Highlands Legislative Fellows Attend State Capitol Hearing

December 13, 2019

Photo of three students at the Legislature.

Highlands Legislative Fellows Xochilt Ramos Gonzalez, left, Aailinn Martínez, and Pablo Hernandez listen to a tour guide explain branches of state government at the New Mexico State Capitol Dec. 11.
Photo: Margaret McKinney /University Relations

Las Vegas, N.M. – The Highlands University Legislative Fellows Program students began learning about the legislative process during a visit to the New Mexico State Capitol Dec. 11.

Eleven Highlands students, accompanied by their staff and faculty leaders, listened to a hearing of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, which heard a presentation from the state’s Higher Education Department.

“The Legislative Fellows Program, launched during the 2019 New Mexico legislative session, is designed to give our students first-hand, practical experience of how the legislative process works in New Mexico,” said Kimberly Blea, dean of students at Highlands. “The Legislative Fellows Program complements what students are learning in the classroom and gives them an in-depth look at lawmaking in New Mexico.”

Blea said the Legislative Fellows include an outstanding group of students who are representing Highlands well at the legislature. They come from a variety of academic disciplines.

The Legislative Fellows include Benito Vigil, business administration junior; Patrick Elias, social work senior; Billie Mathews, southwest studies graduate student; Pablo Hernandez, English junior; Katrina Gutierrez, public affairs graduate student; Kevin Dominguez, business administration junior; Angelica Aragon, psychology/biology senior; Xochilt Ramos Gonzalez, political science freshman; Christopher Ulibarri, political science junior; Abigail Rede, education graduate student; and Aailinn Martínez, social work freshman.

“The most important element of this Legislative Fellows Program is exposing our students to leadership opportunities at the state level,” said Denise Montoya, human resources director at Highlands.

Xochilt Ramos Gonzalez said the Legislative Fellows Program will be a valuable learning experience.

“It opens me up to opportunities and helps guide me in my political science studies,” Ramos Gonzalez said.

Katrina Gutierrez said, “My goal is to go to law school and hopefully be involved in New Mexico politics someday. This Legislative Fellows Program is a good step toward learning more about politics in our state.”

The Legislative Fellows Program is a collaboration among several functions at Highlands including Student Affairs, Human Resources, and Government Relations.

In addition, the Political Science Department is an integral part of the program. Elaine Rodriguez, political science professor, is offering Legislative Fellows the opportunity to earn practicum credit.

The Legislative Fellows Program begins in earnest in January 2020, when the 30-day New Mexico Legislative Session opens.

Max Baca, Highlands vice president of finance and administration, said, “The students will be participating in the opening day of the legislature as well as Highlands and Las Vegas Day at the legislature. They will also have the opportunity to shadow legislators and meet with Gov. Lujan Grisham and other senior government leaders.”

Baca said that at Highlands, the Legislative Fellows will participate in workshops. Then at the conclusion of the legislative session, they will work with the Highlands University Relations Office to document their experience in a video.