New Career Advisor Mary Fuller Plots Career Pathways Via Job Training and Community Partnerships


In 1154, al-Idrisi of Dreses created a miraculous map. Named for his patron, King Roger II, the Tabula Rogeriana displayed the geographic features of Eurasia and North Africa. Like our modern digital, 3D GIS maps, al-Idrisi’s Tabula also organized and layered different kinds of data on the map. For instance, the Tabula exhibited regional data about different ethnic groups and socioeconomic characteristics. Al-Idrisi pulled from his own extensive travels, historical documents, and interviews with other globe trekkers to perfect his Tabula. So good was al-Idrisi’s map that cartographers for the next three centuries copied it without alteration.

The Tabula’s success stemmed from its ability to reconfigure the world. People could see familiar landscapes in new ways, and they could navigate their world with greater ease than before.

In many ways, Mary Fuller is crafting a similar Tabula for the Cortez branch of the Durango Adult Education Center. And like al-Idrisi, she’s pairing her extensive personal knowledge with exciting community partnerships.

“I’ve had a lot of experience being a referral person to the agencies in our community, so I’m very aware of what a lot of the services are and where to get help.” says Fuller. The CAEC’s ESL teacher recently added the Career Advisor title to her business card, which means she is responsible for helping students set and reach goals including vocational training, college, a first job, or switching to a new, living wage career through the BOOST program.

To facilitate smooth sailings, Fuller has begun making career pathway maps. “We’re creating some graphics for career pathways that are very easy for students to see.” She gives nursing as one example. Instead of assuming the only route to that career is through a bachelor’s degree from a university, students can trace an alternative trail, starting as a CNA (certified nursing assistant). “We want to create these graphics for different careers so people can see how they can move through that.” 

The project represents one of several collaborated with the Cortez Chamber of Commerce. “What we’re planning here…I believe it’s going to be multi-pronged,” explains Chamber Manager Rocky Moss.

Each initiative is designed to address the unique employment and education challenges in Cortez and across Montezuma County, which are largely the result of its being a vast, rural space dependent upon tourism and outdoor adventure. Both Fuller and Moss note how the resulting job market lacks livable wages and long term reliability.

Through conversations with area employers earlier this spring, Fuller and Moss uncovered some core problems contributing to the economy’s restraints. For instance, many employers reported they struggle to find workers with adequate training and education. To address this gap, Fuller and the entire CAEC team will design and implement customer service certification trainings for the three primary employment sectors: office, retail, and food service.

Another training course will cover the essentials in hospitality and tourism, which are crucial in a town like Cortez where tourism is the leading industry. In fact, the Chamber and Mesa Verde Country Visitor Information Bureau received a small grant to fund a visitor readiness program that aims to train all businesses and employees to welcome visitors while directing them to attractions as well as great local shops and restaurants.

“Everyone’s a tour guide. Every business is a tourist center,” Fuller and Moss summarize the rationale for the certification training.

Mary working with a Cortez student

While community members obtain these certifications, Moss will crank up her megaphone. Says Moss, “The Chamber would really promote that certificate to employers to make them understand the value of it. That certificate means something and it gives [that person] an edge, and it would up our workforce. After a few years, we hope [the Center] becomes a resource that everyone intuitively uses.” She adds that while the Chamber’s role is to match people with opportunities, she is especially excited to team up with the CAEC. “The [CAEC] does fill a need that wasn’t being filled. They’re really active and they’re really visible…right there on Main. We don’t really have anything like that. And I think Mary is probably going to be the rock in the middle of this to keep it pulled together.”

For her part, Fuller is eager to reconfigure the local job-scape. She wants to change the way her community’s adult learners see their world and navigate to all available opportunities. After decades as a public school teacher, she knows that a good compass and an X-marks-the-spot are what students need to reap astounding treasures throughout their lives. “I like to empower people to use information on their own and take the lead in their life because when it comes from them, it is more likely that they’ll follow through, as opposed to following the direction that someone else gives them,” she reflects.

And like any good cartographer, Fuller knows the difference between a misadventure and a journey—likewise between a job and career—boils down to choosing a direction. That is, seeing all possible destinations and charting a course.

For more information about the career advising support for our students through the BOOST program, contact Mary Fuller @