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Faces of CNM: Barbara Gilbert

Barbara Gilbert, a CNM faculty member and graduate, is lighting up students' interest in STEM.
Faces of CNM: Barbara Gilbert
Physics Instructor Barbara Gilbert observes a Helmholtz Coil that is bending a beam of cathode rays into a circle.

Nov 08, 2018

Faculty member Barbara Gilbert feels a strong sense of belonging and purpose at CNM. That’s because her connections to the college run deep. Her elementary school years were spent just steps away from Main Campus. And her passion for STEM education was kindled while she was a student at CNM, a passion that continues to burn bright today.

“I spent my grade school years in Albuquerque and attended St. Charles, just north of CNM's Main Campus,” said Gilbert, an instructor in CNM’s School of Math, Science & Engineering. “As a military brat, I moved around a lot and attended five different high schools, graduating from Alabama Christian Academy.”

But she returned to Albuquerque and that familiar college in the 1980s. Then known as Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute (TVI), she earned certificates in both Electronics Technology and Laser-Electro Optic Technology, which led to a job as a defense contractor at Intel.

A return to CNM in the mid-1990s meant taking arts and sciences classes before transferring to the University of New Mexico to finish a Master’s of Optical Science and Engineering, all while balancing life as a single mother of two children.

Barbara, who teaches in the physics program and engineering program, says her journey, as well as the challenges of balancing work, life, and family, informs her approach to teaching and encouraging her students to succeed.

“The advice I offer students comes from my own struggles and successes,” says Barbara. “The most important is ‘be gritty.’ Failure has come to have a negative connotation, yet it’s inevitable. Arguably we learn more from our failures than from our successes.”

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While reviewing student assignments, Physics Instructor Barbara Gilbert, left, shares a light moment with student Nathan Burt, far right, as Benjamin Gallegos, background, and Jeremy Klar, seated, listen in.

Learning from failure, being persistent, and staying positive are part of why Barbara also leads the STEM Club for students. She also collaborates on regular events and bootcamps that are aimed at sharing ideas and feedback, developing leadership, preparing students to succeed, and providing students with opportunities to hear from people working in the industry.

“With our Brown Bag Lunches, I want students to hear about the academic struggles that industry engineers overcame in their time in academia,” she says. “I want to expose them to some of the work engineers are doing and I want to build connections between our students and our industry partners.”

She has also been very active in organizing bootcamps between terms that are designed to prepare students for their upcoming physics classes.

“The Physics Bootcamps are a result of the collaboration of my thoughtful and caring physics colleagues to provide additional support to students before their semester begins,” she says.

After teaching at UNM and CNM as an adjunct for several years, as well as Albuquerque Academy, Barbara joined CNM as a full-time faculty member in 2014.

“I feel like I came back to the place where I belong,” says Barbara. “I am so very fortunate to be at CNM, surrounded by a proactive, positive community. I work with incredible colleagues and my classes are filled with amazing students who are working hard to better their lives. I am humbled to be part of their path.”