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Faces of CNM: Daniel Colon

Academic coach Daniel Colon uses his experience and insight to help students succeed.
Faces of CNM: Daniel Colon
CNM academic coach Daniel Colon.

Nov 09, 2018

Daniel Colon is among a select group of employees who remember when CNM’s campus looked vastly different than it does in 2018.

“The West Side Campus didn’t even exist yet,” says Daniel, “just a small location next to Intel, and the Workforce Training Center used to be right across from the Student Services Center, and where the Student Resource Center is now, there was a baseball field.”

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Academic coach Daniel Colon talks with student Annelle Chavez .
Over the course of 22 years at CNM, Daniel has worked on multiple teams, originally starting on a grant-funded project named “TVI Works” that helped individuals receiving government benefits find employment, take core classes, get their GED, and level up.

When that grant ended, it led him to working in recruitment and advisement, where he now serves as an academic coach with the CNM Connect Services team on location at Montoya Campus.

Daniel is originally from Honduras but grew up in New York City, and attended high school in the Bronx, followed by college in upstate New York before moving with his wife to New Mexico to follow family.

When it comes to being successful in college, Daniel says the number one piece of advice he gives students is to customize their own systematic approach to college that works for them, and be okay with taking small steps and not being perfect.

“What I tell them is that coming to college is like learning a different culture, it's a lot different no matter whether you’re coming directly from high school or returning as an adult,” Daniel says. “You have to find a system that works for you. For instance, when I started college, the biggest barrier was language, because my first language was Spanish. When I started school I barely knew how to speak English. I was recruited to play soccer and the first semester I had a low GPA and I was at risk of being kicked out, so I had to develop a system, which included going over my notes half in Spanish and half in English.”

One major change over that 20-plus years? Technology has significantly re-shaped the student experience.

Schedules come out sooner, students add/drop classes faster, and the learning and student support environment moves at a faster pace. There are also no more paper applications or a paper catalog, and students do most of their work on desktops in computer labs or on their own laptops, phones, and mobile devices.

The most rewarding part of the job, according to Daniel, is helping students progress and get positive momentum in their lives. He says that the experience for students at CNM is so powerful, many return to get advice even after they’ve graduated.

“I have a student originally from Mexico who came in not too long ago,” he says. “Her situation is that she is in a master’s program, but she still has difficulty with writing, and she wanted to brush up a little bit on her technical writing. So she called me and asked me what she could do. I told her about supplemental classes she could take to improve her skills.”

Daniel says working at CNM has a family feel to it, which is part literal for him. His wife works in the purchasing department, and their children took classes at CNM before transferring to UNM.

“That’s what I like about CNM, it’s family and all of us live and breathe it,” he says. “We get to do rewarding work, and be part of a team – because it takes everyone to help a student graduate, from the grounds team, to instructors, to staff, we all have a role in creating a life-changing experience.”