Highlands opens new site in Raton

New Mexico Highlands University officially opened its new site in Raton during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 1.”We were all pleased to see a standing-room-only crowd, and even more pleased to see the large representation from Highlands’ faculty, staff and students who were present,” said John Davidson, who organized the Raton Learning Center and served as emcee for the ribbon cutting. “There was very positive and excited feedback I heard both during and after the ceremony about Highlands’ arrival in Raton.”Davidson and the Learning Center’s board have been working toward having degree-track programs in Raton for 15 years.”Many people said it would take 15 years,” Davidson said. “We’re right on time.” This semester, New Mexico Highlands’ Raton site, at 130 Park Ave., will begin offering master’s degree coursework in education and business and bachelor’s degree coursework in criminal justice, elementary education and business. Next fall, New Mexico Highlands will expand its programs in Raton to include master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work. Courses will be taught in on-site and televised classrooms and online.”We are Northern New Mexico’s university,” Highlands President Jim Fries told the approximately 150 people who attended the ceremony. Fries told the audience while the unemployment rate is low in New Mexico, much of the workforce does not have the education for technical jobs. “Higher education is critical for economic development,” Fries said, noting the strength of Highlands’ programs will provide a draw for the new Raton site.”Our social work program is so strong, we have people commuting from Denver to Las Vegas,” Fries said. “I think they will find our new site in Raton very convenient.” Highlands’ student body president, Mike Sallee, said the university’s presence in Raton will provide new opportunities for traditional and non-traditional students.”Let’s paint the town purple,” Sallee said. “We are serious about being here.” New Mexico Highlands’ Department of Music showcased its student talent in the ceremony. Highlands’ Marching Band attracted a crowd before the event, performing its repertoire of game-day standards. The band continued the excitement after Fries cut the ceremonial ribbon, breaking out in the university’s fight song. Following the ceremony, Highlands music students Devin Barad and Karliz De Marco performed a selection from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” “The event really showcased what New Mexico Highlands is all about,” said university spokesman Sean Weaver. “The number of faculty, staff and students who attended the event demonstrated that Raton is truly now a part of the Highlands family.”Raton Mayor Joe F. Apache said Highlands’ presence in Raton will be an important part of the community and read a proclamation declaring Feb. 1 “New Mexico Highlands University Day” in Raton.”I think this is a great step forward for this community,” Apache said. “It’s really going to help us with our economic development efforts by providing a skilled work force. Highlands’ presence will allow Raton to attract new businesses and be competitive with other communities.”