space to create a more functional, aesthetically pleasing workplace. They were also able to work around CNM’s academic schedule, quickly completing the design and renovations during the campus’s summer break.

The result? An invigorating space tempered by natural wood accents that invites collaboration, creativity and innovation.

CNM Ted Chavez Hall work stations

Space is maximized while maintaining a bright, open feeling with the addition of work stations and a conference room.

The faculty is thrilled with the renovations, as are the architects behind the design. For her part, Vanessa said she loved working on a smaller project because “you have more time to focus on the design and the details.” Oscar agreed and added that working with CNM was an enjoyable experience because they were “open to a sleek aesthetic and bright colors.”

CNM Ted Chavez Hall Conference Room

Large frosted windows infuse the conference room with natural light and make it seem more spacious.

CNM Ted Chavez Hall lighting fixture

Attention to detail, such as the conference room lighting fixtures, is one of the defining characteristics of the remodeled Applied Technologies Department of CNM.


The Future of Higher Education


Graphic courtesy of the Chronicle of Higher Education
Graphic by XARISSA HOLDAWAY; illustration by NIGEL HAWTIN


Graduation season is upon us, and once again the debates over the futures of students – both those receiving their diplomas this spring, and those with a few years left in their studies – have started.

The first thing that comes to mind when discussing the value of one’s education is usually “what job can I get with this degree?” or “how long will I be unemployed/looking for a job after graduation?” which is a topic we’ll save for a later date. (A date when the statistics look a little more promising, perhaps.) Instead, we’ll turn to the debate over digital coursework. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are not necessarily new, but they’re becoming an increasingly utilized and debated method of education. MOOCs are web-based courses, open to the public, for little or no tuition.

In case you’re new to the term “MOOC” here’s the basic breakdown of how they work:

  • A university develops an online course, complete with video lectures, a variety of multimedia and interactive tools, and participation outlets (online discussion boards, blogs, etc.)
  • Typical MOOCs have set start and end dates, though a few are available for indefinite periods of time. Students sign up online, and learn at their own pace.
  • Because MOOCs don’t have traditional “caps” (a maximum number of students allowed to sign up for the course) the ratio of professors/teaching assistants to students is disproportionate. To accommodate for this lack of direct support from academic sources, MOOCs are designed so that the rest of the online learning community and peers in the course help their fellow classmates through evaluation of writing assignments and online tests.
  • Most MOOCs offer some sort of “certificate of completion.” A fully MOOC based education will not likely lead you to a traditional degree or diploma, though many traditional universities offer MOOCs as part of their existing course curriculums.

Sounds pretty great, right?

So where’s this “debate” coming from? Well, if you’re a teacher, or an academic administrator, you might have spotted one of the problems: where does the professor fit in with the MOOC learning model? The more economically inclined readers of this blog might ask: how do universities make any money?

Most classes, as mentioned above, are far too large (hundreds, even thousands of students might enroll in a single class) for a single professor, or even a team of professors, to give the attention an individual student needs. Many MOOCs don’t even have a professor proctoring them. These MOOCs are taken from successful and well-established courses at a university, one that a professor may have been teaching for several years. One semester, he (or she) need only record their lectures, keep a record discussion questions that arise in class, and then upload these materials to an online platform – BAM! Insta-MOOC. The learning community will participate in lectures and discussions as they wish, and the professor can essentially forget about the online course.

So, can digital courses eliminate hundreds of jobs across the country by replacing our professors? The staff at San Jose State University seem to think not. They argue that the way MOOCs are gaining popularity, there is a very real danger of digital education replacing traditional face-to-face models. You can read their argument here, or here.

Some students may benefit from MOOCs, and the accessibility of online courses. Others may prefer traditional lectures. Still others may prefer a blended system, where lectures are given online, and homework is done in class, with the professor nearby for questions.