Las Vegas, N.M. – Transeamus ad mundum meliorem. Let us move forward to make the world a better place. With those words, New Mexico Highlands University President Sam Minner launched the fall 2019 semester.
Minner delivered his state of the university address at the annual faculty and staff welcome back breakfast Aug. 15.
“Highlands University has a noble mission and we all look forward to working with you – including our new colleagues – to strengthen this place, serve students in more and powerful ways, and add to the corpus of knowledge in the disciplines we love,” Minner said.
Minner listed a number of Highlands highlights for the 2018 –2019 academic year, such as:
-The new Master of Fine Arts Degree in Media Arts and Technology was approved by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and begins fall semester 2019.
-The new Alternative Teacher Certification Program designed to fast track teacher licensure was also approved by the HLC and also begins fall semester 2019.
-Highlands initiated a Professional Development School the School of Education operates through a collaboration with the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Pojoaque School District.
-Highlands launched its Mariachi Vaqueros de Highlands musical ensemble, restoring a long-standing tradition.
-The Advancement Office team met its ambitious goal of raising $2 million from donors.
-Annie Topal of the Highlands track and field team won the NCAA Division II national championship in the triple jump and also maintains a 4.0 GPA.
-For the first time ever, the Cowboys men’s basketball team won the RMAC championship.
-The Highlands Vatos Rugby Club won its third national championship in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) sevens championship.
-Overall, students athletes maintained a higher GPA than the student body as a whole.
-The National Survey of Student Engagement revealed that 90 percent of Highlands seniors rated their HU experience as excellent or good.
-Improvement continued in student life, with highly successful events on campus such as the Ice Cube and Chevel Shepherd concerts, along with numerous theater and music events. In addition, the Student Outdoor Recreation Center continues to receive high use.
-Highlands staff received a 4 percent raise in 2019.
-Audits were very good last year, a significant improvement over prior years.
-Highlands initiated an e-sports program.
Minner said an important goal in the academic arena is to continue to find resources to expand programs that can add students and devise new programs that can be delivered with high quality. In addition, the university will finalize its new strategic plan in the new academic year.
Minner said that one of the challenges Highlands and colleges across the country face is that the number of students is flat in many regions, and in some areas, like New Mexico, these numbers are dwindling, especially for traditional-age students.
“For the eighth year in a row, college enrollment in America was down overall and it is anticipated that it will be down again this fall. However, our Strategic Enrollment Management Department at Highlands continues to refine approaches to bring more students here and keep them here, using modern analytical techniques and tools.
“We saw some positive signs in the enrollment of new freshman and some improvement in retention rates. In the upcoming academic year, we will continue to drive on both enrollment and retention. However, if there is significant growth, it will likely come from adult learners,” Minner said.
Minner said another challenge for the university is to solve the major fiscal issue of its Gene Torres Golf Course, which continues to lose approximately $200,000 per year.