Las Vegas, NM – Ensuring the ongoing focus on mission-driven planning is one of the top priorities for Highlands University’s new provost.
“Working with the Higher Learning Commission, the university’s accrediting agency, to shape Highlands’ future is the utmost of importance,” said Roxanne Gonzales, who became Highlands’ provost and vice president of academic affairs in April.
Representatives from the Higher Learning Commission will visit Highlands in November to review the university’s progress in several key areas including how the university’s short-and long-term planning and budgeting adhere to the university’s mission statement.
“Quality improvement is how we’re going to be living our life,” said Gonzales, who came to New Mexico Highlands from Clarion University in Pennsylvania where she served as executive dean of Venango College. “It’s healthy thinking.
“We’re at a place of growth, and we’re 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; we have a very special mission.”
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.
Gonzales said she will also be reviewing Highlands academic degree programs.
“We’re not looking at getting rid of any programs, but examining how our programs are aligning with current trends,” Gonzales said. “We will also be examining where there’s potential enrollment growth, including online, graduate, and our extended campuses.
“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.”
Part of serving students, Gonzales said, is engaging with them outside of the classroom.
“I’ve attended a few concerts since I’ve been at Highlands,” Gonzales said. “It’s critical that we create a community on campus because it sets a tone for students.
“I equate it with being in the fourth grade and seeing Mom and Dad in the audience,” Gonzales said. “If a student is doing a research presentation, and the faculty member who taught the course is there, the student is going to feel like the effort she’s put in is valuable. It’s important to acknowledge the student’s efforts.”
Highlands President Sam Minner said Gonzales’ extensive and diverse 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. “During her first few weeks at Highlands, she has already demonstrated a powerful perspective to the campus.”