LAS VEGAS, NM – There was never a doubt in Jessica Jaramillo’s mind about the importance of an education. Her mother was a New Mexico Highlands graduate and enjoyed a 30-year teaching career. Her favorite aunt is a pharmacist.
“My mother always stressed education, and I really looked up to my aunt,” Jaramillo said. “I wanted to have a great career and have great opportunities.”
As New Mexico Highlands’ new director of recruitment and admissions, Jaramillo said she wants more people to experience the richness of college life and the opportunities an education presents.
“You can enroll here and have a world-class education from some of the best professors in their fields,” Jaramillo said. “You’re going to learn a lot in the classroom, but you’re going to learn even more hands on in the field. That’s the type of education Highlands University offers, and those experiences are going to give you a more robust learning environment and keep you engaged.
Jaramillo earned her master’s degree in public administration and her bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from the University of New Mexico. She has been accepted to Colorado State University to pursue a doctorate in education and human resource studies with an emphasis in higher education leadership.
“Recruitment doesn’t just focus on students, but their support groups as well,” said Jaramillo, who previously served as a student recruitment specialist at UNM’s Division of Enrollment Management in the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. “We need to reach out to students’ families, high school counselors and community mentors; people who help students make choices.”
Jaramillo, who grew up in Questa, New Mexico, said she is looking forward to living and working in Las Vegas.
“It feels like home,” she said. “I feel like I’m in a place that’s familiar here in a small community and diverse institution. We can work together to make things happen.”
Highlands’ vice president of strategic enrollment management, Edward Martinez, said Jaramillo’s diverse background and perspective will serve the university’s students well.
“She brings a strong resume in recruitment and admissions,” Martinez said. “She’s from Northern New Mexico, she’s bilingual and she knows our population well. Her vision for recruitment at Highlands fits in well with our goals.”
Jaramillo began her educational career as a pharmacy major, wanting to follow in her aunt’s footsteps.
“In college I worked part time as a pharmacy technician in a small family-owned pharmacy,” Jaramillo said. “After becoming certified, I moved onto a retail and hospital pharmacy setting but I really didn’t like it. So I started thinking what would I really be interested in.”
A tragic accident that took her brother’s life provided the answer.
“He passed away because the ambulance was too far away,” she said. “So I went into health policy. I really wanted to look at the laws surrounding health care.”
Her choice led her to work legislative and judicial internships in New Mexico and Washington D.C.
“I enjoyed working on Capitol Hill with Senator Jeff Bingaman and his expert on health policy” she said. “I started to think about what I could do with health policy on a local level.”
After earning her master’s, she became the admissions coordinator for UNM’s School of Medicine Combined BA/MD Degree Program.
“The Program targets highly motivated New Mexico high school seniors and enrolled members of the Navajo tribe who live on the Navajo Nation,” Jaramillo said. “The program is designed to help alleviate our state’s physician shortage by assembling a class of diverse students who are committed to serving New Mexico’s rural and underserved communities,”
In 2015, she accepted a position as a community-based research specialist at UNM’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.
“Coming to Highlands is an opportunity for me to serve students who face the same challenges I faced going to a university,” Jaramillo said.