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About our Faculty

There’s one word that sums up New Mexico Highlands University’s professors: passion. Our professors have a passion for their fields and share that passion with their students. Many of our faculty have been recognized for their research and work by agencies like the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, NASA, and many professional organizations. And, unlike larger research universities, our professors teach at every level from freshmen to graduate courses.

Here’s some exciting news about Highlands University professors:

Brandon Kempner, English, published the essay “Feathering the Truth” in Jurassic Park and Philosophy, which discusses feathered dinosaurs, the nature of reality, and the contradictions of postmodern American culture.

Brooks Maki, Chemistry, presented two posters regarding ongoing research concerned with the discovery and synthesis of new biologically active organic small molecules at the national American Chemical Society meeting in Denver. Additionally, as the faculty advisor for the NMHU Chemistry Club, he was asked to present in the “Successful Student Chapters” section of the meeting. 13 members of the chemistry club travelled to Denver to participate in the meeting.

Cheryl Zebrowski, Library, became President of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. She was co-chair of a symposium entitled “Contexts of Copyright Law: Prohibition or Protection?” Cheryl was also asked to serve on the Regional Water Planning Committee.

David Pan, Psychology, presented original research titled “Cultural Adaptation of Therapeutic Styles: Effects on Working Alliance and Depressive Symptoms” at the Western Psychological Association’s (WPA) annual convention in May 2015. Additionally, three of his Masters-level advisees presented original research at WPA where he served as co-author: Maxwell Yost (Accelerated Test Anxiety Intervention Effects on Anxiety and Intelligence), Shannon Foskey (Brief Behavioral Activation for Depression), and Delbert Hagen (Effects of Brief Mindfulness and Music Interventions on Processing Speed).

David Sammeth, Chemistry, was awarded an Army Research Office, Environmental Sciences Division grant to study Optically Stimulate luminescence: “TL/OSL Dating: Lattice Structure, Dating Accuracy, and Temporal Minima in Synthetic and Natural Models.” Total funds awarded were $369,893.

David Sammeth, Chemistry, is also opening the NMHU Luminescence Dating Laboratory. Luminescence dating is a chronological method (dating and determining the time sequence of events) that is used extensively in archaeology and the earth sciences. A grant from the National Science Foundation is funding the acquisition of the necessary instrumentation and a grant from the Department of the Army is funding research to understand the fundamental photo-physics of the luminescence process.

Dick Greene, Computer Science, is working in Namibia, Africa for the 2014-2015 academic year. He will be returning to the Polytechnic of Namibia (PON) in Windhoek for three reasons: 1. To start the first fully accredited BS in Bioengineering degree in Africa with the world class Center of Bioengineering at Rice University (his alma mater) working in collaboration; 2. To field test the efficacy of low cost, portable, hand held ultrasonic imagers in rural clinics in Namibia and Botswana; and 3. To teach medical instrumentation (new), biotransport systems (new), and thermodynamics at PON. During the last year, Dick’s NIH also supported cardiovascular research team at UNMSOM internationally presented and subsequently published 4 papers in high impact journals. Two of the publications included his NMHU graduate student alumni Kyle Yonan and undergraduate alumni Heather Jensen and Migma Sherpa.

Erika Derkas, Sociology and Women’s Studies, received funding for the Palestinian American Research Center’s (PARC) Faculty Seminar on Palestine. This was a 12-day seminar for U.S. faculty members with a demonstrated interest in, but little travel experience to, Palestine. Ten U.S. faculty members were selected to participate in West Bank-based activities which included lectures, workshops, and visits to local universities and other related institutions throughout Palestine. Through these activities, participants learned about the region, deepened their knowledge of their particular fields of interest as they relate to Palestine, and built relationships with Palestinian academic colleagues.

George Mercer, Social Work, taught a pro bono class three times a year at the Clinical Law Program at the UNM Law School that is titled Vicarious Traumatization. The course assists clinical law students in being more effective with law clinic clients who have experienced trauma in their lives.

Ian Williamson, Psychology, co-wrote and is the local evaluator on a grant that NMHU C.A.R.E.S. received from the NM Office of Substance Abuse and Prevention to develop an intervention to reduce substance abuse in San Miguel County.

Jennifer Lindline, Geology, through U.S. Geological Survey’s EDMAP Program funding, worked throughout Summer 2014 with a team of graduate-undergraduate students developing a digital geologic map of the Johnson Mesa-Hermit’s Peak region. They are establishing relative rock relationships through mapping and constraining absolute rock ages via U-Pb zircon analysis at the Arizona LaserChron Center. She also served as a counselor for the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association’s geologic field mapping program in Red Lodge, MT. She led a student group to the world-class Stillwater Mining Complex, geo-toured Yellowstone National Park, and developed new student mapping exercises in Montana’s Ruby Range.

Joe Zebrowski, Forestry, served on the board of the NM Geographic Information Council and Rio Grande Chapter of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sending, facilitated meetings of the Estancia Basin Watershed Health Restoration and Monitoring Project, coordinated NMHU research activities at the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuges, is faculty sponsor for the NMHU Leadership in Geospatial Technology League, and created maps for various organizations.

Kerry Loewen, Media Arts, is currently directing a documentary for the Hermit Peak Watershed Alliance. The film looks at the Gallinas river watershed and how it impacts communities in northeast New Mexico.

Kerry Loewen and Miriam Langer, Media Arts, are leading this semester’s Program in Interactive Cultural Technology (PICT). The project is a complete redesign of the Coronado Historic Site Visitor’s Center. This includes full exhibition graphics and case displays, a new orientation video, a mobile app, an 3D printed interactive pueblo, and a photo exhibit on the archeology of Kuaua village. Students and faculty have worked closely with NM Historic Sites rangers, historians and archeologists to produce an exciting new visitor experience. The grand opening for the new exhibit at Coronado Historic Site is May 29th, 2015.

Kristie Ross, History, conceived of and organized the first forum on, “Why the Humanities.”  The forum allowed for thoughtful consideration of the importance humanities play not only for a holistic educational experience but as a way to safeguard those aspects of our being that intersect with the meanings of human existence in all its multitudes. The forum created a conversation between students, community members and a panel of faculty from English, Visual and Performing Arts, History, Languages and Culture, and Women’s Studies.

Jonathan Lee, SSD, received funding to work on a mobile way-finding/tour project with students for Coronado Historic Site, funded a student building a mobile tour application for Colorado National Monument, and worked with students to develop and install a gestural interface project at the Governor’s Gallery in Santa Fe.

Miriam Langer, Media Arts, and the AmeriCorps team have been awarded funding for their fifth year of cultural technology internships. Students will continue to do paid internships in museums and cultural institutions around NM. She will be presenting at the Museum Computer Network conference on her research on open source Electronic Paper labeling systems for museums, as well as participating on a panel on low-cost interaction design for museum exhibits. Her project, “The Baumann Marionettes” is currently on display at the Governor’s Gallery at the Roundhouse.

Nicolas T. Leger, Business Administration, was elected San Miguel County’s representative to the New Mexico Association of Counties Board of Directors. Under his leadership, San Miguel County adopted a comprehensive oil and gas ordinance for the County, which he believes will be a cutting edge model for communities around the country. He also completed 33 years as a licensed New Mexico attorney.

Orit Tamir, Anthropology, presented the paper a “Some Musing of an Ethnographer on CRM Mediation and Facilitation,” in an invited session at the Society for Applied Anthropology’s 74th Annual Meeting that convened in Albuquerque, NM. She also had four of NMHU Anthropology Graduate students work as volunteers and participate in the conference. She also will serve as Program Chair for the 75th Anniversary Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology that will be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in March 2015.

Patricia Cruz, Educational Leadership, and Seonsook Park, Curriculum and Instruction, are in the second phase of their research study on Professional Development Schools (PDS). Dr. Cruz was the Principal of the elementary school where the first PDS was established in 2010. Dr. Park continues to be an instructor of two Reading courses that are taught to NMHU pre-service teachers at the PDS sites. After conducting a preliminary survey study on pre-service and in-service teachers, which was presented at the NMHU Research Day in April, 2014, the two professors are currently conducting interviews with PDS In-Service Teachers and plan to present their study results at the National PDS Conference in Atlanta, GA in March, 2015.

Robert Karaba, Educational Leadership, will present his paper, “Challenging Freedom: Neoliberalism and the Erosion of Democratic Education” at the national conference of the National Network for Education Renewal (NNER) in Cincinnati, OH, October 2014. He was also appointed the Archivist for the John Dewey Society.

Ruthy Watson, Exercise and Sports Science, was one of the speakers for the TEDxABQ Women Salon event in Albuquerque, NM. The event was held at the New Mexico Museum of Art and History. The focus of the event was women’s issues and the goal of TEDxABQ was to start encourage conversations in New Mexico. Dr. Watson spoke about the value of girlfriends and relationships in women’s lives. In this talk, she coined the term “Girlfriend Capital” which emphasizes some of the key contributions that girlfriends make to women’s health, arguing that girlfriends are a resource for stress management, better health and well-being.

Sara Brown, Forestry, presented original research during an all-day special session at the Large Wildland Fire Conference in Missoula, MT. The session was organized and presented by eight NMHU faculty, staff and students, and focused on research conducted on the Las Conchas wildfire (2011). NMHU Special Session presenters included: NMHU faculty (Edward Martinez, Joe Zebrowski and James Biggs), a collaborator from the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute (Rick McNeill), and three Environmental Science graduate students (Anita Lavadie, Lorraine Garcia and Elyssa Duran).

Sarah Corey-Rivas, Biology, was awarded an NM-INBRE grant to study immunogenomics of the boreal toad, a state endangered species in New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. In July and August, she traveled to Colorado and Utah to survey toads and collect DNA in cooperation with Colorado Natural Heritage Program and the Utah State Division of Wildlife. Two undergraduates and one graduate researcher are working on the study this year.

Seonsook Park, Curriculum & Instruction, has published an article “Becoming a bilingual and bicultural self: A personal journey” in the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) Perspectives, Volume 35, No. 4 (2013)In collaboration with her graduate student, Lisa Chavez who is a first grade teacher, she presented “Vocabulary development through literacy games” at the 2014 New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children Annual ConferenceShe continues working on her ongoing cross-cultural research in collaboration with colleagues from the University of New Mexico entitled “Sexuality education and students with intellectual disability: A study of special education teacher preparation.”

Shilpashri Karbhari, Criminal Justice, published the encyclopedia entry (200 words) “South-Asian Identities” in Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia, edited by Yu Danico (Sage Publications, 2014).

Shirley Meckes, Teacher Education, is conducting research and writing a paper on “The Collapse of Cursive Writing and its Effect on Young Children’s Skill Development.”

Stan Cohen, SSD, designed and built the microcontroller-based electronics for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) permanent Hall-of-the-Stars exhibit. The exhibit was awarded the 2014 Gold Muse award presented by the American Alliance of Museums for Interpretive Interactive Installations. He was appointed as Guest Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Bradbury Science Museum where he acted as technical liaison for the 2014 Reverse Engineering Workshop at the Los Alamos Science Fest. He was invited to present a NMMNHS seminar on the use of low-cost microcontroller technology in interactive exhibits, called “Behind the Lights and the Curtains.”


Click here for our complete faculty list.