Las Vegas, New Mexico – New Mexico Highlands is in a much better position moving forward than it was a year ago, said the university’s president.
“Things are so very different at the beginning of this academic year,” President Sam Minner told approximately 300 faculty and staff during a welcome back breakfast Aug. 16.“The state of Highlands, from my perspective, is positive overall.”
Minner said the biggest challenge Highlands met is achieving full reaccreditation status in July.
“Highlands is off of probation thanks to a strong campus wide effort spearheaded by Brandon Kempner, English Department chair. He is truly one of our institution’s best faculty citizens,” Minner said.
Minner listed a number of other accomplishments for the 2017- 2018 academic year:
- Fall-to-fall retention rates improved for freshmen between 2017 and 2018.
- The university’s football field turf was replaced entirely with private giving. The university’s women’s soccer team and Vatos rugby club also use the field along with the Las Vegas community.
- The Campus Life Initiative showed strong student participation in the popular Outdoor Recreation Program with activities like hiking, skiing and camping, while the Arts @ HU concert series offered top-name entertainment for students and the community.
- Student athletes performed well in the classroom, with the overall GPA exceeding the average GPA for the general student body.
Minner said there are positive indicators that the enrollment for first-time freshmen will increase fall semester.
Minner said the university will be examining its academic portfolio to see if it is offering the right mix of programs to attract students and maintain true to the university’s mission.
“We need to engineer some new programs and strengthen others,” Minner said.
He outlined some of the new initiatives for the 2018 – 2019 academic year:
- The School of Education established a Professional Development School in partnership with the Los Alamos and Pojoaque public school districts.
- HU @ The Roundhouse will be launched to give students leadership experience, including hands-on learning opportunities during the New Mexico legislative session.
- The university’s award-winning Mariachi Vaqueros de Highlands group is being re-established and will resume performing fall semester.
- A new esports initiative aims to get students involved in competitive video gaming via a club at the university that will engage them in campus life and help them learn about careers in the booming esports industry.
- Work will begin in spring semester 2019 for the university’s new strategic plan that is scheduled to be completed in 2020, when the current strategic plan expires.
Minner used the glass half-full, half-empty analogy throughout his address, saying from his perspective, Highlands’ glass is more than half full.
“I know there is much work to be done, but I have also been here long enough to know that collectively we possess the talent and creativity to really move things forward,” said Minner, who began his presidency at the university in July 2015.
Minner said he is confident the combined efforts of faculty and staff will achieve the best outcomes for Highlands and its students.
“Let’s aim high. Let’s commit to excellence. There is no reason Highlands should not aspire to be, and indeed achieve, best in class status. That is my goal and I look forward to working with you to make it happen,” Minner said.