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Highlands University President James Fries Inaugurated

Dr. James Fries was inaugurated as the 17th president of New Mexico Highlands University Oct. 24 at a public ceremony in the campus’ historic Ilfeld auditorium.Fries brings more than 24 years of successful higher education administration experience to Highlands University, including serving as the university’s interim president from 2001-2002. He is a president emeritus at the College of Santa Fe, where he served as president and CEO from 1986-2000. Fries earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Iowa and was a chemistry professor.  Over the years, he has also served on the executive boards for various economic development organizations and he is an experienced university development executive.  The inauguration program speakers had plenty of accolades for Fries, including Javier Gonzales, chairman of the Highlands University Board of Regents, who described Fries’ leadership as “nothing short of remarkable.” Maureen Romine, biology professor and chair of the Highlands’ faculty senate, said, “On behalf of the faculty, I want to thank Dr. Fries for bringing stability to our university.”  Student Senate President Nicole Parra-Perez also spoke:  “No matter who the person or what the cause, his door is always open and he is ready to help us.”   During his inaugural address, Fries said: “Institutions do not make things happen, people do.  It is the leadership of our board of regents, the professionalism of our faculty and staff, and the efforts and talents of our students that make it such a joy and privilege for me to be part of Highlands.”Fries added that the university is fiscally sound and positioned to make major investments in its facilities and educational technologies.  He said enrollment is growing and the university is serving between 3,600 and 3,700 students, 75 percent of whom are Hispanic, Native American or African American.  Forty percent of the students are in one of the university’s master’s degree programs. “New Mexico Highlands University clearly has always been and always will be a Hispanic serving institution but we are more than that,” Fries said. “We are an incredibly rich multicultural mix of people, all learning from one another each and every day.  It is one of our greatest strengths.”  Fries gave a short sample of some academic highlights for Highlands:  • The School of Social Work is the best in the state.• The rehabilitation counseling program in the School of Education was just accredited on its first try, which is very rare.• The School of Business was just reaccredited.• The 2-year-old Forest and Watershed Institute is working with 35 projects and organizations across the state.• The geology faculty and staff are researching volcanic rifts with colleagues at universities in Ireland, and two geology professors recently received an NSF grant to develop a paleomagnetic lab at Highlands.• Media Arts students have created multimedia exhibits with major museums and cultural institutions throughout the state, including the Santa Fe Institute and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  â€¢ One of Highlands’ chemistry professors produced chemical patents that NASA is testing and other patents that will likely be test marketed by a leading international chemical firm.Fries also said that Highlands has been northern New Mexico’s university for 115 years.  Today the university has centers that stretch from Raton in the northeast to Farmington in the northwest to Rio Rancho, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Espanola.  Fries explained the timing of his inauguration:  “If there has been one word that we’ve all heard used more than any other over the last two years it would be stability. This formal, if deliberately low-key, inauguration is happening 21 months and two days into my tenure as president partially to give everyone time to see if it is at least a “good enough” fit and whether we all have some enhanced sense of stability.  Apparently we do.”