Grant Portfolio Increases Sharply at Highlands

November 4, 2020

photo of Ian Williamson

Ian Williamson

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University’s grant portfolio rose sharply this year, growing from approximately $27 million in total value in 2019 to approximately $41.5 million in 2020, the largest yearly increase in the last five years.

“We’ve seen a big shift in grants awarded to Highlands this year, a large uptick that doesn’t have modern precedent at the university to my knowledge,” said Ian Williamson, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, Grants and Contracts. “The COVID-19 pandemic provided a one-time opportunity for more than $2 million in federal grants and that’s unique.”

Williamson said the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects grant portfolio at Highlands reflects both new grants and recurring multi-year grants and contracts.

Williamson said the new 2020 grant awards represent a broad diversity of academic disciplines at Highlands, ranging from the College of Arts and Sciences, to the School of Education, the Facundo Valdez School of Social Work, and the School of Business, Media and Technology.

“These grants provide our students with opportunities in research, mentorships, internships and other educational options. The students also receive financial and professional support from these grants,” Williamson said.

Williamson said these grants are difficult to obtain and require scholarly excellence and incredible determination on the part of the Highlands faculty and staff. He also said Angela Vigil-Juarez, grants manager, played a critical role in the final submission of most of these grants.

Williamson named some grant award highlights for Highlands in 2020:

-$5 million grant from the Centers for Research Excellence in Science Technology program of the National Science Foundation that aims to improve forest health and management in New Mexico. The grant was awarded to the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute (NMFWRI) at Highlands, the university’s Forestry Department and New Mexico State University. Kent Reid, NMFWRI director, is the lead researcher for the grant.

-$3 million grant from the Developing Hispanic Serving Institution program of the U.S. Department of Education to the Facundo Valdez School of Social Work to give Hispanic and low-income students increased access to social work fields, increasing graduation rates and meeting a forecasted demand for more social workers. Social work dean Cristina Duran is the lead researcher for the grant.

-$1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation for Somos STEM, or We Are STEM, a grant aimed at science students receiving more services, research opportunities, and experiential learning early in their education that will help them persist and graduate. Biology professor Sarah Corey-Rivas is the lead researcher for the grant.

-$1.8 million in three grants awarded to Highlands from the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that provided financial aid to students as well as institutional funding to Highlands as a higher education institution. Vice president for finance Max Baca is the lead researcher for these grants.

-$606,000 grant from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund to the School of Education that fills a need to train new workforce that can support schools and community agencies to effectively use distance (remote) learning. Over the next two years, 5,000 New Mexicans will be able to enroll in the grant program for free and have support from specially trained coaches. Education dean Mary Earick is the lead researcher for the grant.

-$321,000 Teacher Residency grant from the New Mexico Public Education Department to the School of Education and Los Alamos National Laboratory that aims to increase best practices in teacher training and increase the pipeline of highly skilled teachers in New Mexico. The grant is a partnership with four large school districts in the state. Education dean Mary Earick is the lead researcher for the grant.

-$275,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant award to the Natural Resources Management Department to prepare underrepresented minority students for water resources and science management careers. Geology professor Jennifer Lindline is the lead researcher for the grant.

-$273,000 Sherman Fairchild Foundation grant award to the Highlands Foundation for purchasing state-of-the-art science instrumentation and technology tools that increase hands-on learning for students. College of Arts and Sciences dean Brandon Kempner is the lead researcher for the grant.

-$187,000 National Science Foundation Rapid Response COVID 19 grant award to Highlands to use the latest machine learning and artificial intelligence data analysis aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation. Computer science professor Gil Gallegos is the lead researcher.

$178,000 grant from the U.S. CARES Act through the National Endowment for the Humanities that aims to help preserve Indigenous and Hispanic cultural memories in Northern New Mexico.  The award is to the School of Business, Media and Technology. Media Arts and Technology department chair Miriam Langer is the lead researcher for the grant.