Highlands Undergraduate Enrichment Has New Location, Director


Melissa Williamson

Las Vegas, N.M. – The Highlands Undergraduate Enrichment program at New Mexico Highlands has a new location and a new interim director.

Melissa Williamson is the interim director for the program that aims to boosts students into successful college careers. It is now located in the Engineering Building at 916 11th St.

The name is also new for the Highlands Undergraduate Enrichment program, or HUE, which presents the First-Year Experience Learning Communities, including an iSeminar, for all freshmen.

“The goal with learning communities is to give students a sense of belonging, which helps build resilience,” Williamson said. “This belonging is important for helping students stay in school and graduate.”

Learning communities are linked courses that allow students to explore a theme from multiple perspectives while also forming meaningful relationships with their peers.

The learning communities at Highlands are structured around four haciendas, or houses. Each hacienda has three or four learning communities with different themes. Some examples include Conservation: a Celebration of Biodiversity; Get With the Rhythm: Music and Performance; BizTech: Let’s Excel in Business; and Cultural Discovery: Exploring Latino Identity Through Language.

Freshmen choose their learning community based upon their personal interests.

Williamson said the peer mentors are a key component of the freshmen learning communities that Highlands is expanding to include sophomores.

“Peer mentors run study sessions and offer opportunities for social integration and support,” Williamson said.

Diana  Venegas, a Highlands social work senior, is a peer mentor for HUE.

“We’re here to support students academically and also be a friend when they are new to college,” Venegas said.

The freshmen in the learning communities also apply what they learn in the classroom through real-world field experiences, case studies, and other hands-on activities.

The Highlands Undergraduate Enrichment program’s new location in the Engineering Building makes it part of a hub for student learning that includes ARMAS, the Achieving in Research Math and Science Center, as well as the Los Alamos National Laboratory-funded makerspace and computer lab.

“The new location is cozy and welcoming, and we hope all our freshmen will visit,” Williamson said.

Williamson is a Highlands alumna, earning her Master of Social Work in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA. She worked for several years locally in positions such as an outpatient therapist at La Familia-Namaste. Before that, Williamson worked at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute as a mental health and substance abuse social worker for both adolescents and adults.

“Because Highlands Undergraduate Enrichment is about building community and empowering people toward self-actualization, I see this work as social work practice,” Williamson said.

Williamson is also familiar with the Highlands campus community from her time spent working in the Department of Fine Arts from 2007 – 2015.

The phone number for the Highlands Undergraduate Enrichment program is 505-454-3189 and the email is HUE@nmhu.edu The program hours are Monday – Thursday 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Fridays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Sundays 5 – 10 p.m.