Two challengers, communications professional Lorenzo Dominguez and science educator Lina Germann, are vying for an open position on the Santa Fe Community College Governing Board in the upcoming Nov. 7 election.
The five at-large members serve six-year terms on the board, with the primary responsibility of setting the college’s financial and educational policies. The open position is currently held by board Chair George Gamble, who tells SFR he decided not to run again because he believes the body “needs new ideas, new passions, new DNA every once in a while” and that it is “time for some new perspectives.”
Dominguez and his family moved to Cerrillos in May 2021, and he tells SFR he’s spent the last two years gaining experience in education by serving on the board at his children’s charter school while working remotely in communications for his former employer, New York Life Insurance Company. Before that, he served on homeless shelter and Human Rights Commission boards in Peekskill, New York.
The family chose the Santa Fe area in part because of its diverse culture, which Dominguez says is important to him “as a Mexican American.” Additionally, his wife Chelsea Hollander, a primary care physician, wanted to start a farm—a dream at which the family has since succeeded.
“We landed in the community of Cerrillos, where we quickly came to know a lot of our neighbors, and felt very welcome. It’s really been an amazing experience,” Dominguez tells SFR. “The one caveat is, I know New Mexico has some challenges in terms of education.”
Dominguez, who now works as a fellow with the Culture of Health Leadership Institute for Racial Equity, says he joined the Board of Governance at Turquoise Trail Charter School, where he worked as the co-chair of marketing while the oldest two of the couple’s five children were enrolled there.
“I really pushed for us to increase our community engagement and improve communication,” Dominguez says. “I thought it was really important to unify the parents, teachers, staff and larger community.”
In addition to focusing on community engagement through consistent communication with families, he also says he had a part in reviving the school’s parent-teacher organization. He says he hopes to bring similar engagement to SFCC.
Dominguez, who holds a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a master’s in International Public Law, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from Columbia University, says he resigned from his position at Turquoise Trail’s board in June after he and his wife decided to move their children to Salazar Elementary, citing the school’s strong bilingual program as “very important” to his family.
“But, I wanted to continue my advocacy,” he says.
Dominguez says he wants to focus on supporting the needs of students, staff and faculty by improving internal communications.
“Here in New Mexico, and really, all over the country, there’s a lack of resources overall. That’s both financially as well as staffing. Attraction, recruitment and retainment is crucial,” Dominguez says.
As an example, Dominguez said he supports an idea he heard from SFCC teachers to set up an information office at the entrance of the college, and proposed his own idea of hiring senior citizens to work in this proposed office to offer guidance and information to students.
“That way, you fulfill that need to have some sort of guidance, but you’re hopefully cultivating multigenerational relationships between these retirees, the students and faculty,” he says.
Germann tells SFR she wants to leverage her experience as a teacher into service on the board. As the founder of STEM Santa Fe, she notes she has worked closely with the college to host several math and science-oriented programs with her nonprofit, and she has six years of teaching chemistry at SFCC under her belt.
A 26-year resident of the area, she says she moved here after completing her doctorate in chemistry at Boston College to take a job as a chemistry teacher at Santa Fe High School.
“I said, OK, cool. How hard can that be?” Germann says. “It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, especially being fresh to New Mexico.”
When she arrived, she said she was “totally shocked” by the lack of basic math skills she saw in her high school students.
“I started getting involved right away in the community advocating for education,” she recounts.
After one year of teaching at SFHS, Germann went on to work as a chemist for different tech companies and returned to the classroom in 2011 at SFCC. She began promoting educational programs to get students interested in math and science, hosting math and science career fairs at the schools and bringing professionals in to demonstrate the roles of math and science in their jobs. She also became the co-chair (and later, the chair) of the STEM Conference for Girls, serving more than a decade bringing middle-school girls to STEM workshops.
Seven years ago, Germann founded STEM Santa Fe, a program that advocates for and provides STEM programs for middle and high school students in the Santa Fe area. Last week, she announced her resignation from the nonprofit.
Germann says when she founded STEM Santa Fe, she aimed to make a difference by bringing STEM education to more students.
“But, I felt I could make a bigger impact with systematic changes, institutional changes, by running for Santa Fe Community College Board,” she says. “The community college could be that bridge to improve education in general in our community.”
Germann wants to focus on three major categories on the college board: expanding STEM education, postsecondary opportunities and making SFCC a “hub for the community.”
One of her goals in STEM education is to increase “project-based learning,” to give students an idea of how to work with fast-developing technology such as AI.
In terms of postsecondary opportunities, Germann wants to get more high school students to enroll at SFCC to earn college credits, as well as adding more certificate and apprenticeship programs to the college’s roster.
Additionally, she hopes to encourage SFCC to host more events and workshops they can invite community members to, in order to create a “welcoming space.”
“I think we have a wonderful place here [SFCC], but it is really an untapped resource,” Germann says.
All voters within the Santa Fe Public Schools boundaries may also vote for community college board members. In addition to Gambld, its other current members are Jody M. Pugh, Piér A Quintana, Linda Siegle and Xubi Wilson.
Local voters will also choose four city councilors, three districted Santa Fe Public School Board seats and weigh a number of ballot questions in the election. See the full list of declared candidates in all races here. Read SFR’s report on candidates for the Santa Fe City Council and municipal judge races here. Early voting in the election begins Oct. 10.