NMJC adds stand-alone salon, new director with Hollywood experience
NMJC adds stand-alone salon, new director with Hollywood experience
By Andy Brosig
The cosmetology department at New Mexico Junior College is back with a new director
who brings decades of experience helping people look their best.
Robyn Price joined the faculty at NMJC just six months ago, moving to New Mexico from Orange County in southern California. She’s worked in salons, as a corporate educator at cosmetology conventions and as a makeup artist and stylist in Hollywood.
She got her start in the industry while still in high school through a dual-credit program similar to the current program at NMJC. After graduating, she worked in salons and eventually started her training for Hollywood and a popular soap opera.
“I did hair and makeup for all kinds of media — movies, television, for fashion designers for print ads,” Price told the News-Sun recently. “We actually did our training at General Hospital on ABC – That’s where I got my first hands-on training” as a production stylist.
She left the Hollywood makeup scene when she had her daughter.
“I wanted to be a Girl Scout leader, those types of things, for my daughter,” Price said. “I gave up the Hollywood scene because it’s such early hours — 4 a.m. starts and maybe I wouldn’t get home until midnight.”
While continuing to work in salons, she went to work as a designer and operations director for a restaurant chain in California. When she was invited to be a guest artist at Fullerton Junior College in Fullerton, Calif, doing hair cuts, coloring and more for students, she found her true passion — teaching.
“I loved that opportunity of presenting and teaching, so I decided to go to college and add a bachelors degree to my laundry list of things I was doing so I could teach cosmetology,”Price said.
After college, it was a first-place win in a national cosmetology competition while she was teaching at Fullerton that elevated her career to the next level. The win put Price in the spotlight for national companies and she was hired as a representative to share her knowledge at cosmetology conventions around the country.
“I was on stage, teaching,” Price said. “That’s where I decided I have to keep teaching. It was my calling.”
She also worked with nationally-known cosmetology speaker and educator Paul Barry,who’s workshops focused primarily on students and sharing knowledge and techniques to help them advance in their education and careers, Price said. After Barry died from complications of COVID-19 earlier this year, Price “was left not without a job, but looking for my next venture.”
That’s when she found NMJC and learned the school was looking for its next director of its cosmetology program. Price said she visited with college administrators, drove out to Hobbs and fell in love.
“I knew I have a lot of skills and knowledge I can share to help struggling schools,” Price said. “I had a really good feeling.”
She took the job and, through several on-line meetings with NMJC administration,learned what was needed and began formulating a plan. Then, after about a month of acclimatizing to her new situation, Price started to implement changes,
“We’ve changed just about everything,” Price said. “We’ve changed the curriculum to be a fast-paced, structured learning platform.”
She did away with hours of daily classroom work, preferring instead to have students in the lab, practicing what they’ve learned hands on. Cosmetology students now only spend about an hour a day in lectures or buried in a book. The bulk of their time is spent doing the work in the discipline they’ve chosen, Price said.
The cosmetology program at NMJC is actually five programs in one. Students can chose from any one of four disciplines — cosmetology, barbering, esthetician — focused solely on skin care — and manicurists. Requirements vary depending on the discipline — five, eight-week semesters for cosmetology, four semesters for barbering and two each from esthetician and manicurist.
The fifth program in the department is a dual-credit program for high school students,who travel to NMJC for two hours a day to learn the basics and get a leg up. Through dual credit, Price said, students who opt to continue after they graduate from high school can reduce the length of time they spend in college by as much as half.
Dual credit “is a really great facilitator for younger students who want to have a career sooner rather than later,” she said. “It offers a great transition for them to come to college and they’ve already got (credit) hours under their belts.”
Another major change in the program is one NMJC administration was working on even before Price came on board, she said. With the addition of the Allied Health Building on campus to house the nursing program, cosmetology moved into that programs former digs —what was basically a blank slate with space planned for a stand-alone salon to service clients while giving advanced students real world experience working with people.
That experience is vital, Price said, because working on a live human is vastly different than working on mannequins. Living hair responds differently to many of the chemicals used to color, dye, straighten or curl, for example. Plus, mannequins don’t talk back.
Cosmetology at NMJC had something of a salon setting before, but it wasn’t ideal, Price said. Clients received services in the same room less advanced students were learning and practicing their skills in, for example.
But Price’s vision, shared by college administrator, was a separate facility where students in their final semester of their chosen discipline could effectively work in a salon while still enjoying the benefit of instructor supervision and assistance, she said.
“Now we have the opportunity for students to get real, hands-on training in what it’s like to work in a salon,” Price said. “We run the salon like any business that would be offering cosmetology, barbering, esthetics or manicures to the public.
“NMJC gave us the shell of the building for the salon and training facilities,” she said. “The execution and implementation of the goals to make this a success was what I brought to the table.”
The salon itself finally opened last week, with NMJC faculty and staff and their families the first clients. Open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, NMJC Cosmetology students served more than 40 clients a day.
And now, the NMJC Cosmetology Salon is open to the public, albeit for a brief time.Students are accepting appointments from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday thru Thursday next week, before closing down to allow them to prepare for finals and for the upcoming holiday break.
But, if all goes well and no further COVID-19 restrictions become necessary, the salon plans to reopen again in mid-January, Price said. The goal is to slowly expand the hours to four or even five days a week and, at some point in the near future, accept walk-in clients as well, she said.
And Price said she’s excited for all the opportunities the program — and particularly the salon setup — offer her students and the community at large. She sees the NMJC cosmetology program as unique and plans to help it grow into the future.
“There’s not a comparable program anywhere in the western United States,” she said. “Not one offering four different programs with the quality level of instruction these students are getting.
“I saw a need here and it was a need bigger than I could turn my back on,” Price said.“That’s when I knew I needed to come to NMJC.”
Andy Brosig may be reached at email@example.com