LAS VEGAS, NM – Roxanne Gonzales knows firsthand how education can change a community.
“My father grew up in the South Valley in Albuquerque and was the first in his neighborhood to graduate from college,” Gonzales said. “His legacy fueled in me a dedication to serving individuals who have a desire to gain an education.”
This spring, Gonzales will become New Mexico Highlands provost and vice president for academic affairs, a transition, she said, that will continue fulfilling her father’s legacy.
“I believe in the mission of Highlands,” Gonzales said. “For me, coming to Highlands is coming home.”
Gonzales comes to New Mexico Highlands from Clarion University in Pennsylvania where she serves as executive dean of Venango College.
“Under her leadership, the Venango College faculty and staff grew enrollment in existing credentials in nursing, counseling, the health sciences, and nutrition and fitness among several others,” said Clarion University interim Provost Todd Pfannestiel in an email to the institution’s faculty and staff. “These efforts included the development of a graduate level credential in mental health counseling and a certificate in concussion management. Furthermore, enrollments in the comprehensive credential ladder in nursing reached all-time highs.”
Gonzales said she was interested in New Mexico Highlands because of its possibilities.
“It’s a place of growth, and it’s on the verge of expanding,” said Gonzales, who earned her Doctor of Education degree in higher education administration from the University of Massachusetts Boston. “Highlands isn’t a standard public institution; it has a very special mission.”
Highlands President Sam Minner said Gonzales’ extensive background of providing access to higher education will help the university better serve more students from all backgrounds.
“Dr. Gonzales has a strong belief in the importance and life-changing aspects of higher education,” Minner said. “Her background of collaborative leadership and innovation brought her to the top of an impressive pool of applicants.”
One of Gonzales’ first academic positions was a guidance counselor in England with the U.S. Air Force.
“The military is at the forefront of educational technology and access,” Gonzales said. “It helped me better understand the needs of learners and put a global perspective on education. It also taught me how to serve students at a distance and do it well.
“I have a deep belief in access to higher education, which is why my career has been focused on open access, alternative models for learning such as online, and serving first-generation, high need learners.”
During the course of her career, Gonzales worked as a faculty member and in administration as well as the CEO of Zia Higher Ed Consulting, a start-up firm specializing in helping colleges and universities develop programs to serve nontraditional students. Her background includes deanships at Clarion University, Regis University in Denver, and Park University in Kansas City, Missouri.
“At Highlands and in higher education generally, we have to be concerned about how we’re addressing individual student needs,” Gonzales said. “We need to collaborate with other institutions, both public and private, and take a look at technology to find innovative ways to serve students.”
Gonzales said she believes the most successful innovation occurs in an environment where different viewpoints can be heard.
“To come up with a whole, it’s important to recognize what each person brings to the table,” Gonzales said. “A project has a much higher chance of being successful when you have more people in the conversation.”