New Mexico Highlands University Media Arts graduate Stacy Romero came to the university so quiet and shy she would duck behind her desk when people came into the Student Supports Services office where she had a work study job.  Romero graduated this spring not just with her degree and an impressive portfolio, but also with the confidence that came with immersing herself in campus activities like the Performing Arts Club, the Mariachi group, “Vaqueros de las Sierra,” and helping establish a Lambda Kappa Psi sorority that spent much of its time on community service projects. She was even named Miss Las Vegas in 2008.

“When I came here I had a very blank canvas and now it’s full of color and I’m still painting,” Romero said. “At Highlands, people have touched my life and encouraged me in so many ways. Their support helped me overcome my personal fears, especially of performing solo. They have become like family.”Roland Salas is the director of Student Support Services at Highlands, where Romero worked for four years.”Stacy was awarded our Super Student Award this year, which is the most prestigious Student Support Services honor,” Salas said. “She’s a top all-around student from academics to citizenship, and is an outstanding role model for other students. We’ve really seen Stacy grow over the last four years. She went from being extremely shy to speaking publicly about our program at the legislature this year.”

Romero confesses that her knees shook a little when she spoke at the legislature but she says she didn’t run off the stage in fear or burst into tears.Romero was born in El Pueblo in the Valley area of San Miguel County. She is a West Las Vegas High School graduate and attended Highlands on a Zia scholarship. She is the first in her family to complete college.”I still can’t believe I did it, and I’m very proud,” Romero said. “My mom is thrilled.” Romero has a passion for education and her face lights up when she talks about the university’s Media Arts Program.”I love to learn and media arts was a technical challenge for me,” Romero said. “I started in fine arts and that background helped me understand the artistic concepts in media arts.”The media arts faculty is a powerhouse here at Highlands,” Romero said. “They’re so good at translating what they know into a language that we’re able to understand for ourselves as students. We grow as individuals and artists, taking what we learn from them and applying it to our work. They are preparing us for the professional world.”The admiration and respect is a two-way street.

“Stacy has incredible design aesthetics and sensibilities, and works very hard,” said media arts professor Megan Jacobs. “Because of her background in fine arts, she works well with different media like painting, photography and graphic design. She’s a modern Renaissance woman in all these materials and weaves them together in her art. She’s definitely one of our brightest students, and is now an outstanding  graduate.”Romero said the highlight of her education in media arts was this spring when she participated in the program’s new Program for Interactive Cultural Technology or PICT.  The program is the only one of its kind in the state and is designed to prepare students for careers as multimedia professionals in museums and other cultural institutions. It is a partnership between Highlands University and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.  This spring, PICT students, under the direction of their media arts professors, created key multimedia elements for “Fashioning New Mexico,” one of the inaugural exhibits for the New Mexico History Museum. The new 96,000-square-foot museum will open May 24 in Santa Fe.Jacobs said the “Fashioning New Mexico” exhibit educates museum patrons about New Mexico history in the 1800 and 1900s in a unique way through period clothing.

Romero helped design the color palate for the exhibit, as well as the interactive vignette for corsets that employed a mannequin. She even learned how to design and sew clothing for the historic vignette, including a dress, chemise and pantaloons. “It was quite a journey from our first presentation to New Mexico History Museum staff to actually installing our exhibit,” Romero said. “It was really valuable to learn how to work with a client like the museum. It took so much collaboration to bring the exhibit to life.”Romero also had an earlier paid internship with the Palace of the Governors where she was a junior designer for a new Web site called, “Tesoros de Devocion” — “Treasures of Devotion.

“When reflecting on her Highlands’ experience, Romero said: “The best thing about Highlands is the one-on-one attention you get here. People really care if you succeed, if you’re falling behind or even if you’re sick. It’s also nice when people here respect you as a person with a life and responsibilities outside school.”Romero is applying to work in the Karen Carr Studio in Silver City. Carr is an internationally known wildlife and natural history artist. Romero plans to eventually continue her education with a master’s degree in counseling so she can be an art therapist as well as teach art. She also dreams of someday owning her own studio gallery where she can continue to paint, design and create.

If this long-term dream becomes reality, Romero said she will use her initials, S.K.A.R, to name the gallery. A placard at her senior exhibit explains the name, “My initials, S.K.A.R., add to the personal depiction of my work. Just as scars leave an everlasting impression on our bodies, I hope to leave an everlasting impression on others with my work. A scar that one can heal, grow and reflect upon, that adds character to ourselves, our canvas, our lives….If they find beauty or hidden emotion I have done my job as an artist and designer.”