March 10, 2021
Las Vegas, New Mexico – New Mexico Highlands University received a $510,363 grant that will be used to create a distance learning site in Mora, New Mexico for the university’s students and the community.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Highlands the grant, which is a partnership with Collaborative Visions, a nonprofit in Mora. Highlands calls the grant the Education Beyond Campus project.
“This grant award provides Highlands the opportunity to take education to the people instead of solely inviting the people to come to an education at campus,” said Edward Martínez of Highlands, who is the lead researcher for the grant. “However, technology and more specifically broadband and connectivity, poses a barrier to bringing distance learning to the rural communities and homes of Northern New Mexico.
“This partnership with Collaborative Visions, Inc. will allow Highlands to provide a community-based distance learning site at the Helping Hands community building where Mora area residents will have access not only to remote classroom experiences, but also access to computers dedicated to educational use. Such access is incredibly important in an area where so many households are without broadband internet, limiting student access to remote learning opportunities,” Martínez said.
The Helping Hands building will be outfitted with desktop computers, laptop computers for loan, broadband internet access, Smart boards, laser printers, Zoom video conferencing capability, and more. Data cable will be installed throughout the building to support the computers and classroom technology.
Martínez said the leadership at Highlands believes that encouraging the success of individual students is enhanced when education can be achieved by embracing local culture and communities.
Martínez is a former natural resources management professor at Highlands who works on special projects for Highlands University President Sam Minner.
“This grant project will enable Highlands to expand some existing courses to remote instruction as well as test innovative and successful student support programs via use of a remote site in Mora. The site will also be made available for use by the community for activities such as workforce development,” Martínez said.
Martínez said the grant is especially significant because of Highlands’ partnership with Collaborative Visions, which provides a spectrum of resources to Northern New Mexico communities such as network building, technical assistance, facilitation and training.
“Since 2010, Collaborative Visions has worked in the Mora community to bring resources to Mora that have been unavailable because of its remote location. Collaborative Visions has been engaging the community to develop systems that add resources to the community while protecting the core community values. This nonprofit owns the Helping Hands building, which has been in Mora for decades,” Martínez said.
Martínez said the USDA grant funding will also be used to enhance online learning at Highlands, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Highlands University information technology director Joe Gieri and network administrator Shay Bassett took the lead on identifying the technology needs at Highlands. They will also be working with me and Collaborative Visions to outfit the building in Mora,” Martinez said.
Bassett said Highlands will install additional hardware and software at the main campus in Las Vegas.
“The new hardware and software will be used to expand our existing classroom technology to better support online instruction provided to our students,” Bassett said.
Kayt Peck worked with the Highlands grant team to write the successful USDA grant proposal for the distance learning site in Mora.