Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Denise Sena, left, is one of three nursing students to be the first to graduate this semester from the Highlands University RN to BSN program that was established in 2008. She received a commemorative pin from nursing program director Susan Williams, right, during a Dec. 3 graduation ceremony. The other two December nursing graduates are Emily Torres and Emily Taylor.

Highlands RN to BSN Program Celebrates First Graduates

The New Mexico Highlands University nursing program celebrated its first graduates during a Dec. 3 ceremony.  
Denise Sena, Emily Torres and Emily Taylor are the first graduates of the university’s RN to BSN program, the only one of its kind in northeast New Mexico.
Through the RN to BSN program, registered nurses with associate degrees return to school to complete their bachelor’s degree in nursing. All of the students in the program are working as licensed nurses. 
“This degree is a stepping stone in my long-term goal to get a master’s degree in nursing and teach,” said Sena, who is a full-time nurse at the Pecos Valley Medical Center and has nursed for 11 years. “I’m a single mom and finishing my degree also helped me be a good role model for my children. It shows them that you can accomplish anything if you set your mind on a goal.”      
Torres is a 24-year nursing veteran and works at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos. Taylor has been a nurse for four years and works at Alta Vista Regional Hospital in Las Vegas.
Susan Williams developed the RN to BSN program at Highlands University in 2007 and directs the program. The first students enrolled spring semester 2008.
“We started together in 2008, and it’s really wonderful to see this first group of students graduate,” Williams said. “We need strong nursing leadership to be patient advocates. That’s the heart of nursing and these three graduates exemplify that important role. They’ve helped us form this program and I’m so proud of them.”
The National Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education awarded the Highlands University nursing program the highest level of accreditation in 2009, following a rigorous accreditation process that lasted 10 months.
Williams said one reason accreditation is so important is that most graduate nursing programs require graduation from an accredited nursing program.
She said Highlands University works closely with Luna Community College to provide opportunities for LCC’s nursing students to continue their education at Highlands.
To find out more about the Highlands University Nursing Program call Victoria Stark-Romero at 505-426-2116 or go online to