Las Vegas, N.M. — Highlands University and the National Hispanic Cultural Center formalized a  partnership that will bring the center’s traveling exhibits and programming to the university’s main campus. In turn, the university’s faculty will present cultural research in Albuquerque through museum installations and multimedia presentations at the Cultural Center.

“What’s expansive and exciting about this educational exchange is that it takes Highlands’ status as a Hispanic-serving institution and puts that cultural context front and center,” said Rebecca Avitia, National Hispanic Cultural Center executive director. “This agreement creates a bridge between our art collections, library, genealogy center, music, theater, dance and film and Highlands as well as the Las Vegas community.”

The university’s Board of Regents gave unanimous approval Oct. 10 to the memorandum of understanding between the two institutions.

“This agreement also makes the exceptional faculty scholars and students at Highlands available to the Albuquerque community through educational programming. I believe this MOU is the beginning of a long partnership with Highlands. After 10 years, I hope we won’t need an agreement because the two institutions will be so stitched together through joint programming,” Ativia said.

Margaret Young, dean of the university’s School of Business, Media and Technology, played a key role in forging the agreement with the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

“The overriding goal of this MOU is to provide immersive experiences for our students about the diversity and richness of Hispanic cultures and their contribution to the world,” Young said. “Highlands has an important role to play in preserving Hispanic culture and expanding southwest cultural studies. This agreement will help us do both.”

Eric Romero is a Native American and Hispano studies professor at Highlands who also helped craft the agreement.

“We’ll add to the cultural knowledge and resource base at the NHCC through museum installations and multimedia presentations of Highlands faculty and student research,” Romero said. “Some topics include acequias — community water management systems that date back to Spanish colonial days ­– and genealogy research on northeastern New Mexico families.”

Romero said the agreement will broaden Highlands University’s cultural reach.

“We’re a small rural university. This agreement will insert Highlands into the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s national and global network of cultural institutions. It will also help us reaffirm our cultural identity within a larger Hispanic world,” Romero said.

Rod Sánchez, visiting professor in the School of Business, Media and Technology, also helped write the agreement and is the liaison for the partnership between Highlands and the Cultural Center.

“Working together, the two institutions can have a powerful impact on Hispanic students pursuing college,” Sánchez said. “Another important component of the agreement is a Path to College initiative designed to build high school students’ interest and literacy in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Sánchez, who worked in research and development at Intel before joining the Highlands faculty, will teach digital media and other educational workshops to high school students at the NHCC.

“The idea is to teach contextually relevant learning, such as animation and game development, to pique their interest. The hope is that the students will decide to study media arts or software development at Highlands,” Sánchez said.

He added that Hispanics are underrepresented in the high-tech industry, with giants like Google reporting that Hispanics make up just 3 percent of its total workforce and 1 percent of its leadership.

Young said the new agreement was made possible in part because of a longstanding and successful partnership between the Media Arts Department at Highlands and the National Hispanic Cultural Center, with media arts interns developing and implementing cultural exhibits for the center.