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President’s weekly Messages-Spring 2018

Spring 2018

Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week February 12-16:

  1. Last Saturday, we held the HU Loves Alumni event. We heard some great jazz (thank you Smooth Riders), ate some wonderful food (The Skillet comes through again), and enjoyed some creative libations including a “125th” HU signature cocktail (thanks Borracho’s team). The evening included a silent and a live auction and we made $3750.00—about $500 more than last year.  Well done to Juli, VP Law, and the entire advancement team. A few photos from the event:PhotoPhotoPhoto



  1. After quite a bit of back and forth, we finally finished the MOU with Seokyeong University in South Korea. We hope to receive students from Seokyeong and perhaps engage in some faculty exchanges as well. Seokyeong University currently enrolls about 8000 undergraduate students and about 400 graduate students. Many thanks to Ms. Tina Clayton and Dr. Edward Martinez for their hard work to make this happen. A photo of Seokyeong University:Photo


  1. On Monday, Ilfeld screened a new film, Making a Killing. The film was shot mostly in and around Las Vegas, N.M. and starred, among others, Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future fame. We attracted quite a decent audience for a cold February Monday night. If you missed the film, you might want to look for it at some point—lots and lots of scenes of our beloved city and some of our colleagues were extras in the production.  Much of the film was shot in a local Victorian home—a block or so from campus. A trailer for the film:


  1. Dean Virginia Padilla-Vigil has been invited by PED to join the Professional Practices and Standards Council (PPSC) and has additionally been asked to chair the PPSC. Her term will be for three years. The purpose of the PPSC is to ensure that high standards are maintained in the preparation and practice of professional licensed school personnel. The creation of the PPSC recognizes that persons licensed by the PED comprise a profession, with all of the rights, responsibilities and privileges accorded professions, having their first obligation to the public they serve. The primary responsibilities of this profession are to educate the children of this state and to improve the professional practices and ethical conduct of the members of the profession. Congratulations to Virginia and thanks to her for going the extra mile to engage in this important task. Well done!


  1. We continue to show some decent results using the RNL DemandBuilder product. For example, as of 2/5/18, we sent 25,784 emails to a select group of sophomores and juniors (we can no longer afford to only recruit high school seniors…we have to build a pipeline). We purchased these names from three different sources in four markets. Market #1 consists of the New Mexico counties we have historically done well in—mostly Northern New Mexico counties.  Market #2 consists of all other New Mexico counties…places we’ve drawn from, but not as well as Market #1. The third market consists of our top draw counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Texas and Market #4 is the remainder of the United States, but even the emails in that overall U.S. market were screened for students in our demographic. No random emails hoping for some interest. Of the 25,784 emails we sent, 1431 prospective students at least opened the message; an overall “opened rate” of 5.55%. According to our consultants at RNL, this is about typical. We are also in the middle of our Senior Search Campaign. We sent 9,980 emails to high schools seniors (same markets as noted above) and 5.68% of them opened the message. Dr. Martinez is doing a good job managing these data and his team is working hard to improve our enrollment. They deserve our sincere thanks.


  1. On Tuesday, House Bill 2 passed the senate. At this point, we did pretty well, but of course, there are several steps to get all this done.  Overall, UNM received a 2.3% increase, NMSU received a 1.3% increase, Western received 4.3%, Eastern New Mexico received 2.0%, Tech received 1.6%, and Northern received .7%. We received 2.3%, so only Western fared better.  Please keep in mind that none of this is certain. On March 7th  (20 days from Thursday), legislation not acted upon by the governor is pocket vetoed. Much our success this year must be credited to Max who tirelessly worked in Santa Fe to connect with the right decision makers and promote HU to all who would listen.


  1. Also on Tuesday, our Advancement Team hosted a Mardi Gras lunch…it was Fat Tuesday after all. Not sure who found the figurine in the cake. Laissez les bon temps roulez! Mardi gras ne va pas mieux qu’à Las Vegas, au Nouveau-Mexique!


  1. I had an Op Ed published on Monday in the New Mexican and kind of unbelievably to me, I’ve had more than 30 emails from people around the state and nation commenting on it…mostly (but not all) positive. So it goes. Here it is:


Three more bad ideas to reform higher education

By Sam Minner

New Mexico’s higher education is, once again, on the minds of many of our elected officials during this year’s legislative session, and lots of ideas to improve our state’s higher education have echoed around the statehouse. Some ideas had merit. Some did not. Here are three bad ideas I recently heard:

Merge Institutions

Some legislators and citizens seem to think that New Mexico has too many institutions of higher education and merging some of them would somehow result in savings and or improved performance. This has been tested across the nation, and the poster child for higher-ed mergers is the state of Georgia. A report assessing the cost reductions of mergers in that state yielded a system wide savings of about 1 percent. All the hard feelings in the communities where those institutions were located; all the controversies; all the time, effort and energy to make the necessary changes — for a 1 percent savings? Aside from savings, some believe that mergers will somehow result in improved outcomes like better retention and graduation rates. After mergers, some schools have seen improvements in those areas, but universities that work closely together in a coordinated manner have seen similar results without mergers. Coordinated efforts like common course numbering can improve outcomes, and Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron is leading an effort to make that happen. Merge schools without very careful thought? A bad idea.

Bust Unions

Another idea I heard during the legislative session was to take actions to reduce the power of unions on college campuses or eliminate them altogether. Again, this is a very bad idea and one I oppose. Unions of various types have played a major role in building an American middle class, bringing all members of organizations together to talk and plan, which often leads to improved performance. In the education sector, an organization’s performance is largely predicted by the commitment, the passion and the efforts of those who matter most in the organization. In the case of higher education, those individuals are faculty and staff members. Unions are not the only way to bring people together to make things better, but they have been effective in achieving that goal in the past and do so today. Bust unions in higher education? That’s a bad idea.

Accelerate College

Finally, another very popular but troublesome idea is the overall acceleration of the college experience. The thinking goes something like this: Enroll students in as many dual-credit classes as possible. Then, once they are at university, get them to declare a major or a meta major (a group of similar disciplines like health or science) as quickly as possible. Next, reduce all majors to no more than 120 hours and provide incentives to convince students to enroll in 15 semester hours of classes or more per term. Taking these steps will undoubtedly get students to graduation faster, and that is desirable in many ways. But, what is lost in this approach? Try a little experiment. Watch a great film on fast forward. Get through it as quickly as possible. Did the film have any impact on you? Or, speed read a beautiful poem. Or, walk through an art gallery as quickly as possible. Or, perhaps more critically, allow yourself a minute or two — no more — to reflect on what it means to live a good life – to live a life of meaning and purpose. My point is simply this: Many important outcomes of a higher education simply cannot be achieved quickly. If you think it is important to appreciate the aesthetic dimensions of life, to reflect on one’s own existence, and develop the tools to think critically; that cannot be done quickly. It just isn’t possible.

Higher education is incredibly important in New Mexico and in our nation. Everyone wants to improve the performance of our colleges and universities, but not all changes and not all new ideas are necessarily good. Let’s be smart about the changes we make. Merging institutions in our state, attempting to diminish the ability of faculty and staff to speak through union representation, and speeding up the college process will not make our schools stronger.

They are bad ideas.

Sam Minner is president of New Mexico Highland University.


  1. HLC Update: On Tuesday, we held our first HLC prep meeting. Brandon, Max, Roxanne, and I met along with Sean to practice our time with the IAC. We devised the basic structure of our presentation and I think everyone felt good about it. Next Tuesday, we’ll engage the EMT in a mock session—ask them to shoot hard question to us—probe the areas we anticipate the IAC will focus on, etc. After that, we’ll have a general campus meeting to go over things, respond to questions, etc. I assure everyone that we’ll be ready.

Favorite thing I read this week:

“I have never understood the D grade. As I’ve written a few times over the years, the D grade is neither fish nor fowl. It’s passing, sort of, but its grade point value is below the minimum to graduate.  D’s don’t transfer, except when they do. In some sequences, they don’t allow forward progression. They can count against satisfactory academic progress, since they fall below a 2.0. The ambiguity of the D, I think, is a function of the ambiguity of the C. Is the C supposed to be average, or the minimum acceptable level?  If it were the former, the D could connote “below average.” If it’s the latter, then I don’t know what the D (or the C-minus, for that matter) connotes.  Given that most colleges don’t accept anything below a C in transfer, I’d argue that we’d decided as a sector that a C is a minimum.  To the extent that’s true, the D doesn’t make any sense. D’s raise equity issues, too. For a student who starts at a community college and transfers to, say, Flagship State U, a D may not transfer. But for a student who starts at Flagship State, an otherwise-solid GPA can carry a D or two. D’s get degrees, but only sometimes, and only if you started in the right place.  Holding transfer students to a higher standard than native students isn’t a good look, especially when you compare the racial composition of the two groups, but that’s where we are. I know I’m likely to get a torrent of “but what about grade inflation?” comments, but I don’t see eliminating the D as encouraging grade inflation. I see it as bringing clarity to what counts and what doesn’t. Besides, in studies of grade inflation, community colleges have been relatively immune; the really rampant inflation occurs at the most selective institutions.  I just don’t see the point of passing students along who are destined to hit a wall when they try to take the next step.” From I Knew It! By Matt Reed in the February 11 edition of INSIDE Higher Education. To read the whole thing, go to:

I also liked this one from the Careers Section of the February 9, 2018 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. That really great weekly series is written by David Perlmutter. He writes,

…in higher education, we “hire on CV and fire on fit.”

The Noble Piper says, “Totally in favor of infrastructure spending. As long as it includes dog parks.”



Sam Minner,



Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of February 5-9:

  1. Here’s an email we sent this week to prospective students using the RNL DemandBuilder product. This message was sent to thousands of students screened to predict their potential interest in HU. No more scattershot messages to just anyone’s email. That doesn’t work. The actual email we sent looks better than this one, but this will give you a good idea of the content:




New Mexico Highlands University is a small school that’s big on…


Like hiring the best professors—the kind that are experts in their fields and who also care about you and your goals.


Highlands boasts the lowest tuition in the state and the third lowest in the southwest.


You’re not just a number here—you’re part of a welcoming family that celebrates each other’s differences.


Las Vegas, NM is within minutes of state parks and ski resorts. (And our students enjoy free outdoor recreation trips and other activities)

Complete your reply form to hear more about majors, financial aid, and your next steps.


New Mexico Highlands University

Box 9000, Las Vegas, NM 87701



  1. I heard from Dick Greene, our Jefferson Fellow working in D.C. this year. He is doing well, working hard on a variety of projects, and raising heck as everyone would expect.  He sent me his latest co-authored manuscript and I’ve attached it (click here).


  1. We held our regular Executive Management Team meeting on Tuesday and started the meeting with a brief discussion of the possible (or real) hoops we ask poor students to jump through compared to wealthy or middle class students. We read this piece: As you can see (if you read it), one idea in another state is to require drug testing for students who want access to financial support to attend university. Not middle class students. Not wealthy students. Just poor students. So, do folks at HU ask or even require poor students to go through things that other students do not? When a student misses class or is late on an assignment, do we think about what might be behind that? Maybe…they had to work a job a few extra hours to make ends meet or maybe their car broke down. If these kinds of things are happening and “explain” the problems, does it really make any difference? Some might and indeed do argue that all students—irrespective of their circumstances— simply must find a way to navigate their lives (including college) and it isn’t fair to be too “easy” on them.  Is that a legitimate position? I think people around the table felt that most of their colleagues here at HU were pretty plugged in regarding the needs and special challenges of our students and that, in general, they did not require students to jump through more hoops than others. But, a few examples of behaving the other way were discussed. The bottom line, for me at least, is that the notion that poor people (or poor students for that matter) are poor and likely to remain poor because they do not try hard enough, do not put in enough effort, or do not behave as others facing fewer challenges is quite alive and well today. I see examples of it all the time. In most cases, I really don’t believe that.  It was a good and thoughtful  discussion and one I will reflect on, no doubt. The rest of the meeting was devoted to HLC matters, additional discussions about a commencement speaker, and an update from Santa Fe as the session comes to a close.


  1. Things continue to look good from the Roundhouse. Nothing is ever final until the ink is dry from the Governor’s signature, but…it appears that we will receive some new funds, some money for overall compensation increases, some restoration of the athletics budget (which has taken such a hit in recent years), some money for infrastructure, and perhaps some money for nursing, social work, and a few other items. I know I speak for everyone when I thank our elected officials for their hard work to devise a workable budget for our state. It is a tough job. Turning to Luna, the bill to merge the two institutions has been (at least) temporarily withdrawn. Again…our position—(1) we wish that institution (and all institutions) well as they face the real challenges in the 2018 environment, (2) we have not taken nor will we take any proaction to assume responsibility for that or any other institution, but (3) we do stand ready to assist in any way we can…but only if requested. However things work out at LCC, we should remember that the faculty there are our colleagues—doing essentially the same work we do each day—and the students there are hopefully—if we are lucky—our students someday. We wish everyone at LCC nothing but the best.


  1. The concert on Saturday was a great success. We sold about $55K worth of tickets and welcomed nearly 2,000 people to Wilson for the event. It was so great to see so many of our students, local community members, and folks from out of town enjoying the music, dancing, and having a good time. Well done to Dr. Kim Blea, Ms. Donna Martinez, our wonderful facilities crew, our PD, and everyone who made this happen. We have made no effort to determine the overall local economic impact of these events, but just as an estimate…if say 1000 of the 2000 people at the event had a meal and something to drink before the event (say, $50.00) and then purchased some fuel for the drive home (say, $25.00)…that would mean an single night economic impact of about 75K. Of course, if someone spent the evening in Las Vegas, that figure would increase considerably. I really don’t know if we’ll ever do some type of economic impact around these events—it takes time and money to do that—but I am confident this event and others we’ve done are good for our students and good for the community. A win-win.



I also heard many rave reviews about the opening act, Frank Ray. Frank did a late concert at the Serf and I heard it was standing room only (I can’t verify that—too late for me). A review of Mr. Ray’s work  from Rolling Stone:

Sounds Like: Easygoing contemporary country with pop-soul hooks and a dash of Southwestern spice

For Fans of: Keith Urban, Chris Young, Eli Young Band

Why You Should Pay Attention: Frank Ray, a former police officer with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, force, left his full-time police job a few months ago and his country singing career has been accelerating rapidly since then. An experienced performer who had the chance to open shows for A Thousand Horses and Keith Urban with his previous band, Ray’s solo debut EP Different Kind of Country was released earlier in 2017. The EP’s forlorn lead single “Every Time You Run” is currently making its way toward the Top 20 of the Texas Regional Radio Report, a list highlighting the week’s most popular Red Dirt titles. In his song “Different Kind of Country,” Ray sings about the Hispanic immigrant experience in America, highlighting cultural differences but pointing out values – including family and hard work – shared with the country audience. “I wanted it to be a message to say, ‘Hey, we’re different but we’re very much the same,'” he says. “But also from a logistical standpoint, we can’t deport every single illegal immigrant – United States agriculture highly relies on that labor. We have to find a way to make it work.”

He Says: “My fiancé  and I talked about it and she really knew this was important to me. It was funny the way she worded it – she said, ‘Everybody’s got confidence in you except for yourself.’ But it was just scary, especially after giving a decade of your life to the police department. It was scary to leave that comfort and stability.”

Our next performance will be from Black Violin. That duo will perform in Ilfeld. A nice video of one of their numbers:

  1. I recently read an article in The Washington Post about things universities might do to rein in costs and save money. Not really new ideas, but still…worth thinking about. There were four of them: reduce administrative costs, operate the physical plant more efficiently, fund less what was referred to as mediocre research, and focus on delivering cheaper but better general education. I thought about these ideas relative to HU.


In regard to administrative costs, the recommendation was to “spend more on instruction than anything else.” We have some data on that. According to the most recent Performance Effectiveness Report (PEP), HU spends 59.8 percent of our resources on instruction, research, and public service and 14.1% on administrative costs.  We look pretty good compared to our peers on this metric. Our peers spend 55% of their resources on instruction, research, and service and 15.7% on administrative costs. So, we are doing better than our peers on that.


Turning to the use of the physical plant, the recommendation was to distribute classes throughout the week and even Saturdays. The assertion was that college campuses sit idle too much of the time. I asked Buddy Rivera to provide me with an analysis of our usage by day. Here’s what he sent me:


Mon    Tues    Wed    Thurs   Friday              Saturday            Sunday

Courses (Plan)            408      364      351      346      131                  36                    2

Courses (Executed)    360      324      313      312      114                  35                    2


As you can see , we start strong on Monday, but fade throughout the week. On Friday, we offered only 114 classes and only 2 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday.


Funding less supposedly mediocre research? That’s would be hard to measure. For one thing, what’s “mediocre” from one person’s perspective is important from another’s point of view. Now, general education is another matter. Think what resources could be recouped…and reallocated…if we had a very lean general ed. program. Some schools do. Everyone takes two writing classes, one class in American literature, one class in poetry, and maybe one in some other area…and that’s it. I am not advocating this kind of approach, but man…it would really focus our efforts and allow us to reallocate quite a bit to other things. Now doing that would also reduce choices for students and that would have to be weighed against being so lean. But, maybe we should think about it.



  1. On Thursday evening, a large and upbeat crowd congregated at La Fonda in Santa Fe for the annual Las Vegas Night. We sponsored the event along with the City, San Miguel County, and Luna CC. It was a nice celebration of all things Las Vegas. A few photos of the event:



  1. HU Athletics continues to do some great things. Coach DeVries’ women’s team continues to do well against top notch competition. Our men’s basketball team is definitely in the hunt for post-season play (the game last Wednesday was really exciting…and a victory), our women’s basketball team continues to show tremendous grit, baseball and softball have started with some early victories, and football recruiting is well underway. We’ve got a new football field, some very nice renovations underway at Stu Clark, a relatively new gym floor in Wilson, and we’re in the early stages of engineering a campaign for additional athletic facilities. Here’s some of the new recruits who we’ll see in class this fall and on the football field. Note that we have some student athletes from Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, California, South Carolina. Illinois, and here in New Mexico (and right here in Las Vegas). Also note that most all of these students are true freshmen—we’ll hopefully have them for four full years.


Darius Andrade  OL 6-2 305 Weston, FL Cypress Bay HS

Corbin Anguiano  OL 6-1 260 Pampa, TX Pampa HS

Elijah Boyd  RB 6-0 240 Lubbock, TX Lubbock Cooper HS

Cameron Forziati DB 5-10 175 Sparta, NJ Paramus Catholic HS

Dondi Fuller  LB 6-1 205 Fairview Heights, IL Belleville East HS

Devon Gonzales OL 6-4 270 Albuquerque, NM  West Mesa HS

Joseph Gutierrez DL 6-4 235 Oxnard, CA Oxnard HS

Zach Hall DL 6-2 285 Cartersville, GA Cass HS

Trejen Lawrence  DL 6-2 245 Amarillo, TX Amarillo Tascosa HS

Diego Lewis  WR 5-9 165 El Paso, TX Andress HS

Emmanuel Lumanze Jr WR 6-1 182 Arlington, TX Bowie HS

Craig McRae LB 5-10 215 Rossele, NJ Abraham Clark HS

Jacobe Mills  DL 6-1 280 Pampa, TX Pampa HS

Arjay Ortiz ATH 6-2 170 Las Vegas, NM Robertson

Matt Rodriguez QB 6-1 185 Ladera Ranch CA San Juan Hills

Netavion Thompson DB 5-11 170 Blacksburg, SC Blacksburg HS

Tyshun Turnipseed ATH 6-2 200 Chicago, IL Al Raby HS


In addition, Coach Doug Moses will soon be inducted into the RMAC Hall of Fame. Doug has had such a great career. He was a collegiate wrestler and an NAIA national champion. He coached at Adams State, CSU-Pueblo, and came to HU in 2001. He has coached more than 70 All Americans, 10 national champions, and helped shape the lives of hundreds of young men over the years.  Congratulations to Doug—soon to be RMAC Hall of Fame inductee.



  1. HLC Update: The team attending the IAC meeting will practice their presentation next week. We’ll also schedule a more general meeting to get feedback from the university community. We intend to be fully and completely ready to go when we enter the meeting. Again, the IAC team consists of me, Brandon, Roxanne, and Max. We are limited to four people.


Favorite Quote Of The Week:

Follow-up research — led by a Skidmore professor who studies faculty work — revealed a dissatisfaction with workload and a sense that professors on campus don’t root for each other. That means we sort of have a mentality or philosophy that everybody’s got to run the gauntlet in the tenure process, said panelist Beau Breslin, dean of the faculty and vice president of academic affairs at Skidmore. That it has to be hard, rigorous work to justify the quality of the work that we do, and we don’t always root for each other as the process goes on.

From Less Is More by Coleen Flaherty in

The Noble Piper says, “I am starting a movement for a dog parade in Washington, D.C. I’ll lead it, of course. No military hardware. Also, no cats.”Photo


Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week January 29-February 2:

  1. Things are moving along with the Stu Clark renovation thanks to a generous donor. We’ll be installing a new bathroom, some new carpeting, some new video equipment, and other features. A rendering of some of the banners we’ll install:Photo


  1. Joan hosted the Monday Night Knitting Group this week. All students are progressing well. We shared a meal and a good time was had by all. Some of the students at work on their projects:Photo


  1. On Tuesday we held the weekly Executive Management Team meeting. We welcomed Dr. Tom Ward to the meeting as the new leader of the Faculty Senate. We kicked off the meeting with a discussion of “Return On Investment” (ROI) in education and spent some time talking about what ROI meant to us and different students. There was widespread agreement that the “return” on a college education for one student was not always the same return for another. Different students thought about ROI in very different ways. For some, the “return” on a college investment was mostly or perhaps even totally about the job that would hopefully be waiting at the end of college. For others, the return was more about seeing the world in a different way than before college, figuring out how to navigate the world as an ethical being, learning about the great thought traditions of the world, gaining an appreciation of the aesthetic dimension of life, etc. I think we agreed that there was no right or wrong in all this….but I think we also agreed that thinking carefully about what ROI means or might mean to our students could help us tell our story, recruit more effectively, etc. Here’s two articles we read—one about the ROI in early childhood education and one about higher education: and . We finished the meeting talking about the most recent developments in Santa Fe, some possible commencement speakers, the IAC visit, and other housekeeping business.


  1. Later on Tuesday, we held the Fiscal Forum and I presented my budget priorities for the upcoming year. As a review, budget suggestions and recommendations were made at the discipline level and moved from there to the deans or other managers, and ultimately to the appropriate VP. We held numerous hearings where each VP made her or his case and answered questions form others. I then devised my list based upon what I heard from the VPs and my own judgments about what I believed to be in the best interests of the institution. In the last column, you can see how, in my mind at least, each budget item relates to our Strategic Goals. Reasonable people may disagree with my list, of course. After all, the total budget requests came up to more than $13mil so the chances of anyone’s priorities matching up exactly with mine are very unlikely. In the end, the goal is not for any two lists to be aligned. The goal is to have a clear, transparent, and well documented process for connecting budget items to priorities while making certain the process is clear and as transparent as possible. Copies of the budget priority list were disseminated at the meeting and I’ve attached the document to this message (above). More than 75 people attended in person or via Zoom.  Thanks to all who attended.


  1. Congratulations to Jesus Rivas who was recently informed of winning a Fulbright award. The Fulbright will allow Dr. Rivas to continue his study of green anacondas; the largest known snakes in the world. He will be collaborating with scientists from Brazil and some of his students will accompany him. Well done to Dr. Rivas. A photo of Jesus and a not so little friend:

    Courtesy photo

In the scholarly realm, I was also informed this week of a major accomplishment by Dr. Jessica Snow. Jessica’s paper, Actin Polymerization Contributes to Enhanced Pulmonary Vasoconstrictor Reactivity Following Chronic Hypoxia (whatever that means)  has been accepted for publication in the American Journal of Physiology. That journal is one of the top publications in her field. Well done to Jesus and Jessica! We have some top-notch scholars here at HU and their work brings great distinction to them, to us, and to the disciplines they love.


  1. Our Advancement Team continues to perform at a high level. This week alone we brought in $2000 for two different endowment accounts, $3500 to our unrestricted fund, and $4000 for our football program. Well done to Terri Law and her dedicated team. Also, please consider donating an item to the HU Loves Alumni auction. That event will take place on February 10 in the SUB. See Juli if you’d like to donate something. Or, consider attending the event and bidding on some great items.


  1. The Josh Turner concert is this weekend. We’ve sold about $45,000 in tickets and will have 1500+ people in Wilson. I hope to see you there with dancing shoes (or boots) on and warmed up.


  1. Things continue to look generally favorable in Santa Fe. I remain optimistic that there will be at least some new money going to higher education, there will be something for compensation, and some other plusses for HU and the higher education sector generally. Max and I…mostly Max…have worked very hard to put HU’s interests before elected officials and we have many friends there. There has been much talk about Luna CC and the future of that institution. Our official position on that—Luna is critically important to Northern new Mexico. We’ll do everything we can to support that institution now and into the future. Whatever happens there, we stand ready to help Luna and all LCC students. We have taken no other position on anything related to Luna CC.


  1. A few weeks ago I did an Op Ed on three “bad ideas” to reform higher education. I recently wrote another piece and it might appear soon in a couple papers around the state. Be on the lookout for it. Once it is published, I’ll reprint it in a weekly message. It focuses on three more “bad Ideas”…from my perspective.


  1. HLC Update: The report to the Institutional Action Committee of the HLC was completed this week and mailed on time. Preparing this document was a significant undertaking involving many colleagues and lots of time and effort. The principal author of this document was Dr. Brandon Kempner who, once again, drafted much of the narrative, but also kept others on track. His high commitment to this and other HLC related work was and is remarkable. Virtually all colleagues I’ve known over the years assert that they are committed to students, the institution, their discipline, etc. But, when I’ve observed what they do—their deportment—I have not always agreed with those assertions. Others also assert that…or not…but their commitment is obvious. Just see how they behave. It reminds me of a Jean Paul Sartre quote, “Commitment is an act, not a word.” That is so true, no? Our presentation to the IAC is in early March. The team—me, Brandon, Max, and Roxanne—will prepare for the IAC presentation and invite feedback from the campus community. I am sure we will be ready to go.

One of my favorite things I read this week…from Inside Higher Ed:

“HR Director: What if we invest in professional development, and then our people leave?

CEO: What if we don’t, and they stay?”

The noble Piper says, “I could care less what’s going on down in Santa Fe. When’s lunch?”

Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of January 22-26:

  1. I returned to campus last weekend after nearly a full week at the NCAA meeting in Indianapolis. This meeting attracts thousands of participants. Hot topics included recent issues in basketball (almost exclusively in Division I),  concerns related to wagering, and lots of discussions around various concussion lawsuits. I am very pleased to report that our conference…the RMAC…is doing well in all of the areas noted above and more. Our conference has a great record at handling issues as they come up (we were commended for being so responsive to all concerns),  we are taking a proactive approach to wagering, and at this point, our conference is not part of any concussion lawsuit. That could change, of course. Some good NCAA news—student athlete success rates in Division II are higher than those in other NCAA Divisions and even higher than the general student population. This affirms that participation in college athletics, at least at the Division II level, is truly a “high impact practice” that predicts student success. Speaking of athletics, I was in Santa Fe all this week at the legislative session and there was so much talk about the recent New Mexico State Bowl Game victory. Like athletics or not, people who make important decisions about higher education’s future pay close attention to athletics. I should also note that I plan on throwing my hat into an election for a major NCAA governance committee assuming all continues to go well with our HLC issues. More on that later.logo
  2. I returned from Indianapolis and immediately went to Santa Fe for the legislative session. I spent most of the week there participating in various Council of University Presidents meetings, legislative hearings, one-on-one meetings with elected officials, meetings with Secretary Damron, and numerous social events with legislators, lobbyists, and others. This is a short session and things change very rapidly, but the overall situation looks much better than last year. A few details as of yesterday:


The Council of University Presidents (CUP) took a few positions and we did what we could to hammer them home this week. First, we support a 4% redistribution of funds using the current formula funding model in place in new Mexico, but we also support at least 2% new money for higher education. We support a 2% compensation increase for employees. Finally, we support a decoupling of lottery scholarship money. That is, students in each sector (the research schools, the comprehensives, etc.) would receive a flat amount of lottery scholarship support. It would not be tied to tuition at the school. We made these recommendations to the House and the Senate committees and in the case of the House, a higher education subcommittee, and I would say they were generally well received. There are competing recommendations about the percentage of money that should be redistributed (again, we are at 4%) and of course, we certainly received no guarantee that any new money would be added to higher ed funding overall. However, while I was in Santa Fe this week, the overall state revenue forecasts were improving by the day so that bodes well. In regard to compensation, I was asked several times about the modest compensation increase we had this year and if higher education was in such tough shape, why I did that. I believe only HU and one other university provided an across the board increase this year. I think I was able to explain my rationale and people seemed to at least understand it even if they did not agree with it. Although the CUP compensation recommendation is 2%, there are competing recommendations at 1% and 1.5%. Obviously, I hope it is 2%, but it is at least a little encouraging that people seem to be discussing what the increase should be—as compared to last year when it was all about how much will be cut. Decoupling the lottery scholarship money from tuition rates seems to have general support across the board.


Quite a bit of the discussion this week focused on the performance funding formula we now have in place in New Mexico. Compared to some other states, we really employ a kind of “performance funding lite” approach that only puts a relatively small percentage of university funds in play due to performance. One of the main drivers here in New Mexico is completion—that is, the number of certificates, two year degrees, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees—awarded by each school. In general, the more awards, the better the school does in the performance formula. But, as is always the case, the situation is really more complex than that. For example, deciding the base funding for each institution at the very beginning of the performance funding program can be tricky and it can have a continuing impact on performance funding over time. The bottom line, for me at least, is that performance funding  can be a good thing—who is against paying more to people or institutions performing at a high level?—but the devil is in the details and if you don’t get those details right, you can cause harm to institutions and ultimately to students.  Do we have those details right in new Mexico? That’s a good question. Of course, there are people on both sides of this issue and a good number in the middle. You can find plenty of evidence that is does and does not work—in some cases, some of the time. Those who take strong and resolute positions that it does or does not work are really not telling the whole story, in my view, or maybe they are simply unaware of the facts. Basically, the verdict is still out. Here’s what I think is a good summary: But for now, we have performance funding in place in New Mexico. There may be changes in the future. Time will tell.


I also had numerous conversations about the possibility of making some changes in board of regent membership here in New Mexico. I recently had an op-ed in the local paper and in the New Mexican where I recommended adding members to boards including someone from the faculty and the staff. Here’s that piece and it generated quite a bit of discussion—pro and con—down in Santa Fe:


Yes, reform the university governance process

By Sam Minner

Jan 15, 2018

Proposed legislation to change how regents are selected for New Mexico’s universities will go a long way in strengthening our state’s institutions. Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, have sponsored a constitutional amendment to create a bipartisan nomination committee to evaluate potential candidates for regent appointments. The committee would screen individuals interested in serving as regents and those names would eventually go to the governor who would make her recommendations. The Senate would then confirm or reject the governor’s choices as is done in the current system. These changes attempt to depoliticize regent selections and to make certain that regents possess the experience, knowledge and skills to fulfill their responsibilities. Other states have adopted such a system and, in many cases, the process has resulted in stronger board member selections and ultimately, stronger institutions of higher education. In the 2017 environment, simply having a personal or political relationship with someone does not make him or her a good choice to serve as a regent. That role is extremely complex these days and requires deep expertise in a variety of domains including, most notably, financial matters. I strongly endorse the proposal and hope that it makes it through the Legislature and gets on a ballot where the people of New Mexico can make the final decision. In addition to the proposed legislation, I believe it is time to take a broader look at university governance in our state. Here’s a few issues I think we should consider: First, at some schools, like New Mexico Highlands University, five individuals serve on the boards of regents. I am not one to make things more complex than necessary, but having only five regents makes it virtually impossible for any functional board committees to be established. In other states, boards are often larger, thus allowing for committees focusing on finance, academic affairs, student affairs and others to do a lot of the heavy lifting and make recommendations to the full board at regularly scheduled meetings. This approach can save a lot of time and not require small boards to have marathon meetings where they devote much time to every agenda item. This approach can make full board meetings less time-consuming and still provide a full vetting of all important issues. Second, I strongly recommend that boards include a faculty member and a staff member. The outcomes of any educational institution are largely predicted by the commitment, effectiveness and dedication of the people who work there. If those people are part of the decision-making process, outcomes tend to trend upward. Finally, particularly at our regional institutions like Highlands, it would be a very good idea for boards to include representation from the local community. Schools like Highlands are anchors for their communities, and the historical town-gown issues between municipalities and universities need to be addressed in new ways. Here in our town, as goes Highlands, so goes Las Vegas. And vice versa. Recently, a group of experts from around the state took a long look at the possibility of merging some boards governing our institutions of higher education. Not surprisingly, that notion did not get much support. Though state institutions of higher education “belong” to the state, many people interested in universities, especially regional schools, want some regional influence brought to bear on those schools. Highlands is fortunate to be governed by a strong group of regents who are true servant-leaders, but not every university president can honestly say the same. Let’s strengthen boards in New Mexico. Let’s make our institutions of higher education as strong as possible. Making changes in the selection of regents and board composition can do that.

Sam Minner is president of New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M


I should note that my recommendations, particularly the recommendation to add a faculty member to university boards, is not the unified or even the consensus position of CUP and some of the regents around the state. But, I do endorse that move. You either work to be more inclusive or not and you believe that a more inclusive board adds value or you don’t. I think it does. We’ll see where this lands. I should also note that one of the things I enjoy most about the CUP is that we discuss things thoroughly and if there is a unified position we can all get behind, we do so. However, it we are not on the same page and can’t get on the same page, we go our own way with no hard feelings—exactly how reasonable and educated women and men should behave. For that reason, among others, I enjoy the CUP very much and believe that it is a very important organization in the state. The CUP will be changing and soon. The CUP President, Chancellor Carruthers, will be retiring soon. In just a few weeks, there will also be a new president at UNM. Unbelievably to me, in a few short weeks I will be the second longest sitting president in New Mexico. And I’ve only been here 2 ½ years. This legislative session is probably the last I will share with Chancellor Carruthers and Secretary Barbara Damron. I have enjoyed working with them very much. I consider both of them to be people of very high integrity, selfless servant leaders, and models of task commitment to improve higher education in the state of New Mexico. I will miss working with them. A photo of the Chancellor passionately stating the CUP positions at a budget hearing:Photo

Several elected officials are apparently also familiar with my position on tenure in higher education. Over my entire career (as a faculty member and an administrator), I have strongly supported tenure and academic freedom. Many of my chancellor and president colleagues do not, particularly behind closed doors. I have written about my support of tenure in many publications and have given numerous talks about it as well. A summary of my recent Op Ed reprinted in an issue of EAB Daily Briefing:

Many colleges and universities are looking for innovative ways to meet business challenges and serve students better. Some proposals are more viable than others. In a recent article for the Albuquerque Journal, Sam Minner, president of New Mexico Highlands University, discusses three common, but flawed, suggestions.


Bad Idea No. 1: Kill tenure

Why it’s flawed: Minner points outs that this idea has been floating for some time, partly because employees in other fields have no equivalent of tenure. However, Minner argues that tenure is “incredibly important” for protecting academic freedom. “Tenured faculty members teach truth unfettered from shifting political winds,” he writes.

What the research says: According to Adrianna Kezar, co-director and lead investigator at the Pullias Center for Higher Education’s Delphi Project, studies have found correlations between fewer tenured professors and lower graduation rates, lower first-year retention, lower GPAs, and lower transfer rates from two- to four-year institutions.

Bad Idea No. 2: Put everything online

Why it’s bad: While online learning can be great for a motivated adult student, Minner argues that it may not be a good fit for a student fresh out of high school who has not yet had any upper-level courses, Minner writes. The latter might need extra support from people who can provide it on a college campus.

What the research says: Other experts agree that online learning might be best for students with good study skills or a high degree of motivation. For example, studies of community college students in California found that online courses had lower completion rates—but students who took part of their coursework online were more likely to earn a degree or transfer to four-year institutions. Online learning is more independent and autonomous. It requires a particular level of self-accountability and discipline, which is why retention is such a problem in online learning.

Bad Idea No. 3: Make all classes directly relate to jobs

Why it’s bad: Studying at a college or university is more than just about preparing oneself for a job, writes Minner. It’s about building timeless skills, such as communication and critical thinking, that apply to any field of study, he writes. Technology and the job market change so quickly that certain hard skills in high demand today, like programming, may not be as important in the near future. But, Minner argues, soft skills and the ability to learn quickly will always be important.

What the research says: A study of the outcomes for 1,000 college graduates who had studied at a liberal arts school found that, these students only make less than their STEM peers in STEM subjects for the first few years of their careers, but then they closed the gap (Minner, Albuquerque Journal).

I have to say, I don’t think I changed any of the minds of people who think that tenure is a bad idea, but at least I got my opinions out there. Everyone can count on me to continue to defend tenure as long as I am here. I should also note that Provost Gonzales, VPAA Ian Williamson, and I will make a presentation about tenure to the Regents at the next meeting. I think it is very important that the Regents also understand the significance of tenure in the academy.


  1. Tickets sales for the Josh Turner concert exceed 30k and we expect to sell even more. A number of businesses around town are planning pre or post-concert events. That’s good news…anything HU can do to spur economic growth is highly desirable. We are also starting to build some interest about our next performers, Black Violin.  Photo
    Black Violin

    Photo by Colin Brennan



  1. One of HU’s favorite sons was recently contacted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a member of that esteemed organization. Dr. Joe McCaffrey is now a “lifetime member” of AAAS. Well done Joe!
  2. HU will once again be hosting the Amigos de las Americas group. They will be on our campus March 3-4. Many thanks to Kim Blea, Edward Martinez, Margaret Gonzales,  and Eric Romero (and others) for making this happen.  AMIGOS summer and gap year volunteer programs provide a rare opportunity to experience a new culture as a community member. This program changes the lives of the high school participants and it is a privilege to have them on our campus.
  3. I am very pleased to announce that Nick Leger has agreed to serve as our new Title IX Officer. Nick is a trained attorney. He will be teaching half-time this term and devoting half-time to various Title IX issues and concerns. Nick directly reports to me in this new capacity.
  4. So many HU faculty have recently achieved some significant professional accomplishment. Last week, I mentioned the piece Mike Petronis will soon have published. We’ll do a major story on that. Jesus Rivas recently returned from abroad after leading a successful and never-to-be forgotten jungle excursion. That kind of experience is truly the ultimate high impact educational practice. I continue to be so impressed…and sometimes even amazed…by the work of our faculty. Given the teaching loads here, we have numerous world class faculty who somehow and someway manage to do truly world class scholarly work. We are lucky to call them our colleagues.
  5. While I was away, Tom Ward was elected to the leadership position in our Faculty Senate. Tom has provided steady and high quality leadership to HU over the years and I look forward to working with him in this new capacity. In my 2 ½ years here, I have truly enjoyed my relationship with the Faculty Senate and the leadership there. Initially, I worked with Brandon Kempner and then later, Ian Williamson. I found both to be people of high integrity, super smart, and in my view, true servant leaders. It has been a pleasure to work with them and I am sure I will say the same about Tom. Also related to faculty senates, a fellow I worked with several years ago recently became a university president and we were talking about interacting with faculty senates. He said that thus far, he was “getting along” with the senate at his place and was pleased about it. I just had to put my mentoring hat on one more time and told him that I thought it was better to get along than not, but when it came to faculty senates, “getting along” was really not the goal. You try to maybe get along with your family (“Heh Uncle Jack, could we watch something other than LivePD?), or the people on your softball team (“You know Bill, that was my fly ball and you moving over from third base to right field was a little out of line. Plus, you missed it.”), or maybe your neighbors (“Hi Rose. Heh, could you maybe keep Duke out of my yard for his morning business?”, but the people representing the faculty? That’s not the goal, at least in my mind. The goal is to move the institution forward. To make things better. To improve outcomes. And that implies that there will be some whitewater some disagreements, and some tension from time to time. I told him, if everyone is getting along…that’s fine, if….things are getting better at the institution. If everyone is getting along, and nothing is happening…nothing is improving…well, you’re failing. Frankly, at this point in his career…he listened to what I had to say, but for now, I really think he’d prefer to just get along. So it goes.
  6. We had a Regent’s meeting scheduled for this Friday, but it was canceled due to some illnesses. We’ll reschedule it soon. Chairman Sanchez and I regret if this inconvenienced anyone.
  7. I previously mentioned that the Board of Regents recently recommended a two year extension of my presidential contract. I will accept that extension and sign the contract next week. I received numerous congratulatory notes from faculty members, staff members, and members of the community and I appreciated them very much. My initial contract was for five years and at present, I am halfway through that five year term. The two year extension of my contract means that my last day as HU president will be June 30, 2022—1616 days from today. The plan is to make certain that the 2021-20122 academic year is used as a transition to new presidential leadership, thus making certain a smooth and seamless transition. Once I’ve signed the contract, I will share the other details in it with everyone. Like all HU employees, I am an employee of the state and the details of my employment should be (and in truth, are) public. This extension will also make me ultimately responsible for the next HLC accreditation visit and that should be a plus as we explain the path forward to the HLC. I love working at HU, I consider it an honor to do so, and will continue to do my best to serve the institution as best I can.
  8. This Week in HLC Accreditation: Our latest HLC Forum was held on Monday January 22, to discuss the next steps in the HLC process and the site visit team’s report. The forum  was recorded and is available for viewing on our Accreditation webpage,  The Highlands’ Executive Management Team continues to prepare the Institutional Actions Committee (IAC) response, which is our formal response to the site visit team’s recommendation; this report is due on February 2, 2018, in anticipation of our March 5, 2018 trip to Chicago to speak with the IAC. The final decision regarding our probation status will be made by the HLC board in June. Please attend our Budget Forum on Tuesday January, 30th, 3-4 pm, in the SUB Ballroom.


My favorite quote of the week:

“An estimated half of all college students struggle with food insecurity…the new economics of college led us into this mess. The cost of higher education is at an all-time high, which is in sharp contrast to the declining income and wealth of most American families. And while a college degree is no guarantee of employment, it still greatly increases the odds of a middle-class life. It makes sense that students work hard to go to college to achieve stability, and it is tragic that many fail to complete degrees because they cannot escape poverty long enough to focus on their studies.” Sara Goldrick-Rab, ”It’s Hard to Study if You’re Hungry” in The New York Times, January 14, 2018.

The Noble Piper says, “Could you just bring me my food dish. I’m too comfortable to get up. “photo

Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of January 15-19:

  1. The weekend was busy with a variety of social and business functions. Notably, Joan and I joined the Provost, her husband, and the deans and their spouses/partners in Santa Fe for a New Year/New Semester kickoff celebration. It was a very nice event kindly  hosted by Provost Gonzales. I have worked at many schools  as a faculty member and in other capacities and the “culture” of each place varies as one would expect. People really work well together or they do not. They like each other or they do not. They get together away from work from time to time or they do not. There aren’t any rules to any of this, of course, but when people like and respect each other, face problems together as a team, and can laugh together….that’s really special and bodes well for the organization. In my view,  it is absolutely not necessary that people behave that way to function well at work, but as I wrote, when it does occur…that’s really nice and can lead to great outcomes.  I am very happy to say that the current group in Academic Affairs exemplifies this latter culture. A photo from the event…Roxanne directing the festivities:photo


  1. My latest Op Ed. It appeared in this weekend’s Optic and the New Mexican:

Portrait of Presidnet Sam Minner

Let’s examine the university governance process

From the Highlands President

Sam Minner, Ph.D.

Proposed legislation to change how regents are selected for New Mexico’s universities will go a long way in strengthening our state’s institutions. Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, have sponsored a constitutional amendment to create a bipartisan nomination committee to evaluate potential candidates for regent appointments. The committee would screen individuals interested in serving as regents and those names would eventually go to the governor who would make her recommendations. The Senate would then confirm or reject the governor’s choices as is done in the current system. These changes attempt to depoliticize regent selections and to make certain that regents possess the experience, knowledge, and skills to fulfill their responsibilities. Other states have adopted such a system and, in many cases, the process has resulted in stronger board member selections and ultimately, stronger institutions of higher education. In the 2017 environment, simply having a personal or political relationship with someone does not make him or her a good choice to serve as a regent. That role is extremely complex these days and requires deep expertise in a variety of domains including, most notably, financial matters. I strongly endorse the proposal and hope that it makes it through the legislature and gets on a ballot where the people of New Mexico can make the final decision. In addition to the proposed legislation, I believe it is time to take a broader look at university governance in our state. Here’s a few issues I think we should consider: First, at some schools, like New Mexico Highlands University, five individuals serve on the boards of regents. I am not one to make things more complex than necessary, but having only five regents makes it virtually impossible for any functional board committees to be established. In other states, boards are often larger, thus allowing for committees focusing on finance, academic affairs, student affairs, and others to do a lot of the heavy lifting and make recommendations to the full board at regularly scheduled meetings. This approach can save a lot of time and not require small boards to have marathon meetings where they devote much time to every single agenda item. This approach can make full board meetings less time consuming and still provide a full vetting of all important issues. Second, I strongly recommend that boards include a faculty member and a staff member. The outcomes of any educational institution are largely predicted by the commitment, effectiveness, and dedication of the people who work there. If those people are part of the decision-making process, outcomes tend to trend upward. Finally, particularly at our regional institutions like Highlands, it would be a very good idea for boards to include representation from the local community. Schools like Highlands are anchors for the communities where they are located and the historical town-gown issues between universities and municipalities need to be addressed in new ways. Here in our town, as goes Highlands, so goes Las Vegas. And vice versa. Recently, a group of experts from around the state took a long look at the possibility of merging some boards governing our institutions of higher education. Not surprisingly, that notion did not get much support. Though state institutions of higher education “belong” to the state, many people interested in universities, especially regional schools, want some regional influence brought to bear on those schools. Many issues would need to be worked out to implement my suggestions. Should new members from the faculty, staff, and community hold a vote on boards or simply serve in some ex officio and non-voting capacity? If members are added, would they be willing to complete the initial and ongoing professional development to effectively serve as regents? I have my opinions about all that, but let’s have the debate. Highlands is fortunate to be governed by a strong group of regents who are true servant-leaders, but not every university president can honestly say the same. Let’s strengthen boards in New Mexico. Let’s make our institutions of higher education as strong as possible. Making changes in the selection of regents and board composition can do that.

Dr. Sam Minner has been the president of Highlands University since June 2015. He can be reached at 505-454-3269.

  1. I am very pleased to announce that our Business program has been reaffirmed for accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Program (ACBSP). Our program remains fully accredited. Our ten-year reaffirmation of accreditation is good until 2027. Congratulations to s. Mary Romero, Dean Bill Taylor, and everyone who helped make this happen.
  2. Over the weekend I learned d about a new publication co-authored by Mike Petronis. It is an extremely impressive piece of work. I’d say it is an important piece. Well done to Mike and his collaborators. I read a “pre-publication” copy and as soon as I get the green light, I’ll pass it on in one of my weekly messages
  3. Monday evening was a rough one. One of our officers was injured, two of our students were also injured, and one of our students tragically lost his life. I will work with Dean Blea to provide counselors for anyone in need of that service.
  4. Most of this week was devoted to the NCAA meeting in Indianapolis. There are several important issues before the group and I’ll report on them when I get back. This week also marked the kickoff of the new legislative session. I assure the campus that HU is well represented at the Roundhouse and the CUP is closely tracking all bills in any way related to higher education.

This Week in HLC Accreditation: We have another HLC forum on Monday January 22, 3-4 PM, in the SUB Ballroom. We will be discussing the next steps in the HLC process, which is our written response to peer team’s visit we held Last November. This response goes to the Institutional Actions Committee (IAC), which hears Highlands case’ on March 5th-6th.  We’ll send a team of four (President Minner, Provost/VPAA Gonzales, VPFA Baca, and Dr. Kempner) to Chicago to discuss the recommendations from the site team. The IAC then provides a recommendation to the HLC Board, which makes the final decision regarding our probation in June 2018. At our Monday HLC forum, we’ll discuss the peer team’s recommendation and look at a rough draft of our IAC response.


Favorite quote from the week—this one about career advice:

Question: What career and life advice do you give to new college grads? “Learn something every day. You don’t know everything. There’s a lot that kids know that we didn’t know when we were their age. But they have to be able to want to learn, too. I just would like them to slow down a minute and listen. Stop talking. I’m not kidding. It’s something that I think about all the time. People who talk aren’t learning anything.”


Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of January 8-12:

  1. The Drone Rodeo was held last Saturday at the Abe Montoya Recreation Center. About fifty kids participated and we also attracted a nice crowd of parents, family members, and spectators to cheer on the competitors. Provost Gonzales and Sandy stayed for the entire event and I thank them both for representing Highlands there.  I should note that this event was absolutely free to local kids thanks to a generous gift from LANL. Mariano Ulibarri did a great job bringing this together. Many HU volunteers also helped including some staff, students, and student athletes.  Well done to all who made this a success. I should also note that a significant number of girls participated in this event and I should also note…they did very very well. We must do all we can to build the STEM pipeline and anything we can do to particularly encourage more girls and women simply must be done. This event is but one example.  A photo from the event:



  1. In an additional effort to welcome members of the community to HU events, we charged no fee at the door for last weekend’s basketball games. Our women’s team valiantly challenged their opponent and demonstrated great effort , but came up a bit short. The men’s squad won two. We attracted nice crowds to the games:photo


Speaking of the men’s team, the Cowboys are on a five win streak and playing some really exciting basketball. We’ve got a nice mix of local players, players from the region, a few from abroad, freshmen, seniors, and others. A number of our players this year have some HU connection—a parent or family member played here, etc. Come on out and support the team. They’re fun to


  1. We held our typical Executive Team Meeting on Tuesday and began the meeting with a brief discussion of this piece from The Corner Office (appears each Sunday in the NYT):


We focused on two excerpts from that article:

“By definition if there’s leadership, it means there are followers, and you’re only as good as the followers,” he said. “I believe the quality of the followers is in direct correlation to the respect you hold them in. It’s not how much they respect you that is most important. It’s actually how much you respect them. It’s everything.”

“Just last month, for instance, Daniel Schwartz, the chief executive of the parent company of Burger King, told me that he likes to ask candidates, “Are you smart or do you work hard?” (Yes, there is a right answer, he said: “You want hard workers. You’d be surprised how many people tell me, ‘I don’t need to work hard, I’m smart.’ Really? Humility is important.”)

People around the table talked about bosses/supervisors they knew and or had worked for in the past and how little or how much they respected them and how much or little respect they had for others in their work environments…and why. One individual asserted that he looked for consistency in leadership. If the person behaved in some reasonable and consistent manner, he generally respected the leader. If the leader did not, no R-E-S-P-E-C-T from him or probably from Ms. Franklin either. Several people commented on transparency as a key variable in garnering respect. If a leader tried to be as transparent as possible, they respected her or him…usually even if they did not agree with the ultimate decision. I chimed in and asserted that if I believed someone…my boss or whomever…decided something or did something she or he felt and really believed was the best thing overall…the best thing for the most people…the best thing for the organization as whole…then I respected them in most cases.  Even if I disagreed with the decision or action. On the other hand, if someone decided something or did something that I believed—one can never be sure…it is a judgment—was self-promoting or showboating or somehow feeding their ego or purely designed to benefit them in some way (e.g., money, power, etc.)—then I tended to not have much respect for the person. Now, sometimes a decision can be good for the organization and also be good for the individual. I’ve seen many examples of that and that’s the ideal situation I guess.  But, I’ve seen my share of show ponies, people (so-called leaders) who are blatantly self-promotional and for me, I just don’t respect them very much or at all. That’s just me. We didn’t talk much about the second quote (the one about being smart or working hard), but I don’t mind revealing that I’ve changed some around all that. Socialized as faculty member, I began my career thinking that disciplinary expertise, the strength of the CV, academic pedigree, etc. was pretty much everything and I relied on that for most hiring decisions—faculty jobs, administrative jobs, etc. I still think that’s pretty important when it comes to faculty work. But, I have made some errors over my career going with someone with a super strong CV who was a total loss as a colleague or member of the faculty. A few of them were memorable. Some were really lazy. I have a vivid memory of hiring a guy with an incredible CV (Ivy League doc,  the best post docs, super well known in his discipline, etc.) who just wouldn’t work. He actually said at a faculty meeting that he refused to get “involved in the doing”; he wanted to limit his work to “the thinking” and believe me, that’s what (and all) he did all right. I should also note that his comment became the stuff of legend at the institution (“Good idea Rene…but of course, I won’t get involved in the doing”). Some had incredible depth of knowledge, but were terrible teachers and didn’t really want to teach at all which, in most cases, was what I primarily hired them to do.  A few were really really bad colleagues and I avoided them as much as I could. A few were super negative people—given their background, they felt they were doing everyone a big “favor” by working there. That won them a lot of friends and supporters.  But still…even after all that…I tend to be attracted to faculty applicants with strong pedigrees and strong CVs.  I don’t deny it. However, when it comes to administrative hires, I am in a little different place than I was. Previously, I generalized my bias for academic pedigree and so on in the faculty realm to administrative jobs…and often, that did not work out all that well. I recall one dean I hired who was extremely well qualified as a faculty member and quite well known is his discipline, but was just a terrible dean. I could never really tell if he could not do his job or didn’t want to do it, but, he as a loss. Being strong in one domain (the faculty domain) does not necessarily mean someone will be strong in another (the administrative realm) or the other way around.  But again, sometimes a person is strong in both areas. These days, when it comes to administrators, managers, and the like, I go for “working hard” over pretty much everything else—assuming the person is smart and has a legitimate educational background and has proven all that by virtue of graduating from a reputable institution. Of course, ideally….you try to get someone who is strong in both realms.

The remainder of the meeting focused on next HLC steps, a discussion of disenrollment, an update from HR on changes there, and a brief update on the upcoming legislative session. We are carefully tracking possible legislation during this short session including possible bills related to compensation, overall funding levels for higher ed, and other areas. We welcomed Dr. Ian Williamson to the meeting as the new AVPAA. I know he will do a great job in this role and everyone appreciates his willingness to serve HU in this new way.

  1. A few weeks ago, we finished the high school senior search campaign in collaboration with our partner, RNL. Messages were sent to 15,207 students in areas where we’ve historically drawn a significant number of students. Prospective students were sent a variety of messages—five emails, phone calls, and some direct (hard copy) mail. Between 5-6% of the prospective students we contacted clicked on a button and or spent some time on the site. That’s about 760 students or so, which according to our consultants, is about typical. We are now in the middle of our sophomore/junior student campaign. I should note that up to this year, we’ve basically done little or nothing to reach down to the junior or sophomore levels. At this point, about 27,000 sophomores and juniors have been contacted on this effort. I’ll provide more information as the data becomes available.


  1. The lineup for the Spring 2018 HU: Learning Happens Here has been announced. These are noon lunch talks available on a first come-first served basis to HU staff members. We launched this initiative last year and it continues to be very popular. Here’s the 2018 lineup (specific dates to be announced):


Chasing Nellie Snider:  A Protestant Missionary Teacher in Territorial Las Vegas – Peter Linder, Ph.D.

Can we have Ethics in Business? Or are we just chasing our tail? – Keith Tucker, Economics and Finance Professor

Playing Video Games for Homework is Still Homework – Benjamin J. Villarreal

Medicinal Herbs of Northern New Mexico – Linda LaGrange, Ph.D.

Teaching and Learning at Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge – Joseph P. Zebrowski, M.Sc.

Many thanks to the faculty who devote their time to this project…and many thanks to all who participate.


  1. Our HR Department recently completed a survey of student satisfaction regarding our performance in various offices. We’ll use this as a baseline to try to be more responsive to student concerns. The return rate was not great (N=68), but still…we have some baseline data now. As you can see (below) most respondents felt we were doing a good job (Question #1) and most people felt pretty good about the alignment with our core values (Question #2). Thanks to Dr. Montoya and the HR team for doing this.image


  1. On Thursday I met with the group planning activities for our 125th anniversary. Some really great ideas are on the table and this group will sort through them and make some final choices. If you have any thoughts about what we should include in the celebration, please let Juli know (


  1. The next several weeks will require me to be off campus most of the time. Next week (January 15-19),  I’ll attend the national NCAA meeting in Evansville. After that (January 22-26), I’ll be in Santa Fe for most of the week for the legislative session. Provost Gonzales will assume responsibility for the campus in my absence.


  1. Tickets are selling well for the upcoming Josh Turner concert. At this point, ticket sales have brought in about $16K and we anticipate many more tickets will be sold as we get closer to the concert date. Posters advertising the concert are going up this week. Free student tickets will be distributed beginning this Friday at 10:00 a.m. Faculty and staff can purchase tickets from Donna Martinez. A classic Merle Haggard tune interpreted by Mr. Turner—Silver Wings ( The opening act for Mr. Turner will be emerging country artist, Frank Ray. Mr. Ray is a former police officer in Las Cruces. Rolling Stone listed Ray as one of its 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know in December, noting “Ray sings about the Hispanic immigrant experience in America, highlighting the cultural differences, but pointing out values – including family and hard work – shared with the country audience.” Here’s one of his songs: We are also starting the advertising for our next performers—Black Violin. They will perform on our campus on March 2 at 7:00 p.m. A video featuring those performers and their back story:


  1. After all the disenrollments and other enrollment changes over the last several weeks, it looks like our 2018 enrollment will be at 2,730. This is exactly the same number we enrolled last spring (2017). I have heard a few colleagues suggest that “holding our own” given the decrease in regional population, minimal or no population growth statewide,  accreditation challenges, funding decreases, etc. is “good” or a least acceptable. It is not good or acceptable from my perspective. I know lots of people are trying, but we simply must attract more students to HU. We have a good story to tell, a strong faculty, we are extremely affordable, and we have the capacity to handle more students. Drilling down on our numbers a bit, it seems clear to me what is going on. We continue to increase graduate enrollment—up in Albuquerque, up in Farmington, up on the home campus, up in Roswell, and up in Santa Fe. Undergraduate enrollment is down in Farmington, on the home campus, and in Santa Fe. Online students are significantly up. The biggest problem is attracting undergraduate students to the home campus here in Las Vegas. We are simply not doing that. We will have additional discussions about all this during the spring term, but the time for mere discussion is up. If we really want to maintain a healthy undergraduate population here in Las Vegas and improve enrollment overall, we must make some changes. We are now using modern tools and processes to recruit students. We remain one of the most affordable le options in the region. We are now providing our students with a variety of healthy and interesting recreational offerings. I think we have strong supports for students needing assistance of various types. We have made real progress in the area of customer service. What we have not done, up to now, is to make any meaningful changes in our program portfolio—our offerings. Are we offering programs that students are interested in?


  1. We are making excellent progress with the renovation of Stu Clark. We are able to do this renovation thanks to a generous donation and the assistance of the H Club. At this point:


  • Smart TVs are on order.  They should arrive shortly. We’ll use this equipment to digitize the various photos, news clippings, and other artifacts accumulated over the years and bring greater structure and organization to the collection,
  • new trophy cases are on order, and should arrive within two weeks,
  • a restroom expansion is half way finished, and should be completed by January 22,
  • some new floor tile is on order and should arrive in three weeks,
  • final painting is scheduled to be done by the end of January,
  • we are purchasing some new banners, which shouldn’t take long to get in.
  • LED bulbs for both the atrium and lobby will be ordered this week.  They should arrive in two weeks and will be installed then,
  • we are creating a video loop and narratives for the photos of our honored athletes. Those will be played on the Smart TVs. This should be  major improvement over years past. When that is completed, people will be able to see images of our honored athletes and hear something about their exploits. And finally,
  • we’ll be ordering and installing a new purple carpet with a gray H for the sunken area of the atrium.


Hopefully, we’ll get all of this done by mid-February. Many thanks to Sylvia Baca, Craig Snow, and everyone who helped make this happen .


  1. Our Advancement Team continues to perform well. Counting up the end of year campaign plus the holiday art auction plus other assorted December gifts, we brought in about $100K. Well done to all who helped make this happen. With the approval of donors and the Foundation Board, we continue to sell some art—mostly duplicate pieces. A close up of an incredible mural we hope to sell at auction:photo


  1. HLC Update: The leadership team met on Tuesday and the various roles and responsibilities associated with our response to the IAC were clarified. We’ll start our written response with a three-page letter from me outlining our ongoing commitment to exceeding all HLC standards and particularly addressing their concerns about the institution’s historical tendency to  not behave in a consistent manner in regard to accreditation matters (the so called history of “starting and stopping” as noted in their various communications to us). As was the case in our Assurance Argument, we’ll complete the IAC response in plenty of time for a complete review, close editing, and final polishing. Our team (me, Brandon, Roxanne, and Max) will appear before the IAC on March 5th or 6th—specific time and date to be determined. At this point, we are in good shape and I thank everyone who continues to devote time and energy to this effort.

The Noble Piper says…I am not leaving this spot until it warms up around here….photo

Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of January 1-5, 2018:


  1. Many thanks to Mariano Ulibarri for organizing the “drone rodeo” events this week. These events are supported by a generous contribution from LANL and are totally free to local students. Here’s the most recent update on the various events from Mariano:

The Drone Rodeo is in full swing. We have a crew of nearly 20 students, faculty, and community members working and /or volunteering to make the event a success. This was a very ambitious endeavor. With less than one month to prep, and the university being closed for most of that, we have faced many challenges in preparing for the event.  Thankfully, our dedicated crew has moved forward, and it’s looking like we will have a memorable event. On Thursday we began after school workshops to prepare our young people to compete in the Rodeo. Workshops continued tomorrow after school on Friday and in the morning on Saturday. Attached is some of the wonderful artwork created for the event by NMHU Media Arts alum Mario Griego.poster



  1. Someone sent me a recent article from the Oregon County Register about John Fassel, new head coach of the Los Angeles Rams and former head coach of the NMHU Cowboys. I was struck by the parallels between John’s experience here (and in life) and the experience of so many of our dedicated faculty and staff. Students too for that matter. Here’s an excerpt from the newspaper article (I added the yellow highlighting):


Thirteen years before he was handed the reins of an NFL franchise in the final weeks of a failed season, John Fassel was given his first and only other chance as a head coach. It was decidedly less glamorous. New Mexico Highlands University sits in the dusty foothills of the Rockies, in the small, ironically named town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. The campus is “basically out in the boondocks,” Fassel recalls, the polar opposite of its glitzy Nevada counterpart. But when Fassel was hired as head coach in 2003, he didn’t mind. He was wide-eyed, 30-year-old, just beginning his ascent up the coaching ladder. Right away, the climb proved steep. The football team had lost 24 straight games, the nation’s longest losing streak. With no other choice, the Cowboys practiced in the outfield of the campus softball diamond. Coaches drove the team buses to road games and slept four to a room at whatever Motel 6 was closest. Fassel arranged travel and team meals and even did the laundry. Every week, they cleaned the entire team’s uniforms in a single washer and dryer, filing large trash cans with detergent to let the stained pants soak overnight. Sleep was a luxury. When his football responsibilities were fulfilled, Fassel taught three classes, including two master’s level kinesiology courses. For nine months, when duty called, he served as interim athletic director. That same year, he was named grand marshal of the town’s Electric Light parade. Perhaps that sounds like too much for one man to handle. But for John Fassel, the boundlessly energetic and beloved special teams coordinator of the playoff-bound Rams, “it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.” “I was required to do a lot that I wasn’t honestly prepared for,” Fassel says. “But I had to find a way to get it done. People were counting on me. I didn’t know how to wash stains out of game pants. But I had to figure it out anyway. ”Truth is John Fassel has always found comfort in the chaos. His rise from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Los Angeles, California has been a product of this endless state of flux. It’s a constant, ever-present part of him, from his training for more than 40 triathlons to his reputation for pulling pranks on his own players. Fassel is always in motion. It’s why a one-time quarterback and receiver gravitated to coaching special teams, where nothing is constant but chaos itself. When Jeff Fisher was fired last December and Fassel was named interim coach, his steadying hand kept the Rams afloat. The team lost its last three, but it hardly mattered. A month later, Sean McVay was hired, and while putting together his new staff, he was struck by what he heard of Fassel from those three weeks. Even as the Rams fell apart, he held the locker room together. “You really find out about people when they go through adversity,” McVay says. “Watching the way he consistently led, consistently brought it every single day in spite of things not going the way that you’d liked, watching the way that the guys responded to him. … He was a really special coach.”


I got to thinking how similar John’s NMHU experience was and is to what happens here in the academic realm (and others).  Do we have the resources to simply devote more money to some problem and solve it that way? No. Not at HU. Do people here have to, in many cases, somehow “figure out” how to get things done on their own? Yes, in many cases they do. I don’t deny it. Do people, in some cases, have to step up and do things that need to be done, but are not technically part of the job they were hired to do? I see that quite often. In truth, NMHU is a place where people have to be really creative, really tough, and really committed to get things done in order to make positive things happen. That’s hard to do, but…somehow we do it all the time. And just like John’s experience, lots of students, faculty, and staff start here…even with all of the challenges and lack of resources and obstacles…and fly high and far to some pretty incredible achievements. Achievements like serving as a head football coach in the NFL. Or becoming a top scientist. Or a successful businesswoman. Or a great teacher, nurse, or social worker. I could go on and on. Some of you reading this message started out at NMHU and faced some pretty daunting personal challenges early in life. And yet, some of you…many of you, really…have had and continue to have incredibly successful careers and lives. So…I like John’s NMHU story. NMHU—start here—go anywhere. The NMHU experience can truly be the best thing to ever happen to someone. People…mostly our students…count on us to get things done and help them. And, we do. A photo of Mr. Fassel in one of the many marathons he runs:photo

  1. I and the other New Mexico presidents were invited to respond to a recent HED report summarizing the performance of our system of higher education (to the degree it is a system at all) and how individual schools, including HU, were doing. The report was well done, I think, and accurate, but I did provide some feedback about the measures used in the report to assess performance. They say you “treasure what you measure” and I think that’s correct, but it is also possible to select measures consciously or otherwise that distinctly disadvantage some individuals, groups, and organizations and occlude the very hard, but very good work some people do to make the world a better place. An excerpt from my response:


Thanks for allowing me and the other university presidents the opportunity to provide some feedback on this report. As is usually the case when HED prepares some document or report of this type, this one is very well done and I think accurate. So, well done. The issue I have—a concern really—is that at some point I think the metrics should perhaps be examined for some possible additions. The typical metrics—retention rates, awards per year, graduation rates, etc.—are just as relevant today as they were decades ago. Everyone I know wants to get students into college, out in four years (or less, if possible), with the lowest possible debt and on to the next thing…graduate school or a good job. I am in no way suggesting that those measures are not important. But, today in the 2017 New Mexico environment, other things should perhaps be considered. The truth is that those traditional metrics (retention, etc.) have pretty much always been pretty good for certain types of New Mexico students and indeed, good for similar students across the nation. I am referring mostly to students from middle class or wealthy families who are also mostly White. I and frankly all university presidents know how to improve retention and graduation rates and quickly too—admit only good students and by good, I mean students with good ACT or SAT scores who by the way, are also disproportionately from middle class or wealthy families and also undoubtedly had better access than poor students to top teachers, modern curricula, and advanced classes such as AP. In other words, “good” in this case means students who are already good—not necessarily students who if given a chance could become successful. As you may know, the very top universities in our nation (e.g., Yale, Princeton) enroll more students from the top 1% of the income distribution than students from families in the entire bottom 60%. New Mexico does not have any top Ivy Leagues schools, but the idea still applies—who gets in, who graduates on time, and who goes on top the best graduate schools and jobs? Mostly students from wealth and high opportunity. As you well know, I am sure, the situation in New Mexico is rather bleak. We are one of the poorest states in the nation with, despite the heroic efforts of so many teachers who try so hard against all odds,  one of the weakest K-12 systems in the nation. Our health outcomes are bad. Our overall child welfare outcomes are bad. I could go on. Given all that, we still want to get students into college and out (those typical metrics again), but….should we also think about some other measures that might be particularly important given our situation? Here’s a possibility—should we try to count or somehow assess how well universities do at lifting people out of poverty? Surely that matters. And I think most people would say that getting that job done is a lot harder than graduating a student from wealth—a good high school—a familial history of going to college—etc., etc. But here’s the thing—if a school that is open admission and works hard to lift people out of poverty has a lower retention rate that others, that school looks like it is underperforming. That doesn’t seem fair to me and not only unfair, it can be discouraging to the people who try so hard to get those students through. Let’s turn to another measure—four or six year graduation rates. If someone had to guess which student will graduate in four or six years—a student from a nice middle class family or a first generation student who grew up in a culture of generational poverty who is working—maybe two jobs—and powerfully feels the pull of family while she or he is away at university (e.g., we need you here at home to help with something)—how would that guess go? Of course, the former student is more likely to graduate in four or six or really, ever graduate at all. Surely there must be some way to capture the efforts of schools enrolling the latter type of student in some way that will not punish the school and or discourage the people who work there.  The bottom line, for me at least, is that America has always done a good job educating certain students, but a pretty poor job educating others. In New Mexico, we have a state full of those “others” and to not recognize that is not a good thing. The situation in New Mexico will probably never improve all that much until we find a way to support all of our students. I would say the same is true for the nation as a whole. My point is simply this—-the “old” metrics like retention rates, graduation rates, etc. still matter, but the 2017 world—particularly the New Mexico 2017 world—is changing rapidly. Given that, we need to think about our metrics very carefully and maybe…we need to add some. If a first generation New Mexico student enrolls in a university and completes a year or two of school—maybe even a few hours—but never graduates, is that a “failure” and should the school be considered an underperformer? Frankly, I don’t think so.


My two cents on this cold New Year’s Day. Again, thanks for doing a great job on the report and thanks again for allowing me to respond.


All the best,


Sam Minner, Ph.D.

President, NMHU


I was struck by a similar piece in a recent Inside Higher Education. This one from Matt Reed titled “Weapons of Math Destruction” and also focusing on how the measures people select to assess how “good” something is can shape policy, public perceptions, funding, and much more. For example, strongly focus on graduation rates and some institutions of higher education look pretty good and others not so good. Now, no one I know thinks it is desirable to have a low graduation rate, but…I think that focusing (too much) on that variable to the exclusion of others essentially guarantees that some students (middle class and wealthy) and some institutions (those serving them) will come out looking pretty good. In a sense, selecting that measure is an example of hegemony—making a decision about, in this case, what is measured, that is bound to continue to advantage people and organizations that are well resourced, thus promoting social reproduction (e.g., the rich get richer). How would things work if, for example, we identified and employed a statistic or measure that comes “closest to reflecting the point of higher education” (see below in red)? To be sure, we’d have to be clear on what that point is and I think it would be up to us to do that.  Enrolling and then graduating on time? Getting a good job? Becoming a good citizen? Shaping a life of meaning and purpose? Helping one figure out how she or he fits into the world? Helping to become an ethical person? Cultivating an appreciation for the aesthetic dimensions of life? Something else? All that and more? I also like what Reed says about a “clear winner” (see below). In a baseball game , there is a clear winner. That’s why we keep score. Who “wins” and “loses” in higher ed? Is a wealthy kid with great access to dual credit classes, access to the best K-12 schools and teachers, the resources to take the ACT 1, 2, 3…or more times (after expensive preparation), enough money to not have to work while at university, the resources to purchase the best technology, a reliable car to get from A to B (heck, let’s make it a BMW), etc. etc. a winner? Is a poor student who takes ten years to graduate because she or he is working 30 hours a week a loser? At any rate, I was struck by the similarities of my response and the piece in Inside Higher Ed. Here’s some from that article—again the highlighting in yellow is mine:


Part of the joy of the winter break is that it’s a chance to read something longer than twenty pages. I spent part of it reading Cathy O’Neil’s “Weapons of Math Destruction,” which is well worth reading if you haven’t already.

O’Neil was a quantitative analyst in the banking world for a while, until she grew disenchanted at the social uses to which her expertise was being put. She saw sophisticated math being used to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else. This book is a form of penance, showing the rest of us cases in which Big Data gets used as a form of power. Readers of a certain age will hear echoes of Foucault in there, but don’t worry.  O’Neil’s writing style is far more lucid.) The book is a series of chapter-length examples, but if you stick with it, you start to pick up the pattern. O’Neil distinguishes directly-valid data from proxy data, warning us against the latter.

Baseball offers easy examples of directly-valid data. A runner reaches base, or does not. A given swing results in a home run, or it does not.  Somebody wins each game. That sort of data can lead to valuable insights, because it’s about what it says it’s about. Sabermetrics, the sort of statistical analysis pioneered by Bill James and immortalized in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, tends to work because it’s (mostly) based on solid data. It’s far from perfect, but it can help.  For example, if a team knows that a particular hitter on another team always hits the ball to the right side of the field, it can shift its fielders to the right when he’s up. Baseball also offers an example of self-correcting experiments. If a given team misreads the numbers, or takes a flyer on something wacky and fails badly, the numbers adjust accordingly. For instance, Moneyball could be read two ways. A literal reading would tell you that on-base percentage is the key stat for batters.  A fuller reading would tell you that at any given moment, some traits are overvalued in the market and some undervalued, and the first one to find an undervalued one is in a position to win. OBP was simply an example. When OBP became the new orthodoxy, it lost much of its competitive usefulness. Proxy data is where things get squishy. Proxy data, as she uses the term, refers to data that correlates with the desired trait, but isn’t the trait itself. She gives the example of insurance companies basing rates on the zip codes where different customers live, on the theory that birds of a feather flock together.  And it’s true that you can find geographic patterns in the data. But the patterns don’t tell you about any particular person’s risk, and they’re often reflections of other factors — race and income, notably — that have the effect of placing extra burdens on the people with the fewest resources.  If living in a low-income neighborhood raises your insurance rates, well, who tends to live in low-income neighborhoods?   O’Neil points out the irony that relatively strict regulation of the factors that can go into calculating credit scores has had the effect of encouraging the wanton generation of unregulated, rogue scores that are often far more pernicious.What the market wants, the market finds a way to get. At times, she falls into the trap of calling for transparency as a solution. I get the temptation, but it falls short of a solution in a couple of ways (both of which she actually identifies, in passing). The first is familiar to any customer of a credit card: if you bury something in twenty pages of two-point font legalese, you may have “disclosed” it for compliance purposes, but it’s effectively still hidden for all practical purposes. That has the effect of neutering much regulation.  The second is familiar to folks who’ve navigated the admissions game to competitive universities.  If you disclose the proxies, people can beef up the proxy scores at the expense of what the proxy is supposed to represent. This is the kid who joins six clubs and two teams without really getting beneath the surface of any of them.  Alternately, in the context of performance-based funding for colleges, this is the college that tweaks its policies so that any students who place into remedial classes don’t count in their graduation rate. Ultimately, there’s no neutral technical fix, because it’s basically a political problem. If Big Data is about power, and the incentives are there to abuse it, then we can expect the powerful to abuse it for their own gain.  It would be surprising if they didn’t.  And appeals to conscience only work among people who have consciences.  We’ve seen that some very powerful people don’t. Higher education certainly isn’t immune to what she calls WMD’s. Performance-based funding is an easy example: the states that have adopted it haven’t seen meaningful gains.  Instead, they’ve seen a fair amount of system-gaming as institutions do what they have to do to survive. The ideal solution would be to find the stat that comes closest to reflecting the point of higher education, in much the same way that on-base percentage did in baseball.  But to do that, we’d have to define the point of higher education.  A baseball game has a clear winner, but a higher education system may not.  That’s where politics come roaring back.


  1. In an effort to promote the leadership knowledge and skills of interested HU faculty, I am once again issuing a call for the President’s Leadership Development Program (PLDP). I instituted this program in my first year here and the first Leadership Fellow was Dr. Jennifer Lindline. This year’s PLDP Fellow is Dr. Beth Massaro. The goals of this year-long program are to identify individuals at HU interested in higher education leadership and to provide them with the knowledge and experience to assume new leadership roles. There is no formal expectation that Fellows will take on administrative roles (here or elsewhere), but I have operated these programs for many years now and most do. Over the holiday break, one of my former Fellows called me to tell me his is assuming a presidency at a small and very good private college. Great leadership has always been important, but the challenges we face in public higher education make it even more critical today. This is a small effort to help nascent leaders grow in experience, wisdom, and confidence.



Tenured and tenure-track faculty are eligible to apply for this program. Faculty from any discipline are eligible. Others (those in non-faculty positions) may also apply, but faculty members will be given preference.


Overview of the Program

Participants selected in this program will be released from one class during the fall (2018) and spring term (2019). Participants will be provided with an office in close proximity to the President. Participants will meet with the President on a frequent and routine basis and will be included in meetings and conferences at the President’s discretion. Some of these meetings and conferences will be confidential. Any breach of confidentiality will result in immediate removal from the program. The individual will negotiate a modest leadership project with the President. Budget permitting, the individual will attend an external leadership development program over the summer term (at university expense). The specific program (e.g., HERS Institute, Summer Harvard Leadership, etc.) will be negotiated between the individual and the President. The President will meet with each participant after the summer program to debrief and discuss next steps in the individual’s plans for leadership.


Selection Process

Individuals interested in this program should first consult with their Department Chair. Those selected will be released from one class during the fall term and one during the spring term. The President’s office will provide the resources to the home department to remunerate the contingent faculty. After securing the approval of the Department Chair, applicants must secure decanal approval as well as approval from the Provost. For applicants not holding faculty rank, their supervisor will be required to approve the person’s application.


After obtaining these approvals, each applicant will submit no more than a three page application including the following:

  • Why are you interested in this program?
  • What do you think is the most challenging problem in public higher education and what are your preliminary thoughts about how to address the problem?


Individuals should also attach memos from the relevant Department Chair, Dean, and Provost supporting the application and approving the one course release per semester. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. March 15, 2018 in anticipation of the individual completing the leadership experience during the Fall, 2018 and the Spring, 2019 semesters. Send applications to the Office of the President, NMHU, ATTN: President’s Leadership Development Program or email them to Electronic submissions are preferred. Applications will be reviewed by the President of the Faculty Senate, the Provost, and the President. The President will make the final selection with an announcement made no later than April 15, 2017. Consistent with the recommendations of the Faculty Senate, the President will provide the Senate with a summary of the selection process including the total number of applicants.


  1. Our Outdoor Recreation Office sponsored one ski trip before the holiday break and five more are planned for January and February. These excursions continue to be very popular with our students are almost always oversubscribed. We are also close to securing the software to allow students to reserve equipment and or spots for our excursions totally online.Photo
  2. Our Advancement Team continued to do well over the holiday break. We had a successful art auction selling duplicate pieces and other pieces that donors permitted us to sell. Our end-of-year appeal did well and exceeded last year’s total by a considerable amount. This week we received many generous donations from friends and supporters of HU. I will soon be attending the NCAA meeting in Indianapolis and employing our new Raiser’s Edge tool, we’ve identified contacts in that area and I’ll be reaching out to those alums and friends, filling them in on HU happenings, and gauging their interest in new or continued support of our institution. Well done to the Advancement Team!


  1. There’s always a lot of movement in enrollment numbers this time of year with students adding classes, disenrollments, etc., but it looks like our Spring, 2018 credit hour production (a seneistive measure of revenue)  will be up from last year.


  1. State revenues continue to look up a bit and there is some very real talk of compensation increases for university personnel. Here’s a story about that: I assure you the Council of University Presidents is working hard to promote compensation increases and doing so in such a way to benefit our employees to the maximum degree. Let us hope.


  1. You might want to look for my latest Op-Ed piece. It might appear in the Optic and the New Mexican this weekend.


  1. No admission to see Cowgirl and Cowboy basketball this weekend. Hope to see you there.


  1. HLC Update: The HLC has contacted us and we are scheduled to appear before the IAC on March 5th or 6th. This is the “early institutional actions council hearing”—the primary hearing runs from April 23-24 and I am pleased to be on the docket at the earlier meeting. We’ll send a team to Chicago for the IAC meeting. The team will consist of me, Dr. Kempner, Mr. Baca, and Vice President Gonzales. Prior to our IAC meeting we will submit an update of our activities since the team visited our campus and we have much to say. For example, we’ve filled several interim position with permanent appointments, closed the loop on numerous assessments, solidified executive leadership into the future (at the very least through the next full HLC visit), and other activities. I think everyone knows that we’ve received the Team Report and their recommendations to the IAC. We continue to work with our consultant to receive some guidance on what can be shared in that report and with whom, but I continue to feel very positive about all this. I thank the many colleagues who continue to work on this and improve our outcomes.