Las Vegas – The New Mexico State Senate voted March 13 to confirm two Highlands University alumnae and a student to serve as new members on the university’s Board of Regents.
LouElla Marr-Montoya of Las Vegas and Sandra Turner of Clovis were named to serve six-year terms that end Dec. 31, 2020. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez nominated both women for appointment to the Board of Regents.
“I am very pleased with the governor’s selection of two of our extremely capable graduates and one of our current students as members of our Board of Regents,” said Highlands University President Jim Fries. “I expect that their leadership, experience, and commitment will promote the kind of growth and stability Highlands will need in the years ahead.”
Also confirmed was Ryan Andrews-Armijo of Moriarty who will serve a two-year term as the student regent. Martinez announced that appointment late Thursday.
Andrews-Armijo is a full-time student, president pro tempore of the Associated Students of New Mexico Highlands University, and the founder and president of the Political Science Club. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science with an emphasis on law and anticipates enrolling in an advanced degree program this fall.
Marr-Montoya gained more than 30 years of experience in higher education administration and counseling through various positions at Luna Community College. She earned her M.A. in guidance and counseling from Highlands as well as her B.A. in sociology, psychology and secondary education.
“I consider Highlands a gem in the Las Vegas community and northern New Mexico,” Marr-Montoya said. “Our statewide centers are vital to bringing educational opportunities to students throughout the state.”
Marr-Montoya retired from Luna in 2003 as director of the Office of Recruitment, Admission and Retention. During her Luna tenure, she helped develop and directed several award-winning programs such as the Minority Technical Education Program that funded hundreds of scholarships and the Summer Preparation Program in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for area high school students.
For more than 20 years, Marr-Montoya counseled students in the Student Services Office at Luna. She secured more than $2.5 million in grant funding for the college and developed the Intel Scholarship Program, which funded approximately 100 student scholarships.
“I received a great education at Highlands that enriched my life and enabled me to help other college students throughout my career. Being a college counselor and working one-on-one with students gave me insight into what students need to be successful. I want to be a regent so I can continue to advocate for higher education and student success,” Marr-Montoya said.
Marr-Montoya has served on the Viles Foundation board for 30 years and is its current president. In its 57-year history, the foundation has awarded more than $2.3 million in college scholarships to orphans and others who have lost a parent.
She was a Viles scholarship recipient herself, saying it sparked her lifelong passion for helping students attain scholarships.
Marr-Montoya has been honored numerous times, including being tapped for the 25th Annual Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women in 2010. She serves on the board of directors for the Highlands University Alumni Association.
Turner is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 20 years of experience in social and human services, program management, and administration. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from Highlands and her B.S. in psychology and sociology from Eastern New Mexico University.
Turner is a behavioral health unit manager in Albuquerque for Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico Centennial Care, which administers the state’s Medicaid program. She oversees care coordination and case management for the state’s central region, supervising a staff of 10 social workers and counselors.
Previously, Turner was a co-owner and clinical therapist for Life Changes Counseling & Consulting, Inc. in Clovis. She also worked as a social worker for the Clovis Municipal School District and as a clinical social worker for Presbyterian Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis.
“Highlands plays a very important role in educating social workers to provide mental and behavioral health services that are so desperately needed in rural communities around the state,” Turner said. “The university’s distance education sites — like the one I graduated from — help build a professional workforce that benefits the student’s local community.”
When Turner completed her MSW at Highlands, she took classes at the distance education site in Clovis.
Turner said she attributes much of her growth and professional success to the rich educational experience she gained at Highlands.
“As a first-generation college student, I know how empowering and life changing education can be. As a regent, I want to help open educational doors for our students and advance the vision of providing them with a first-class education with an eye on intelligent growth for the university,” Turner said.
Turner serves on the board of directors for the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners and the New Mexico Brain Injury Advisory Council.