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Highlands Restructures Recruitment, Admissions and Retention

photo of Theresa Law

Theresa Law

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University has made structural changes in its recruitment, admissions and retention offices, making it easier for students to apply to Highlands and stay actively engaged throughout their student experience until they graduate.

Theresa Law, formerly the vice president of advancement, is now the vice president of student and donor engagement. In addition to Law’s new position, the biggest change is creating one position, strategic enrollment management director, to manage all areas of recruitment, admissions and retention. Benito Pacheco, former student success director, begins the new position July 1.

“Benito Pacheco will ensure integration of the student experience from when prospective students first inquire through retention of those students to graduation,” Law said. “Benito positively impacted our student retention over the last few years and has helped to implement the success coaching model at Highlands.”

Pacheco, a Highlands alumnus and longtime Highlands administrator, said he is excited about the challenges and opportunities in his new position.

“I want to strengthen our local partnerships and develop regional pipelines necessary for long-term enrollment gains,” Pacheco said. “I am confident our staff has the necessary knowledge and drive to increase enrollment and student persistence to graduation.”

Law said Highlands is now using a cutting-edge recruitment and software product called Slate that allows students to apply to Highlands electronically, making the process easier and more efficient.

“Then internally we use Slate to process those applications for admissions, for both graduate and undergraduate students,” Law said.

Law said that current assistant director of admissions, Reynaldo Maestas, remains in his position and is taking on some new responsibilities in admissions processing and with Slate. Caroline Montoya is the assistant director of student success coaching, a new position. Kyana Cruz, formerly an admissions coordinator, will fill a new position called customer relations management specialist. The director of admissions position and one admissions coordinator position were eliminated.

“These structural and technology changes will allow us to reach out to more students and work more closely with better coordination among departments with each student who expresses an interest in Highlands. Better coordination among our strategic enrollment management functions of recruitment, admissions and retention will create a better, faster and more seamless experience for students from even before they formally apply and all the way through graduation,” Law said.

Law said enrollment growth is critical to Highlands University’s future.

“These changes are intended to do all we can to give ourselves the best possible chance to increase enrollment and provide a more stable financial future for Highlands,” Law said.

Previously, Law served Highlands as vice president for advancement since 2016. In summer 2019, Highlands President Sam Minner asked her to add strategic enrollment management responsibilities to her position on an interim basis when Edward Martínez, then the interim vice president for strategic enrollment management, left to complete a year as an American Council on Education fellow, a prestigious honor.

“Theresa demonstrated superlative leadership and management skills, doing an excellent job in both roles,” Minner said. “This executive and structural change is at the very forefront of modern university operations. Forward-thinking institutions no longer think about a division to recruit and retain students and a second unit to engage them after they graduate. A more enterprise-wide or lifespan approach is becoming more and more popular, and I am pleased we are at the forefront of that thinking.”

In May 2020, Law assumed the new position of vice president of student and donor engagement, which combines strategic enrollment management with advancement, alumni affairs, and the Highlands University Foundation.