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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Top Priorities for NMHU

photo of Michael Rivera

Michael Rivera

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University is strengthening its diversity, equity and inclusion practices to increase student success, thanks to participation in the 2019 Unidos Equity Leadership Institute July 8 – 13 in Alamosa, Colorado.

A partnership among Highlands, the University of New Mexico – Taos, and Adams State University, Unidos is a federally-funded program for Hispanic Serving Institutions like Highlands that works to increase equity in education.

“The primary purpose of the institute is to promote evidence-based approaches to equity,” said Michael Rivera, the Unidos director at Highlands. “The institute promotes the idea that institutions make decisions based upon equitable outcomes for all, from students to faculty and staff.”

Rivera said, “The institute is in its fifth and final year with the goal of building greater capacity for diversity, equity and inclusion at the partner institutions.”

Rivera said that this year he recommended that the institute include presidents, vice presidents and deans of each institution.

“An outcome of having the institutions’ executive teams participate was developing and recommending policies that support diversity equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels,” Rivera said.

The institute as a whole included 36 participants. Rivera was among the delegation of 11 Highlands administrators and faculty, which included Vice President and Provost Roxanne Gonzales and university President Sam Minner.

“I can’t imagine a more worthwhile and even noble thing for us to do than to use this institute as a catalyst for meaningful action and change at our institutions,” Minner said.
Rebecca Maldonado Moore, a social work professor who chairs the Highlands Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council, also participated in the institute.

Maldonado Moore said that equity and diversity is challenging work, and that the biggest challenges ahead for Highlands and other universities in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion include vision, commitment, resources and sustainability.

“There are no easy answers for responding to events or situations unless Highlands strategically establishes a preventative approach. As chair of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council, I developed a white paper researching the value of establishing an Office of Inclusiveness Excellence at Highlands. The focus is on national best practices. Our programming at Highlands has been successful, however we realize there is a need for linking all of this programming into a unifying office,” Maldonado Moore said.

“I was so appreciative of the administrators’ investment of their time at the institute,” Maldonado Moore said. “All of the Unidos participants were provided structured opportunities to learn about each other as people, not just as employees.”