Demystifying the university experience

UNM-Gallup Art Student Collective members Kayliegh Begay (from left), Aiyana Chavez, Krista Setzer and Chris Aragon walk along the bank of the Duck Pond at The University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque on Friday, April 7, 2023.

Demystifying the university experience

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UNM-Gallup Art Student Collective members get a taste of college life during tour or UNM Albuquerque campus

By Richard Reyes | Monday, April 14, 2023

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Officers of the Art Student Collective at The University of New Mexico-Gallup experienced a sample of university life during a recent tour of the UNM Albuquerque campus, including an extensive look at the Department of Art.

Art Student Collective President Kayliegh Begay, Vice President Krista Setzer, Treasurer Aiyana Chavez and Secretary Chris Aragon used money that they raised from selling Halloween candy grams in order to pay for the trip to UNM Albuquerque, which took place Friday, April 7, 2023.

“First, I was really nervous about going because it seems like a big place,” Setzer said of the trip. “But since it was like UNM here but bigger, it was pretty exciting. I’m not as worried about moving to a new place as much anymore because now that I know what it’s like there, it could feel like a home to me.”

Art instructors Kristi Wilson and Dana Aldis accompanied the students on the trip, which included lunch at the dining hall La Posada, rest and relaxation at the Duck Pond, and a thorough tour of the classrooms, equipment and resources in the three-story art building.

The purpose of the trip was to give the students a chance to see what a larger campus is like in a bigger city with the aim of demystifying the university experience.


UNM-Gallup Art Student Collective members Chris Aragon (from left), Krista Setzer, Kayliegh Begay and Aiyana Chavez and instructor Kristi Wilson pose for a photo next to the “Lobo” statue by John Tatschi at The University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque on Friday, April 7, 2023.

Wilson noted how interesting it was to watch the students take awe in the size of the UNM Bookstore when they first arrived but then gradually become more comfortable over the duration of the trip.

“It was a lot of fun,” Aragon said. “I wouldn’t say it fully demystified the campus like Ms. Wilson mentioned earlier. I think doing that in a daytrip is kind of hard considering the scale of the campus, but it definitely helped place my mindset on how big most campuses are and the resources and things that are there for people to make it easier to transition into college. It seems like a huge leap going from a high school to a college, especially if you’re living in dorms with complete strangers, but it’s nice to know there are a lot of things to help you and a lot of people feel the same.”

Begay, Chavez and Aragon are McKinley Academy students while Setzer is a Middle College High School student. All of the students are 17 years old.

Both McKinley Academy and Middle College are dual-enrollment programs located on the UNM-Gallup campus. While students work toward their high school diploma, they take college courses at the same time and can earn an associate degree by the time they graduate.

Begay is a senior and will be graduating in May with an associate degree in general studies. She has been accepted to UNM Albuquerque, and she plans to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in art studio.

On the tour, Begay particularly enjoyed the look inside the Department of Art, especially the soldering stations in the small metals workshop.

Although she has visited the Albuquerque campus in the past and already plans to start school there in the fall, Begay said the tour helped her to better envision herself there. She said she felt like she was among her people.


Administrative Assistant Jacklyn Le gives UNM-Gallup Art Student Collective members a tour of the small metals workshop at The University of New Mexico Department of Art in Albuquerque on Friday, April 7, 2023.

“When visiting, you meet people and socialize, and they tell you how great of a campus it is, and then you realize you can make connections there as well,” Begay said. “Not only that, but the professors you talk to and faculty have amazing things to say. They really want to work with the students and how they’re going to succeed in life, which I liked.”

Setzer, Chavez and Aragon are juniors with another year at UNM-Gallup ahead of them. Setzer is working toward an associate degree in criminal justice; Chavez is working toward an associate in business with plans to pursue culinary arts; and Aragon is working toward an associate of applied science with plans to enter the veterinary technology program at San Juan College in Farmington.

While UNM may or may not be in all of the students’ futures, they found the experience to be eye-opening and comforting.

“I’d say it made me more excited about college because, honestly, I was thinking of joining the military,” Chavez said. “College didn’t scare me, but I didn’t think it was for me. … It made it more exciting actually being there and seeing it. I feel like if you do an online tour, you don’t get the same vibe. You don’t get to see people interacting. It’s just pictures, but I feel like if you go in person, it’s better. It’s more encouraging.”


UNM-Gallup Art Student Collective members Kayliegh Begay (left) and Krista Setzer look at pieces of Arita porcelain pottery at The University of New Mexico Department of Art in Albuquerque on Friday, April 7, 2023.

One of the top highlights of the trip for the students was the Duck Pond, which features a body of water surrounded by benches and grass where people can sit and relax in the middle of campus. Chavez said she enjoyed the environment as people were chilling and doing their own thing, including some who were taking naps.

“I want to feel that comfortable to be able to go outside and take a nap,” she said.

There were several ducks, swans and turtles enjoying the pond as well.

“I’m just in love with animals in general, so a place like that is just a really fun and interesting place to be,” Aragon added.

After the trip, Wilson said she wants other UNM-Gallup students to know that the Art Student Collective is an opportunity that is available to them.

“The whole point of that is to create collegiality so y’all can become friends and become a support group for each other,” Wilson told the students. “So, when we’re practicing professional development — like how do you show and sell your artwork and engage with people when exchanging funds — when we do an enriching opportunity, it’s important you do it together.”

The last Art Student Collective meeting of the Spring 2023 semester is scheduled at noon-1 p.m. Friday, April 28, in the Zollinger Library Conference Room.

For any students interested in joining the Art Student Collective, becoming a club officer, or learning more information, contact Kristi Wilson at


UNM-Gallup Art Student Collective members Aiyana Chavez and Chris Aragon look at pieces of pottery at The University of New Mexico Department of Art in Albuquerque on Friday, April 7, 2023.

To learn more about the Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Division at UNM-Gallup, please visit

To learn more about the UNM Department of Art in Albuquerque, please visit

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