LAS VEGAS, NM – New Mexico Highlands is positioning itself to take on future challenges and better address the needs of its students, said the university’s president.
“I am optimistic for many reasons due to the efforts, the dedication, and the passion of so many dedicated faculty and staff I have met here,” President Sam Minner told nearly 300 of Highlands faculty and staff during a welcome-back breakfast Aug. 8. “Get together enough people truly passionate and truly dedicated to excellence, and you will achieve great outcomes.”
Minner said the university moved forward in three major areas during the past year: creating an enrollment management division, expanding the university’s fundraising arm, and improving the quality of campus life.
To improve the university’s enrollment, Minner created the Office of Strategic Enrollment Management to oversee recruiting and student retention.
“I identified our first leader in the new division, Dr. Edward Martinez, who is so well respected on our campus and so dedicated to the welfare of HU,” said Minner, who began his presidency at Highlands in July 2015. “We searched for a new lead recruiter and found a great choice in Jessica Jaramillo, who has been with us for about a month now. We secured the services of an external provider, Net Tutor, where students can get many tutoring services 24/7. We did a national search for an external firm to bring new analytical tools and state-of-the-art technical assistance to recruitment and retention programs.
“We continue to monitor numbers daily, and there are signs that the new system is working,” Minner said. “The number of students at the front of the enrollment funnel – admitted students – is up considerably. First-time freshmen numbers appear solid. Enrollment at some of the (university’s off-campus) centers is up. But the work here is hardly complete. For example, on-campus enrollment continues to be a problem: one we simply must take on this year.”
Minner said securing funding from sources outside of tuition and state dollars is important to the sustainability of a university. During the past year, the university hired a new vice president for advancement, an annual fund officer, and a new alumni director to improve the university’s fundraising.
Over a few short months, the new team raised $250,000 in private dollars, allowing us to access $500,000 to assemble an endowment of $750,000,” Minner said. “Today, we have already secured a commitment from a private donor to provide another $100,000, allowing us to compete for another $200,000 of state money. The advancement team secured other large and small gifts, pushing our performance well above last year’s total.”
A new fee, approved by a student vote last year, will bring more cultural events to campus and provide more entertainment options in the community for students, Minner said.
“Two folks from out-of-state visited me – I think it was in October – and asked why school was out of session,” Minner said. “They had walked around a bit and only bumped into a few students. They were surprised when I told them that we were in session; there was just not that much going on. I knew this had to change.”
The new fee will support a campus cultural program, Arts@HU, an outdoor experience program and entertainment for students.
“The Arts@HU initiative will bring top performers to our campus including musicians, comedians, orchestras, dance troupes, theater productions, and other acts,” Minner said. “I’d like to at least occasionally bring an opera to the campus and possibly a production of Nutcracker every Christmas.
“The second initiative to improve campus life will add many on-and near-campus activities to the mix,” Minner said. “For example, we’ll take a busload of HU students to the local drive in. Once a month, HU students will gain free access to first-run Hollywood films at the local Indigo theater, and much more music will be performed in Melody Park, the Student Union Building, and other campus locations.
“Finally, we’ll soon open the HU Office of Outdoor Recreation, where students will be able to check out tents and other camping equipment, mountain bikes, fishing equipment, wind surfing equipment, and other outdoor equipment,” Minner said. “One of the strongest assets we have in Northern New Mexico is our incredible location. Let’s capitalize on this. Let’s provide our students with more healthy and fun things to do here.”
Minner told the university’s faculty and staff to celebrate the work they do and be thankful for their opportunities.
“I try to remind myself every day what a privilege it is to do the work I do,” Minner said “To work as an academic – to teach truth as I know it, to pursue new truth to add to the corpus of knowledge in the disciplines I love, to apply what I have learned over the years to improve the human condition and to promote social justice throughout my institution, my community, my country, and the world – is a rare gift.”