More than 2 dozen students earn 4-year degrees from Colorado Mountain College Edwards campus |

More than 2 dozen students earn 4-year degrees from Colorado Mountain College Edwards campus

The Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek hosted the 2019 Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley commencement ceremony on Friday, May 3.
David Watson | Special to the Daily

With a stated goal of elevating the economic, social, cultural and environmental vitality of our area, Colorado Mountain College’s Edwards campus issued bachelor’s degrees to 28 students during commencement ceremonies on Friday.

It’s an impressive output for a small school that has been offering bachelor’s degree programs for less than a decade, and alongside the approximately 135 students who also received associate degrees on Friday, the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek was a live demonstration of why Colorado Mountain College believes it will soon be among the most inclusive and innovative student-centered colleges in the nation.

Colorado Mountain College President and CEO Carrie Besnette Hauser at the CMC Vail Valley graduation on May 3.
David Watson | Special to the Daily

In a commencement address, Carrie Besnette Hauser shared a few stories of students who she said overcame a “crucible” moment — a geologic term that describes a metamorphic event or a severe test or trial — en route to earning their degrees.

“Ever since Diana Loera was a little girl in Mexico, she knew she wanted to teach,” Hauser said. “When she was in eighth grade, her family moved to Colorado, where she had more educational opportunities. Her family also faced challenges. Her crucible moment? Seven years ago she came to Colorado and spoke no English. And what did she find on the other side? Today she received her associate degree in elementary education, and she wants to go even farther.”


Hauser said Loera got through college with help from facility, counselors and TRIO Student Support Services, a U.S. Department of Education program designed to assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities.

“Mauricio Ortega, another student who has overcome challenges, has graduated with an associated of arts in business, and plans to continue on to earn a bachelor’s of science in business administration at our campus,” Hauser said. “He’s gone out of his way to take that crucible moment, and to pay it forward. Like Diana, he’s been an outstanding peer academic coach this year for our TRIO program. Their work together has done so much to increase a sense of belonging and community on the campus.”

Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek receives an associate degree in criminal justice at CMC Vail Valley’s commencement on May 3.
David Watson | Special to the Daily


Also earning an associate degree on Friday was Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, who was recognized not only for his commitment to his own personal goals of higher education, but his GPA and status as a student veteran.

Van Beek had a 3.88 GPA as he earned an associate of applied science: criminal justice degree.

“And he’s very close to earning a bachelor’s degree, after having completed law enforcement academy and serving in law enforcement for as long as he has as your Eagle County sheriff,” Hauser said. “I think that’s pretty cool.”

Madeline G. Dougherty, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sustainable studies, was chosen as student speaker.

In introducing Dougherty, sustainability studies professor Mercedes Quesada-Embid said Dougherty showed herself to be an example of the type of person Colorado Mountain College hopes to send into the world following their time in the classroom.

The two journeyed to the remote region of Bhutan in the Himalayas together in the fall.

“Her grace, and her ability to encounter a completely different culture, with diverse perspectives, diverse landscapes, diverse peoples, the first time out of the country, was incredibly inspirational to see, and witness and be a part of,” Quesada-Embid said.

Dougherty was a student at Eagle Valley High School who participated in CMC’s dual enrollment program from high school students. She said she could not have earned a bachelor’s degree without Colorado Mountain College, and took special care to thank the community that started the school.

“Classes at CMC first opened in 1967, and within five years the college had spread to Aspen, Rifle, Salida, Summit and right here in Eagle County,” Dougherty said. “The community wanted nothing more than to support the local college, and 52 years later, we stand here as proof of that success.”

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