Max Baca, MBA
Vice President for Finance, Administration, and Government Relations
Max Baca has served as the Vice President for Finance, Administration, and Government Relations for New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) since October 2013, responsible for a $90 million budget providing leadership for the institution relative to financial strategies, forecasting, and business operations. Mr. Baca is responsible for the following functional areas: business office (accounting, budgeting, cashier’s office, and external audit); human resources and payroll; purchasing and receiving (procurement, leasing, contracts, credit cards, and risk management); information technology; campus police and security; and the financial operations for campus safety, government relations, auxiliary operations, and athletics.
Mr. Baca’s successful higher education leadership experience spans over three decades. He serves in key executive leadership roles as a trusted advisor, possesses in-depth knowledge of all aspects of higher education operations, and is recognized for developing high-functional teams and for resolving complex issues. He raised unrestricted net assets from $800 thousand to over $10 million in a six-year period despite state funding cuts and declining student enrollment. His solid and in-depth analysis, financial vision and budget allocation has allowed the university to put funding towards initiatives and investments to grow enrollment, retention, marketing efforts and employee compensation contrary to external financial threats.
His 15 years of government relations efforts raised nearly $15.8 million in new operating dollars and $64.1 million in capital improvement resources. He is a highly sought-after subject matter expert in the state budget and governmental relations arena. He is an accomplished executive leader who served as the chief architect on several university wide technology initiatives to include implementing a networking infrastructure and single sign-on that was considered an effective best practice in the Southwest and throughout New Mexico. His comprehensive operational knowledge led large-scale technology implementations improving the efficiency of processes through university-wide automation. Mr. Baca was recognized by Sterling’s “Who’s Who in the Computer Industry” and was awarded Cisco Corporation’s “Building Scalable Network Infrastructures.”
Mr. Baca is the president and owner of Vivid Solutions, providing expertise and consultation on network operating systems; systems integration with analysis and project management; voice and data networks; emerging technologies; electronic messaging systems; and security systems and analysis. His skills were used to design a nationwide active directory services for Rocky Mountain Technology, whose primary client was developing a pharmacy application for Albertson’s and Savon Pharmacy. He is a recognized national speaker.
He served his country and obtained the rank of First Lieutenant in the US Army. He was the first commander of NMHU’s initial ROTC program, graduated from the US Army Airborne School and achieved distinguished graduate status. He was selected by the 111th Brigadier General to serve as his aide because of his leadership skills.
Mr. Baca serves as chair of the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board appointed by the Department of Energy. Mr. Baca served as the former President of the New Mexico Technology in Education (NMTIE); former President of the Council for Higher Education Computer/Communication Services (CHECS); Innovate Educate New Mexico board member; and is a statewide Learning Management System Executive Team member.
Mr. Baca achieved his Master of Business Administration degree at New Mexico Highlands University; Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems; and an Associate’s degree in Computer Technology.
Denise Montoya, PhD, SHRM SCP, SPHR
Associate Vice President for Finance, Administration, and Government Relations
Dr. Denise Montoya serves as the Associate Vice President for Finance, Administration, and Government Relations and adjunct faculty for New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU). She served as the 2018-2019 HU President Leadership Development Fellowship program and former Human Resources/Payroll Director at NMHU. She is the President of P.S. People Strategy, providing strategic planning, design and implementation of learning cultures, and human resources consulting services to a wide range of organizations. She is an accomplished faculty member and national speaker instructing courses at NMHU, UNM Continuing Education, CNM, and ITT Technical Institute.
Dr. Montoya serves on the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation Board of Directors. She served as the Membership Advisory Council Representative for the Southwest Central Region for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM); the Director for SHRM New Mexico Council; and the President for the Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) of New Mexico. She served as a judge for Quality New Mexico.
Dr. Montoya was recognized by Albuquerque Business First as a Women of Influence Honoree in 2015 and was awarded the HR Volunteer of the Year by the HRMA of New Mexico presented by SHRM NM in 2011.
Dr. Montoya achieved her Ph.D. in Organization, Information, and Learning Sciences at the University of New Mexico. She is a published co-author for topics including a Model of Shared Leadership as well as Building Trust in Virtual Teams. She holds two globally recognized certifications, the SHRM-Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), and the Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR) and previously has held a Professional of Human Resources (PHR).
Stephanie Gonzales, CPA
Director of Budget & Finance/Comptroller
Stephanie Gonzales was born and raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico. She graduated from Robertson High School and attended New Mexico Highlands University for two years before she transferred to Arizona State University. Stephanie received her Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from Arizona State University. Stephanie brings a wealth of experience from working in public accounting as an auditor with Mayer Hoffman McCann in Phoenix and with Neff + Ricci in Albuquerque. Stephanie also received her Certified Public Accounting license in October 2012. For 13 years, Stephanie worked at Thornburg Investment Management in Santa Fe as a Senior Corporate Accountant and Supervisor of Accounts Payable. She began work at NMHU in February 2018 as the Budget Director. In December 2018, she became the Director of Budget & Finance/Comptroller.
Gian “Joe” Gieri
Director Information Technology Services
Gieri joined the New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) team in January of 2017. He has 36 years of progressive enterprise Information Technology experience spanning three separate industries including Utility, Health Care, and Higher Education. A long track record of accomplishments and progressively more responsible positions in strategic planning, IT operations management, enterprise applications management, service management, directing projects, and employee development. Noted for ability to guide organizations, build consensus, and motivate and coordinate disparate groups. Adept at managing crisis, managing multiple tasks in high-pressured environments, solving problems, and negotiating with vendors, team members, customers, and executives.
Director Information Technology Services – New Mexico Highlands University
Executive Director Information Technology Services – Central New Mexico Community College
Director Technology Support Services – Lovelace Health Systems
Manager Management Information Systems (MIS) – Plains Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative
Former President – NM Commission on Higher Education and Computing Services
Board Chair and Executive Director – NM Technology in Education
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute
Central New Mexico Community College
University of New Mexico
Chief of Police
Chief Romero was born and raised in Taos New Mexico. He joined the United States Army in 1977 at 17 years old. He attended the Armor school at Fort Knox Kentucky as a gunner on the M60A2 tank, and after completing basic training and AIT he was sent to the 1ST Armored Division in Germany. He met and married his late wife Gina and they have two sons, Chris and Jeff. He served 6 years in Germany and then he was sent stateside to Fort Carson Colorado and assigned to the 4 Infantry Division. He completed his military service commitment after 8 years and was honorably discharged in 1984 as a Staff Sergeant.
Chief Romero began his law enforcement career as a patrol officer in Questa, New Mexico in 1984. He attended the Law Enforcement Academy while working in Questa and became a certified officer in 1985. He transferred to The Las Vegas Police Department in Las Vegas New Mexico as a patrol officer in 1986. He worked in all areas of the LVPD to include Patrol, Investigations, 14 years in narcotics assigned to the region IV narcotics task force. He was promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to the Emergency Management division as the Emergency Manager for the City of Las Vegas and San Miguel County. He was promoted to Captain in 1999 and assigned as the Investigation, Narcotics and Communications Commander, until his retirement in 2005.
In 2012 Chief Romero had the opportunity to join the Hew Mexico Highlands University Police Department as a patrol Officer, with then Chief Donato Sena. During his time as a patrol officer, Chief Romero aspired to become the Chief at NMHU. Chief has over 1400 advanced training hours. He has his basic and advanced, intermediate, mid-management and executive training certificates. He attended and graduated from Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command. Chief Romero was appointed Chief of Police of the Highlands Police/Security Department in 2016.
Chief Romero was married in June of 2020 to his wife Barbara. He enjoys spending time with his family, including 5 grandchildren; they enjoy camping fishing and spending time together. He also enjoys hunting and spending time in the mountains around New Mexico. Chief Romero is also an active member of the Immaculate Conception Parish and he is a catechist for the youth confirmation program. He continues to work diligently to make NMHU a safe and secure place where students, faculty and staff can live, work and learn.
Environmental Health and Safety Manager/University Safety Officer
Brian Henington has served as the Environmental Health and Safety Manger/University Safety Officer for over 3 years at NMHU. Prior to his employment at NMHU, Brian worked in the movie industry as a safety advisor. Brian also previously worked for the New Mexico State Land Office as the Assistant Commissioner of Field Operations, Emergency Manager, Safety Officer and Deputy Director of Field Operations. Brian started his career as a wildland firefighter and served in that role for over 10 years. Brian has extensive experience in fire suppression, investigations, prescribed fire and emergency response activities. In addition, Brian instructed fire science classes at Central New Mexico Community College for 16 years and is the author of Introduction to Wildland Firefighting.
Brian maintains professional certifications as a New Mexico Certified Emergency Manager, Certified Health and Safety Official, Certified Hazard Recognition Specialist, Safety Officer, Incident Commander, Incident Safety Officer and Task Force Leader. He has been awarded degrees in Master of Business Administration; Master of Arts in Public Affairs; Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Political Science; and an Associate’s degree of Applied Science in Fire Science.
Brian attended NMHU on a football scholarship and played 4 years as a quarterback and receiver. Brian is married to Shauna and they have three children: Bailee, Traigh and Ashton.
Faron Valencia, MBA
Human Resources/Payroll Director
A graduate of Pecos High School, Faron Valencia enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served a 20-year career to retire at the rank of Master Sergeant (E-8). Earning his associate’s degree while on active duty, he focused on education upon retirement to earn two master’s degrees with emphasis in Human Resources and Management.
Joining the Highlands family in September, 2017, Faron applied his military leadership, experience, and education to work in the Human Resources/Payroll (HR/PR) department in the position of Assistant Director, and currently serves as Director for HR/PR.
Labor/Employee Relations Officer
Mariama Whalen currently serves as the Labor/Employee Relations Officer for New Mexico Highlands University. As a former union staff representative, she comes to the NMHU family with extensive knowledge of best practices for labor and management. An alumna of Liberty University, she is currently pursuing her master’s degree in organizational leadership. Mariama values community, diversity, and justice in all aspects of life. She aspires to serve the Highlands Family with integrity and transparency in the hopes of promoting a healthy and productive relationship between the University’s administration and organized labor. Her mantra is “holding hands, we can move the world.”
Yvonne Quintana began her employment with New Mexico Highlands University in 1985, when she served as the administrative secretary to the dean of students. Her experience gained her an opportunity to work as the administrative assistant to the dean of the School of Professional Studies, and then years later she worked in the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects. For six years, she served as the senior executive administrative assistant to the president and the board of regents, and retired in 2006. She rejoined the Highlands family in 2014 and is currently serving as the executive administrative assistant for the Office of Finance, Administration, and Government Relations.