Commencement 2024 Information

Commencement 2024 Information

Attorney General Hector Balderas and Denise Balderas Give Back to Highlands

January 21, 2021

Photo of Hector and Denise Balderas

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Denise Balderas

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University alumnus Hector Balderas, the New Mexico Attorney General, is giving back to his alma mater through working with students in the university’s Legislative Fellowship Program.

Denise Balderas, the attorney general’s wife, is also a Highlands alumna. She is working with the university’s Facundo Valdez School of Social Work to develop a field practicum for a student at New Mexico ABLE, which she directs.

“I was raised in a vulnerable and impoverished small community in Northern New Mexico,” Hector Balderas said. “The Highlands students will be partnering with me and other leaders in my office and will be presented opportunities to make a difference in their own communities. I wanted to make sure the students at Highlands understand that they are valuable and strong leaders who can create change. I’m excited to work directly with these Highlands students.”

The Legislative Fellowship Program at Highlands  was established in 2019. It is designed to give students an in-depth look at lawmaking in New Mexico and expose them to leadership opportunities at the state level.

Hector Balderas said that when he arrived at Highlands he needed extra support to succeed academically. He graduated from Highlands in 1997 with a degree in political science.

“There were a number of mentors at Highlands who helped me succeed. I’m very grateful to Highlands because the university and its people opened me to greater scholarship and professional opportunities,” Hector Balderas said.

Hector Balderas was first elected attorney general of New Mexico in 2014, winning reelection in 2018.

“I rebuilt the Office of the Attorney General to focus on its role as ‘the people’s lawyer.’ The office aggressively  investigates and prosecutes officials who abuse the public trust. I also pursue those who exploit the vulnerable, including human traffickers and sexual predators. I am a champion for children and families, fight against the opioid crises, and bring enforcement actions against fraudulent businesses that exploit homeowners, among other work,” Hector Balderas said.

Hector Balderas completed his Doctor of Jurisprudence law degree at the University of New Mexico in 2001.

“The law allows me to strengthen laws and protect families. The law also allows me to advocate for communities within the justice system,” Hector Balderas said.

Previously, Balderas served as the New Mexico State Auditor. He was first elected to this office in 2006, was reelected in 2010, and served until 2014. He began his public service in 2003 at the age of 29 when he was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives for the district representing his hometown of Wagon Mound.

“I chose public service because it is a good vehicle to attack reforms and seek justice. Once I had achieved a certain level of academic and professional security, I wanted to make a greater impact in our New Mexico communities through public service,” Hector Balderas said.

Denise Balderas has directed New Mexico ABLE since 2019. ABLE stands for Achieving Better Life Experience, a federal act that aims to give people with disabilities more independence and financial security through investment accounts.

“What’s empowering about New Mexico ABLE is it allows people with disabilities to have a seat at the table in managing their finances,” Denise Balderas said. “The goal for the social work practicum student is for them to gain firsthand experience with how to engage with state and local government agencies and school districts to share information regarding New Mexico ABLE , advocating for people with disabilities and their families.

“We want to help prepare the Highlands social work students for future employment with schools and state agencies like Children Youth and Families Department. Through the practicum, the social work students will develop their own network of resources,” Denise Balderas said.

Denise Balderas has been an educator and education administrator in New Mexico for 24 years. She taught kindergarten through eighth grade students in a number of rural and urban schools and served as an elementary school principal and assistant principal.

Denise Balderas earned her B.A. from Highlands in 1994 in elementary education and completed a M.A. in educational leadership in 2007.

“Being a school principal and bilingual educator with high risk students during my career, I wanted Highlands students to feel confident engaging with statewide agencies and school districts,” Denise Balderas said.