Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week December 10-14 and the last weekly message for this calendar year. This one is going out a bit early due to a board meeting on Friday. The messages will begin again in January.
- The Council of University Presidents is preparing our various presentations to state government and several data sets are of particular interest. The graph below summarizes average tuition and fees at state schools. As you can see, the average annual bill for tuition and fees is $8,778. Here in New Mexico, the average is much less—$6,262 (that’s the average across all NM schools; HU’s is lower than that). The takeaway—higher education is very affordable in New Mexico.
- I did a “Facebook Live” event this week and plan to do more of them next term. Here’s the link if you care to peruse:https://www.facebook.com/HighlandsUniversity/videos/580245639074266/
- A few weeks ago we had a standing room only crowd to hear Greg Lukianoff, the CEO of FIRE, the most significant national organization protecting free speech on American college campuses. This week, FIRE issued their latest report regarding free speech issues. Here’s a link: https://www.thefire.org/report-9-in-10-american-colleges-restrict-free-speech/. At the end of Lukianoff’s talk, I mentioned that I’d be glad to work with anyone (i.e., students, staff, faculty) on campus to achieve a “green rating” (the most favorable free speech rating) for HU. Let me know if you are interested in working on this.
- I was in Santa Fe Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday. The university presidents gathered Tuesday evening to thank Dr. Garrey Carruthers for his exceptional leadership of the Council of University Presidents. Early Wednesday the presidents met at the Roundhouse to make final preparations for our presentation to the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC). Joe Shepherd (President of Western New Mexico) is the longest sitting university president in New Mexico and delivered our presentation (remarkably, I am #2 longest serving university president, which signals how short presidential appointments are these days). Our presentation to the LFC was generally well received. Basically, we asked for 8% new money, a 5% compensation increase for employees, and a few other things. I know that everyone is always very busy, but it would be instructive to attend one of these LFC meetings. They are open to the public. Doing so would undoubtedly provide insight into what legislators are thinking, concerned about, and interested in working on. My take-aways from yesterday’s meeting…everyone seemed very pleased about Secretary Damron’s work in regard to common course numbering, meta majors, and the “Route 66” goal. Some good things were said about NM institutions of higher ed, but….there are many concerns about enrollment declines, graduation rates, and what I would characterize as the lack of overall coordination in the higher education sector. It is said that all politics are local and the same seems true when it comes to critiques of New Mexico higher education. Some members of the LFC expressed concerns that, for example, their son or daughter had been contacted by out of state schools, but no one here in New Mexico. What’s up with that? Another mentioned that his nephew could not get a class needed to graduate on time because faculty were doing other things—not specified what they were doing. As you might guess, there was quite a bit of discussion around athletics…who decides all that, how athletics is managed, etc. Most people seemed to think that we need athletics at state schools, but lots of talk around how it should work. Overall, I’d say higher ed fared pretty well at the meeting, but our elected officials continue to express lots of concerns about what we do, how we do it, and who should decide things. Putting the best face on it, I think this is the case because most people believe that what we do is pretty important…so, people feel free to chime in on how it all should work. That’s a good thing.
- The HU students participating in the HU@TheRoundhouse initiative were also in Santa Fe yesterday. They observed the LFC hearing, enjoyed a nice lunch, and did a tour of the capitol. This group of students will participate in additional activities during the legislative session. Many thanks to Dr. Blea and everyone who helped make this a success.
- So proud that the Cowboys men’s basketball team are #1 in the RMAC standings and eighth in the nation in average points scored per game. Well done to our student athletes and coaching staff. Also, many thanks to the fans who are coming out to see the team play. They are a lot of fun to watch. The current NCAA Division II basketball stats for points scored per game:
1 West Liberty 106.2
2 Nova Southeastern 105.5
3 Glenville St. 102.4
4 Bridgeport 99.4
5 Valdosta St. 98.8
6 Western Wash. 95.7
7 Mo. Southern St. 94.0
8 N.M. Highlands 92.3
9 Pitt.-Johnstown 91.2
10 Francis Marion 90.0
I also want to congratulate Coach DeVries and his team. Our women’s indoor track and field team is ranked #9 in the Division II National Ranking Index. Well done.
- We were recently informed by PNM that we received an award for improving efficiency standards in our retrofit projects. Many thanks to Sylvia Baca and everyone who puts environmental issues at the forefront of our renovations, new projects, and of course, our excellent recycling program.
- There is a holiday tour and open house at the Rio Mora Refuge on Thursday, December 20 from 1-4 p.m. This will be a rare opportunity to visit the refuge and to learn a bit about the excellent work going on there. If you’re lucky, you might see the resident herd of free ranging bison on the refuge. There’ll be hot chocolate and cider and it is free, but you have to RSVP by Monday, December 17 to Joe Zebrowski at 505-718-8168 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations of cookies are welcomed! This would be a great holiday adventure for adults and kids alike. The Rio Mora Refuge is truly a great local treasure.
- As the fall term comes to a close, the developments in various HU domains I am happiest about:
- Institution wide: Has to be the removal of probation by the HLC. It was so much work across the institution, but we did it and did it with flying colors.
- Academic Affairs: Final approval of our newest degree program—the MFA—and internal and HLC approval of our new alternative teacher education program.
- Facilities: Bond measure passing by a wide margin and securing a contractor to renovate the historic Rodgers Building. The next historic renovation is underway.
- SEM: Increased first-time/full-time freshmen class, improved year to year performance in retention and graduation, and addition of a transfer recruiter.
- Advancement: More than $100K brought in on Giving Tuesday and improved engagement of alums. New and improved relations with the H Club. Wonderful Homecoming.
- Athletics: Has to be the significant gift to replace the turf, #1 women’s track and field team, Coach Moses inducted into the Hall of Fame, and men’s basketball currently #1.
- Student Affairs: Thousands in attendance at the Arts@HU concert (Mr. Cube), much more carefully designed Title IX process on campus, launching the HU@TheRoundHouse program.
- Business Affairs: Nearly done with all HSI issues, much closer to resolution with previous construction issues, best audit since I’ve been here.
- Other: Reestablishment of our mariachi troupe, establishment of e-sports program, first matanza in many years, and increased support of Vatos.
- Preview/Possible Changes/Issues For Spring, 2019:
- new strategic plan process launches spring term, 2019
- vetting completed on possible administrative reorganization; changes made dependent on final outcome
iii. possible new board member (s)
- begin process of major changes on HU website
- a decent chance for compensation improvements; CUP advocating for at least a 5% increase
- given the much improved state budget, possible increases to overall HU funding including one or more new RPSP initiatives
10.This weekend promises to be a busy one. Joan and will attend a Holiday Gala in Albuquerque on Saturday evening. The event is hosted by Ms. Tina Cordova and the NM Roofer’s Association. Both are great supporters of HU. This means we’ll have to miss the Governor’s Holiday Party that same night and we’ve enjoyed that in the past. We’ll host some beloved HU alums at a dinner on Sunday. Overall, it has a been a busy but very productive last week of the term. Things ramp up to a white hot level at the end of the term and add in the holiday events, and it can get incredibly busy. Last weekend I missed the electric light parade due to attendance at another event. Roxanne and Sandy fulfilled those chilly duties. See photo below. There is a BoR meeting on Friday and as usual, I’ll send out a summary of the actions the board took early next week. Things will wind down a bit afterward, and I hope everyone can enjoy some well-deserved R&R.
There is usually lots of help when it comes to putting up and decorating a Christmas tree (if you decide to put one up at all), but taking it all down…not so much. Quite a few people think doing that is kind of sad. The festivities are over. You have to start thinking about going back to work. The routines of life—only this time, in the bleak winter—are about to begin again. There are dead pine needles all over the place and you know you’ll continue to step on them in bare feet well into the spring. They are darn hard to vacuum up. As I wrote—kind of sad. For me, there is always the tendency to just throw the lights and ornaments in a box and move on. But, when I’ve done that, next year’s decorating is always a big mess and I always vow to put things away much more carefully next time. Sometimes I keep my vow. Mostly not. In the spirit of the sad deconstruction, doing so carefully or not, and reflecting on the meaning of ornaments and other decorations Joan and I have schlepped around for decades, the poem of the week—Taking Down The Tree, by the former New Hampshire Poet Laureate, Jane Kenyon:
Taking Down the Tree
“Give me some light!” cries Hamlet’s
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. “Light! Light!” cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it’s dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.
The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother’s childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.
With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcases increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.
By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it’s darkness
we’re having, let it be extravagant.
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of December 3-7:
- New Mexico PED recently released their teacher preparation report card. Each school and university supporting a teacher education program received a grade—A-F—for their efforts to produce quality teachers. HU along with most other institutions received a grade of B. A few schools received a C. No one was graded an A or below a C. This program was a somewhat controversial move on the part of PED. All teacher education programs in New Mexico are accredited by one or more national organizations. It was and still is unclear what might happen if a school is fully accredited by the national organization and then failed the PED grading scheme. Some also expressed concerns that other professional programs in the state (e.g., social work, accounting, law, etc.) might also be assessed by a state agency thus adding to the complexity of program approvals overall. Still others objected to some of the criteria used in the PED scheme, particularly the variable pertaining to whether graduates remain in New Mexico. I am not really sure what university preparation programs have to do with that…or how we might improve that metric. After students graduate they decide where they’ll work and all kinds of variables come into play—compensation, working conditions, etc. But, some suggested that the PED move symbolized the centrality of teachers in educational reforms and was really just another way to ratchet standards upward. Here’s the full report: https://webnew.ped.state.nm.us/bureaus/licensure/educator-preparation-program-scorecards/.
- This week, I was so pleased to learn that Dr. Cristina Durán, Dean of the Facundo Valdez School of Social Work, has been appointed to serve on Governor-Elect Michelle Lujan Grisham’s transition team for the Children, Youth and Families Department. Co-chaired by New Mexico Appleseed Executive Director Jennifer (Jenny) Ramo and University of New Mexico Pediatrics Professor Dr. Andrew Hsi, this team will engage with key stakeholders and current CYFD personnel and provide strategic recommendations on improving operations within the Department to Governor-Elect Lujan Grisham. Dean Durán’s focus on this team will include training and preparation of social workers in child welfare, as well as supervision and licensure among social workers within CYFD. Congratulations, Dean Durán! We are thrilled to have HU and the School of Social Work represented at this level of state government, especially as it pertains to the well-being of young people and their families in New Mexico.
- The comment period related to potential changes in Title IX regulations is now open and I will be providing comments about this matter. A number of significant changes are proposed including the definition of what “counts” as sexual harassment, the conditions under which a school must respond to sexual harassment charges, the liability of schools as related to the specific individual who had knowledge of the alleged incident (i.e., the proposed rules require that some “high level official” know about the incident before any action is necessarily required), and others. I plan to submit HU’s responses in early January. If you have input for me on this matter, please let me know by January 4, 2019.
- Our E-Sports room is open in Stu Clark and is attracting some attention around campus. A photo of our students recently competing in that space:
- We held the EMT meeting on Tuesday, as usual. We began with a brief discussion of higher ed developments at the national level (Why don’t major disruptions really work out? Go to: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/just-visiting/non-disruptions), the state level (How much should elected officials direct the management of state supported universities…say, dealing with management decisions in athletics? ? Go to: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/editorials/at-unm-plenty-of-challenges-ahead-for-president/article_8c6c1be1-5dc0-55ce-87f2-f0f4d57d8118.html), and the local level (Lessons learned from administrative reorganizations: Go to: http://blog.uwgb.edu/chancellor/files/2015/10/2015.10.26-Reorg-FAQ.pdf). We moved to a deeper discussion of a couple proposals put forth a few weeks ago—(1) a program to assist students who have 90+ semester hours of credits, but may be struggling to graduate, (2) a proposal to revise our scholarship strategy, and (3) a strategic and transparent technology plan including a technology replacement cycle scheme. We talked a bit about the possibility of revising the university holiday schedule at some point and received a brief HLC update. We’ll hold an abbreviated EMT meeting next week—the last executive meeting of the calendar year.
- Most students come to university mainly to earn a degree, right? Not necessarily. Dr. Orit Tamir’s recent research revealed that nontraditional students attend university for many reasons—serving as a positive role models for others, learning to gain deeper perspectives on moral issues, and others. Her findings are important as we (and other schools) engineer programs and services designed to recruit and retain nontraditional students. Her work will be published in the journal Teaching and Learning Anthropology. Congratulations to Dr. Tamir!
- A contingent of HU faculty, staff, and administrators travelled to Georgia State this week to learn more about their significant retention and graduation rates success with students quite similar to our own (e.g., about 1/3 of their students are first-generation). Upon their return, I have asked the group to provide me with a new budget request if (and only if) they find something they think we should consider. This initiative began when the EMT had a conference call with Tim Renick, the individual at Georgia State spearheading their efforts to improve retention and graduation rates. Here’s an overview of what our colleagues at Georgia State are doing:https://www.chronicle.com/article/Georgia-State-U-Made-Its/243514.
- As many of you know, I am on the board for MainStreet Las Vegas. That’s an incredible nonprofit agency and it continues to do so many great things for the city. A few months ago, MainStreet won a national competition funded by American Express to renovate the Romero Firehouse. MainStreet was just recently informed that we’ll receive a $150,000 grant from NMMS Capital Outlay Public Infrastructure Funding. We’ll use the money to work on the Great Blocks on MainStreet Railroad Avenue Construction Project. That project coupled with the renovation of the Castaneda could—and I think will—cement the revitalization of Las Vegas as a significant destination for tourists and other visitors.
- We are very close to signing an agreement with Luna CC to provide healthcare services to their students. This certainly appears to be a win-win kind of arrangement for everyone and I thank Dean Blea and everyone who helped make it happen.
10.On Thursday, Joan and I hosted many HU staff and faculty members at the University Residence for the annual Holiday Open House. It was a very nice event filled with holiday cheer all the way around. A photo from the event:
11.This week, several HU faculty members and students participated in the Journalism Under Fire event in Santa Fe. This pretty amazing event brought dozens of journalists from around the world to Santa Fe to discuss the challenges journalists face these days and to highlight the critical importance of a free press in promoting justice and freedom. The conference is creating many opportunities for connections with HU and I see much we can do for our students through some of the relationships that are developing. This overall connections developed under the leadership of Dr. Beth Massaro, last year’s Presidential Leadership Fellow. Here’s a story about this conference from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/06/journalism-under-fire-here-there-everywhere/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7f35dc2ae5c5.
12.The weekend promises to be another busy one—numerous cultural events, the Electric Light Parade, and various athletic events. In regard to HU athletics, good things are happening in wrestling, cross country, and women’s and men’s basketball. The men’s basketball team continues to lead the RMAC and are 21st in NCAA Division II in scoring at 89 points per game and are second in the RMAC in scoring margin (plus-10.0 points per game). NMHU is third in the RMAC in field goal percentage (47.1 percent) and 3-pointers made per game (9.5), fourth in assists (14.8), second in steals (8.8) and first in turnover margin (plus-5.67) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5). Congratulations to all our student athletes and coaches. Other items are also on the to-do list. There is quite a bit of work required to gear up for the upcoming legislative session and I am also working on a few of my own writing projects. As the calendar year is ending, I once again spend some time reflecting on my time in Northern New Mexico and HU. As I mentioned to my direct reports the other day, organizations are neither good nor bad, high or low performing, or interesting and fun to be a part of (or not). Organizations are nothing more than collections of people and it is the quality of the interactions with those people that make all the difference. There are so many great people here at HU and it has been a real pleasure getting to know them and working with them to make our beloved institution better…to do more and better work with and for our students. I see proof of this each and every day and for that…I am truly grateful.
There is no doubt that we are knee deep in the “shopping season” and by the way, when did shopping get a “season” anyway? I’m not a fan of drifting aimlessly through malls while strangers fight over $100 flat screen TVs, but if you’re writing a book on how not to bring up kids, the mall is a pretty good place to do your research. My grandmother had holiday shopping down to a science. She’d simply buy all men and boys the same item (different sizes, of course) and all women and girls the same thing. Voila…it is done. I’d look to see what the first male received as a gift…usually jeans or a flannel shirt…and then I and every other guy would know what they would receive. Women would observe what one of my aunts unwrapped and sure enough, they would get the same. Not a bad system, really. In honor of the “season” and reflective of my own personal approach to shopping (i.e., the “grimace” noted below), the poem of the week— Shopping In The Rain by Lazhar Bouazzi:
Shopping in the Rain
The rain ticks on the curb
Like a chronometer
Held up to a short race
As a man entering the mall
Feels his pocket for his
A grimace cracks his face.
Greetings colleagues. An update for the week November 26-30—a little early due to the fact that I’ll be off campus on Friday:
- I met with several folks on Monday morning about the important relationship we have with the Mora Refuge. We are a small partner in that $3/4 million annual operation, but as I wrote, it is an important one for our students and our faculty. The challenge is…of course…fiscal. The generous gift used to support so many activities out there is nearly expended and at this point, there are few options anyone can think of to keep things going. Again, the annual budget is about $750,000 and our contribution has been a very small percentage of the total. Even if we commit to find the resources we’ve devoted to this in the past and the other partners withdraw, the partnership as we know it will cease to exist. What to do? If you have thoughts, please let me or Roxanne know. A photo of some HU students completing a research project at the Rio Mora Refuge and a shot of the bison (managed by the Pojoaque) freely grazing there:
- Tuesday was Giving Tuesday at HU and our advancement team really did a great job. In our first Giving Tuesday campaign, we brought in about $3000. This week, we accrued about $100,00 more—about $103,000. Well done to the Advancement Team and heartfelt thanks to all generous donors.
- A report was issued this week examining the change in the number of students pursuing various majors. An interesting data display was part of the story that mainly focused on a significant decrease in history majors, but really provides a nice summary of changes over time for most majors. The disciplines gaining the most students—exercise science, computer science, and nursing. Those losing the most students—area studies, religion, and history. From my perspective, just because a discipline is losing students does not mean the discipline is not critical to the mission of a good university, but trends in enrollment are important in numerous ways—curriculum planning, personnel selection, etc. Here’s the story and the data: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/11/27/new-analysis-history-major-data-says-field-new-low-can-it-be-saved.
- I have been trying to keep everyone up to date on the proposed ERB changes. Most, but not all, of the proposed changes will impact new employees coming into the system. I’ve attached the most recent proposed changes above.
- On Tuesday I was able to attend some of the TED Talk—this one about creativity (or the lack of). The session attracted about 15 participants or so and I really enjoyed the discussion. Many thanks to Dr. Watson for going above and beyond to do this and thanks to all participants for actively engaging in the discussion. On Thursday, I really enjoyed the discussion of the book Coraline at Donnelly Library. There was a nice crowd and Dr. Woodford-Gormely did a nice job leading the discussion. It was nice to see a good mix of faculty members, staff members, students, and people from the community. HU truly provides and supports a vibrant array of professional activities—the TED Talks, the book discussion previously referenced, and many others. I’ve worked at larger schools and I am not certain they supported more activities like this than we do, so well done to all. The fact that virtually all of these activities are led by faculty and staff members who go the extra mile just because they want to do so—no extra time or compensation involved whatsoever—says so much about their commitment to HU, their colleagues, and the love of learning. Thanks to all who are leading these efforts. The cover of the wonderful and award winning Neil Gaiman book, Coraline and a photo of the discussion group:
- The e-sports room in Stu Clark is now done. The furniture and computers are installed and in place. I am anxious to see what will become of our fledging e-sports club. Other schools have sponsored e-sports clubs for years, but we are on the front end of the national expansion. E-Sports have rapidly become a huge thing worldwide. Take a look at this article:https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/27/us/esports-what-is-video-game-professional-league-madden-trnd/index.html and this one:http://www.ncaa.org/static/champion/game-on/.
- Later Tuesday, Joan and I hosted members of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Advisory Council at a dinner at the University Residence. We had a very nice crowd and a positive vibe all the way around. I thank members of the Council for taking a leadership role in promoting issues of diversity and social justice on our campus. University campuses, including our own, should be at the vanguard of modeling the many noble and practical reasons for promoting human diversity and increasing social justice. This is a task that is never done. It is never complete. You have to keep working at it all the time. As the saying goes…the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice. So true…and we are bending that way at HU. We are not perfect, but I and many others on our campus are committed to improving diversity and social justice outcomes and for that, I am very proud and particularly thankful for the work of the Advisory Council to help make it happen.
- Our good colleague Andre Garcia-Nuthmann recently performed in the Winter Solstice Program of the New Mexico Performing Arts Society. His performance was reviewed as “gorgeously lyrical and fluidly flexible” by music critic D.S. Craft. We are very fortunate to have HU faculty who not only do such a great job with our students, but also add so much to their community, the state, the region, and beyond. Great communities almost always have great universities and the powerful engagement of one with the other adds tremendous vitality to the whole—we are certainly no exception.
- I was very happy to meet some of the LANL folks who visited our campus on Wednesday. The Lab constantly has many job openings and looks to the state universities to help fill them with quality people. Our association with the Lab has been really strong and I anticipate that will continue under the new management. Thanks to the HU faculty who took the time to meet with our visitors.
10.There’s been a great deal of chatter about the large number of Regents our new Governor-Elect will name. Institutions might change and rather dramatically dependent on how all this goes. There may be some turnover at HU—three Regent seats are up for grabs. An article about this matter: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/lujan-grisham-has-regent-seats-to-fill-statewide/article_7da9fa36-f3ba-5ad9-b46b-cf5c326796da.html.
Finding beauty when things are so grey and barren can be tough for many people, including me. But, it is possible. I just have to look a little harder. A little more carefully. When it arrives, snow is beautiful, but gloomy November days filled with cold rain and gun metal skies can really get people down. I just have to slow down and look harder to find something beautiful. But looking for it and finding it, when I can, is always worth the effort. Toward that end and in honor of closing out November, this week’s poem—My November Guest by Robert Frost:
My November Guest
My sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week November 19-23—abbreviated due to the holiday:
- I previously informed the campus of a recently published report examining the governance structure in New Mexico higher education. It is a long report, but basically recommends a three strand governance structure with the research universities under one board, the regionals under a second, and the community colleges under a third. The report is attached (above) if you’d care to peruse.
- I was informed this week that Dr. Garrey Carruthers will be one of the individuals working with Governor-Elect Lujan Grisham on higher education issues. Among other things, I understand that Garrey will play some role to assist the Governor-Elect in the selection of the new HED Secretary. As I think everyone knows, Garrey was the former Chancellor of New Mexico State, the former President of the Council of University Presidents, and a former governor of the New Mexico—quite a resume. I am fully confident that he will serve all of higher education well in this new role and help our new Governor to assemble a strong cabinet.
- Last weekend was a busy one with a variety of musical, athletic and other events. Joan and I attended all that we could. We also held the intramural volleyball championship and the first ski trip of the season. Photos of the v-ball champions and the HU contingent at Sipapu—smiling HU faces all the around:
- We had a brief but successful Board of Regents meetings on Monday. The critical agenda item pertained to the selection of a contractor for Rodgers. The Board approved a contractor for that project and staging will commence very soon. If you recall, the renovated Rodgers will include a modern classroom, a board room (available to the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate, and other large groups), and an HU Heritage Room (name could be changed) to greet visitors to the campus and display some important artifacts such as faculty research, athletic achievements, etc. In addition, there will be some offices on the second floor. I thank Sylvia Baca, Adam Bustos, and the Board for their hard work and confidence to move forward on this project. I also thanked Sean Weaver at the meeting for his leadership in getting the most recent bond passed…by a very large margin. Those resources will allow us to renovate Rodgers and without them….no renovation would be possible. San Miguel and Mora counties came out in overwhelming support for the bond. April Kent and others helped so much to get the library bond measure passed. Well done to all.
- After the board meeting we held the weekly Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting. We began with a brief discussion of potential changes to Title IX regulations (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/09/title-ix-reforms-are-overdue/569215/) , a discussion of some comments recently made about UNM by a Regent (https://www.abqjournal.com/1247042/unm-regent-we-dont-have-a-good-product.html) , and Luna’s continuing search for a new president (http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/would-be-luna-community-college-president-withdraws-before-contract-finalized/article_b65e78a7-fc6b-5cd2-bc44-1ad9648bd06d.html). The remainder of the meetings was devoted to three proposals: one focusing on possible changes in our distribution of scholarships dollars, one focusing on potential assistance we might provide to HU students with a large number of credits, but no degree, and the first look at an overall HU technology plan including a schedule of technology and equipment replacements.
- Later that day, Joan and I enjoyed hosting HU staff and faculty who were responsible for the recent and successful matanza. These folks did yeoman’s work with no additional time or other resources and we only thought it appropriate to more formally thank them at an event at the University Residence. A few photos from that event:
- The season is young, but our men’s basketball team currently sits atop the RMAC with a 4 and 1 record. Well done to Coach Snow and our student athletes. The standings on this day:
New Mexico Highlands 0-0 0.000 4-1 0.800 W4
Colorado Mesa 0-0 0.000 3-1 0.750 W2
Fort Lewis 0-0 0.000 3-1 0.750 W2
Regis 0-0 0.000 2-1 0.667 W1
Black Hills State 0-0 0.000 1-1 0.500 W1
Chadron State 0-0 0.000 2-2 0.500 W1
CSU-Pueblo 0-0 0.0 0.000 2-2 0.500 W1
Westminster 0-0 0.000 1-1 0.500 W1
South Dakota Mines 0-0 0.000 2-3 0.400 L3
Colorado Christian 0-0 0.000 1-3 0.250 L1
Colorado School of Mines 0-0 0.000 1-3 0.250 L2
UCCS 0-0 0.000 1-3 0.250 L3
Western 0-0 0.000 1-3 0.250 L3
Adams State 0-0 0.000 0-3 0.000 L3
Dixie State 0-0 0.000 0-1 0.000 L1
- I spent all day Tuesday in Albuquerque working with various attorneys (sigh…) to address some of HU’s fiscal challenges that have been lingering for years. Great progress was made and there is now a clear path forward. I thank Chairman Sanchez and Max Baca for their hard work on this matter.
As much as anything else, Thanksgiving evokes memories of travel. Joan and I never lived near our extended families and yet we tried to get home for most holidays…no matter what. I recall one last minute Thanksgiving flight from Central America. I was quite literally the only passenger on the plane. The commitment to attend most holiday celebrations resulted in many horrific travel stories…snowy roads, icy conditions, and fingers gripped so tightly on the wheel I had to pry them off upon arrival. I heard on the news that travel was way up this Thanksgiving due to low fuel prices and a few more dollars circulating in the economy. We are not traveling this Thanksgiving—perhaps the greatest gift of all—but in honor of all who are, the spare and beautiful poem of the week–-Window by Carl Sandburg.
Night from a railroad car window
Is a great, dark, soft thing
Broken across with slashes of light.
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of November 12-16:
- The annual New Mexico Performance Effectiveness Report was issued this week. The report provides an overview of the performance of colleges and universities in the state and is carefully reviewed by many legislators and other decision makers. The report revealed many things generally known—enrollment is declining at all institution due to limited or no population growth in the state. Number of degrees awarded is inching up. Tuition is increasing, but remains low compared to other states. Here’s a few relevant graphs from the report. This first one displays the percent of fiscal resources devoted to administrative costs compared to each institution’s peers. I am pleased that our costs are a bit lower than our peers—that’s a good thing. Of course, some institutions look better than us in part because they are so much larger. When you have a very large overall budget (e.g., UNM), the percent of resources devoted to administrative costs are relatively low. In the next graph, you can see the percent of costs devoted to instruction, research, and service and once again, we do a bit better than our peers. One would expect that, I think, if administrative costs are less than one’s peers. The third slide depicts faculty salaries compared to peers. As you can see, this is a problem at all NM schools. Salaries at all New Mexico institutions are below their respective peers. Some are well below (e.g., Western). HU and Eastern come closest to peer averages, but again, everyone is below.
- We had a great crowd at last Friday’s Ice Cube concert and I really don’t think I have ever seen so many happy HU students. One of our students who was able to meet him in person was crying uncontrollably—she was so excited and happy. The entire event ran like clockwork, from my perspective, with very few problems whatsoever. Over the weekend, several local merchants in town commented on the uptick in their businesses. Thanks to everyone who made this happen—especially Kim, Donna, HU PD, HU Facilities, a great team of volunteers (HU faculty, staff, and students), and many others. Also, many thanks to everyone who adjusted their schedules and or routines to accommodate this major campus event. Mr. Cube and two HU employees who were wearing ear plugs during the entire concert and knew the words to no songs whatsoever:
- Last weekend also marked the end of the football season and a last-game farewell to our seniors as well as some fun exhibition basketball games in The Pit at UNM. We recognized local veterans at the football game and I received several notes thanking us for doing so. Basketball is now in full swing (an exciting men’s victory at Western a few days ago) and women’s basketball and wrestling are also underway. Photos of one of the proud veterans at last week’s football game and an HU helmet proudly and prominently displayed in Senator Martin Heinrich’s office in Washington:
- Please try to attend some the weekly TED Talks sponsored by HU Cares and or some of the Campus Community Connections meetings sponsored by the current and former Presidential Leadership Fellows. The TED Talks occur every Tuesday from 12-1 in the Governance Room of the SUB. The Campus Community Connections events are scheduled from noon until 1:00 p.m. on Monday, December 3, 2018, Monday, February 4, 2019, Monday, March 4, 2019, Monday, April 1, 2019, and Monday, May 6, 2019. Those meetings are in the SUB 211. Many thanks to Drs. Ruthy Watson, Beth Massaro, Jennifer Lindline, and Denise Montoya for sponsoring these professional development opportunities.
- Over the weekend, our beloved VATOS were victorious 37-20 over # 14 nationally ranked Denver University. This victory puts the VATOS in a position for playoffs in the Spring and concludes the Fall 2018 season with a record of 3-1. The VATOS have been committed to their post-secondary goals—excelling on and off the field.
- A team from HU recently participated in the fourth New Mexico Business Ethics Case Competition. Our students, including one of our online students from Farmington, did very well against teams from UNM, New Mexico State, Eastern, and the New Mexico Military Institute. Many thanks to the team’s sponsors—-Carla Romero and Melanie Zollner. A photo of our team:
- On Tuesday, I led a Learning Happens Here session…this one on the “glorious angling”…otherwise known as fly fishing. We talked a bit about the history of fly fishing, some about the literature of fly fishing (Hemingway, Norman MacLean, etc.), the cinema of fly fishing (e.g., the Robert Redford film, A River Runs Through It), a quick overview of equipment and terminal tackle, and then practiced fly fishing a bit with some practice casters (short rods with yarn line to simulate real fly fishing). It was a lot of fun and all participants did well. A photo of some of the participants practicing their casting:
- Honored Alum and friend to HU Martha McCaffrey sent me an interesting link. The fellow in the story (link below) recently published a novel, Lake Success, and to prepare himself to write it, he spent four months on Greyhound buses trying to determine who was happy in America. His conclusions—hedge fund managers are extremely unhappy. Enough was never quite enough and the job, though incredibly lucrative, was pretty much soul sucking. Among the happiest people he found—university professors. They earned a decent living (though hardly at the level of hedge fund managers) and they felt they were doing something good and important in the world. He also found that first generation college students were pretty darn optimistic and excited about their prospects. This bodes well for us at HU—we are (mostly) professors and work with many first generation students. We are among the happiest people in America…I guess.
Poem Of The Week
I am hardly the first person to compare the coming of winter to some serious reflection on one’s life. As we all live through our hopeful springs, verdant summers, and glorious falls, the winter always awaits us. Cold and dark, but also beautiful in its own way. Winter’s short and dark days are a good time for personal reflection as long as it doesn’t go on too long or get out of hand. I mean—a person needs to stop binging on Netflix and get out of those sweatpants, right? What have I done? What have I accomplished? How will I be remembered? Will I be remembered? What good have I done? What regrets do I have? Have I lifted people up or….not? What tracks have I left on the face of the world? And in the spirit of those really big and hard questions that so often come to mind on a cold winter day, the poem of the week—Blizzard by William Carlos Williams:
BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS
years of anger following
hours that float idly down —
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes —
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there —
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.
A number of people continue to ask me about the Noble Piper and Jack, including, most recently, someone who apparently follows my weekly messages from England. I am pleased to report that the Noble One is happy and doing well and Jack continues to be totally out-of-control exuberant. He takes a big bite out of the world (or perhaps a pillow) each and every day. Jack is a bit of a celebrity at the Santa Fe Shelter. He was found running wild and people do not think he had ever really been around people. When found, he was near death due to porcupine quills throughout his muzzle and body. That’s all taken care of now. A before and after shot of Jack the Nipper:
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week November 5-9:
- The Office of Strategic Enrollment Management continues to provide the campus community with great information about our efforts to improve recruitment and retention. These newsletters are very brief and succinct and I encourage everyone to peruse them. This week’s newsletter is attached above.
- I began Tuesday at the polling station and was so pleased to see a number of my colleagues there. As Joan and I were leaving, a guy was hanging out outside the gym where we voted and he clearly wanted to talk. As usual, I had a million things to do and was in a hurry, but he kind of insisted that I slow down and chat for a bit (something I need to do more often, no doubt). He informed us that he was in his 50s and had just voted for the very first time in his life. He also wanted to tell me about the issues the mattered to him and concluded by saying that voting for the first time made him feel really good. My colleagues, there is hope for our beloved nation. We have had dark times in the nation and very hopeful times, but when the people of this nation—like the gentleman we met outside of the gym—continue to take the time to seriously reflect on the direction they want to see the country take and then act upon those feelings by voting…all will be well in the long run.
- We held the weekly EMT meeting on Tuesday and began the meeting with brief discussions of articles from a national perspective, the state perspective, and the local perspective. At the national level, we read a brief piece concerning gap years—a period of time usually between high school and the first year of college or sometimes during the college years. Here’s what we read:https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/19/gap-year-may-have-benefits-long-after-college/. Gap years are popular these days—some have asserted they help young students grow up a bit, provide them with more hands-on and practical knowledge and skills, and help them reflect on why they want to attend college in the first place and what they might want to do afterward. Like so many other interesting life choices, gap years have generally been reserved for students of wealth. Taking a year “off”—a gap year—to work on a trans-Atlantic cargo vessel or travel abroad sounds interesting and would without doubt be an unforgettable life experience… if you had the wherewithal to do that. Cruising around the world or climbing the pyramids at Tikal when you have bills to pay, maybe a family member, partner, a spouse, or children to take care of is daunting—probably impossible for many students. So, once again, those with wealth have these special experiences. Those without mostly do not. I wonder—would any of the disciplines we support here at HU be interested in designing some type of gap year experience for our students? I am thinking it could work like this—apply for the HU gap year right out of high school or while attending HU. The student pays us a modest fee and during the gap year—the year away from campus—the student agrees to do certain things. Maybe they attend and or participate in some cultural activities. Maybe they read certain books. They journal about all that or maybe prepare a portfolio and if they do what the faculty require, we award them some college credit…maybe 3 or 6 sh. So…they are away from campus…maybe working full time, but still very much connected to us by completing their HU gap year assignments with a plan of earning a little college credit and ultimately returning to HU to complete their education. I’ve had this idea in my head for some time and worked with two departments at Radford to start such a program. Alas, I took another job before it ever got off the ground. At the state level, we read a brief article about the severe teacher shortage in New Mexico. Here’s the article: https://www.abqjournal.com/1241697/new-mexico-teacher-vacancies-called-a-crisis.html. Question—could HU engineer one or more programs to directly address this statewide problem and potentially recapture our preeminent position as an institution preparing great teachers? Finally, we read two pieces about online teaching. One con and one pro. Go to:https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/views/2018/03/07/professor-explains-why-he-wont-teach-online-opinion and https://www.chronicle.com/article/Why-I-Teach-Online/239509. We concluded the meeting with a discussion of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—a dashboard I’ll start using at board meetings, an update on the e-sports club (here’s an interesting New York Timesarticle about e-sports: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/02/education/learning/video-games-esports-scholarships.html), and an update on the Town Gown Commission. Dr. Blea and I will kick off that commission this term.
- Many thanks to the campus community and to all friends of HU for voting in high numbers. Both bond measures that will benefit HU passed and by pretty wide margins. Bond D passed by 65.68% of the vote and will bring $4mil to our campus for critical infrastructure improvements. Many thanks to Sean Weaver, April Kent, and many others for spearheading and or speaking out to turn out the vote on these GO Bonds and ultimately pass these important measures. I have had several questions about Rodgers. Specifically, some people are wondering why there has not been more movement there. There have been many activities related to Rodgers and we’ll be asking the Board for a final sign-off at the next meeting. My pledge—Rodgers finished on time and in budget. Turning to other potential projects, I have had several conversations with people lately about using some resources to construct a modest apartment on campus. The space would be used by visitors to the campus—guest speakers, visiting scholars, others—for short periods of time. I am thinking that guests would be required to pay a small fee to use the space so we could generate some revenue stream to support maintenance, cleaning, etc. We’ve done this at several campuses where I’ve worked and the advantages of having guests right on campus instead of housing them at local hotels are numerous. Turning to another physical plant matter, I am also interested in possibly constructing a new matanza area, perhaps also to include a horno, that would incorporate an instructional dimension (some seating of some type). The basic idea here is to allow our students to learn (e.g., workshops, seminars, community events, maybe even part of some class) the traditions associated with the matanza and horno baking/roasting. I’m thinking about all this, but have not made up my mind yet. If you have thoughts, I welcome them. Turning to the election one final time, as I imagine everyone knows, we have a new governor elect in New Mexico. Several key legislative seats were also changed. A few weeks ago, the CUP talked with the gubernatorial candidates and both of them expressed high interest in working closely with higher education and possibly even having someone from CUP on the transition team. I hope that happens. I’ll let you know. As I previously noted, the CUP is committed to making every reasonable attempt to restore the cuts to higher education made in recent years as well as providing meaningful compensation increases for our employees. Of course, there may be other issues that come up before or during the legislative session. I’ll keep people informed as we move forward on all this.
- I learned on Tuesday that two great and beloved friends of HU donated some shares of stocks to kick-off our upcoming Giving Tuesday campaign. Giving Tuesday will occur on November 27 and is one of the significant fundraising efforts on this campus. This gift will yield about $71,000. More information on this gift and the generous donors will be forthcoming, but what a great way to begin the campaign. Well done to all who helped make this happen and , of course, so very well done, to our donors who will be formally acknowledged soon. Also this week, we received a $10,000 gift for scholarships from the New Mexico Roofing Contractors Association. Many thanks to that group and especially to Ms. Tina Cordova, President of that Association and great friend to HU.
- Also on Tuesday, I interviewed the first applicant for the soon to be vacant student regent position. As I think everyone knows, here at HU, student regents carry a full vote on the board. We only have five members on the board so the student regent influences each and every vote by a full 20%. At public universities, it is somewhat unusual to allow student board members to carry a full vote, but this is something I definitely support. Last year, I also worked with a legislator to add a voting faculty member to university boards. Alas, it did not get very far, but I’ve heard one or more legislators might be interested in trying again and if so, I’ll certainly work with them. It seems curious to me that we allow a student on the board, but not a faculty member. That really doesn’t seem quite right to me.
- I recently received the data regarding employee participation in the flu vaccine clinic we had on campus a few days ago. Participation was way up—114% up from last time. I am interested in providing greater and higher quality access to healthcare on campus and if anyone has ideas about how to do this, I’d like to hear from them.
- I continue to be so pleased about the increased vibrancy on the campus. For example, in the last few days, we have sponsored or will sponsor a lecture by a very notable psychologist, a career fair, several fundraisers in the SUB, numerous Power of Service events, numerous athletic events including an exciting football victory, a Vatos game, a Madrigal Choir performance, another free cookies and milk for our students event, numerous Native American events, the Greg Lukianoff lecture, the fall Arts@HU event (Ice Cube), and many many more. Yet another interesting event is coming up this Friday—today. Please try to attend Ms. Jennifer Smith’s talk about her internship experience on Friday at 12:50 in the SUB, 321. Jennifer was the recipient of the Joseph Montoya Internship award and used the award to travel to Washington, D.C. While in DC, Jennifer worked as an intern in the Metro Washington Council of the AFL/CIO. Jennifer asserted that the internship was a true “life-changing” experience. As she put it, “I thought I would change the world…but instead, the world changed me.” This internship is provided annually by Mr. Joseph Montoya , a distinguished alumnus of Highlands. Faculty—please encourage students to attend this event particularly if they have any interest in applying for the award. These high-impact experiences make such a difference in the lives of our students—they are so often life changing for them. A photo of Ms. Smith:
Another great event that is upcoming is a Hogwarts Holiday Tea Party sponsored by the NMHU Foundation. This event will be held on December 1st from 3-5pm in the Kennedy Gallery, immediately prior to the Electric Light Parade. The party will feature (non-alcoholic) butterbeer, golden snitches, and magical activities. Children (and adults) are welcome to come in costume if they like, and ample parking for brooms and flying motorcycles will be provided. Special invitations will be sent to our Highlands community of aspiring Hogwarts students. If you would like a child in your family to receive a specially crafted, wax-sealed invitation to this event, please email their names to Terri Law (email@example.com) and they will be sent (unfortunately, not via owl) their very own Hogwarts Holiday Tea Party invitation. The Foundation is also sending a few of these to special friends of the Foundation (for example, all of the children who attended our summer Art Camp), and if someone you know wants a special invitation for their child, feel free to pass this invitation along. Children only for the special invitations, please – we have many grown up Harry Potter fans and invite them all to attend, but would love to make this event really magical for the young ones! Names must be sent to the Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org) on or before 5pm on Friday, November 9th—that’s today. Names are accepted by email only and must include a full, complete, and valid mailing address. This promises to be a really fun event.
The increased level of campus activity has also meant that some of our larger spaces for performances are in very high demand. This is especially true for spaces in the SUB, the Wilson Complex, and Ilfeld. If there is one thing we have plenty of on campus it is space, but larger performance spaces are not that plentiful. I do appreciate everyone’s flexibility as we try to schedule these spaces around an increasing number of events.
- We had a very nice Career Fair on campus on Thursday with lots of employers and students making connections with them. One surprising thing I learned while talking to a recruiter for the U.S. Army—-about 70% of people wanting to enlist in the Army are rejected. The main reasons why—-health issues including things like being overweight and a history of legal problems. A photo from the Career Fair:
- Thursday was a busy one, but I did make the time to drop by the PRISM Club meeting. Those students are well organized and doing great things on our campus. We are privileged to have them here.
- The speaker we had on campus on Thursday, Greg Lukianoff, did an interview on the Richard Eeds show in Santa Fe. We had a great turnout for Mr. Lukianoff’s talk—standing room only—and a nice assortment of faculty, staff, students, and some community members. Well done to all, especially Beth Massaro and Brandon Kempner. A photo of Mr. Lukianoff at this Thursday evening talk:
- The remainder of the week promises to be a busy one—the Ice Cube concert tonight, the final football game on Saturday including a special tribute to our veterans, the all New Mexico basketball tournament in Albuquerque including a tailgating event prior to the game, and other activities. I hope to see you at some of these events. Here’s a nice story from the Albuquerque paper about our concert: https://www.abqjournal.com/1240784/keeping-it-cool-ex-ice-cube-brings-his-iconic-gangsta-rap-genre-to-nmhu.html. A photo of Mr. Cube:
There are few joys that match sitting before a crackling fire on a cold day…maybe while watching a good movie or reading a great book. When we lived on our farm in Missouri, we had a huge wood burning fireplace that easily heated and occasionally overheated our three story farmhouse, but overheating or not, we liked to get it going as we watched the snow come down in Greentop, Missouri—population about 200. We liked it so much that on many a day, we had all the windows open so we could have a fire without roasting. Of course, the best possible day was being “snowed-in” and unable to get to town (in truth, some days I did not really try all that hard—I could have maybe fired up the four-wheel drive or taken the tractor or maybe even saddled up and I probably would have made it). In honor of those perfect days…and more to come even though we no longer have the farm…this week’s poem. It is actually not a poem at all but a song sung by Bilbo Baggins of Fellowship of the Ring fame. Here’s I Sit Before The Fire and Think:
I Sit Before The Fire And Think
I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.
For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.
Our beloved and verdant pre-Civil War farmhouse in Greentop, Missouri.
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of October 29-November 2:
- There was a meeting late last week about possible mergers of institutions of higher education here in New Mexico and or the possibility of merging boards. In regard to the former, I heard there was little interest in moving on that, at least at this time. Once an institution is founded and the many traditions of the place are established, merging it with another school is really tough. It can and does happen (take a look at Georgia), but it is a hard thing to do. In regard to the latter, several proposals were discussed including merging boards at New Mexico State with Eastern and Western and merging UNM with Highlands and Northern. There was also some discussion of merging all community colleges into one board. Other options were also discussed. I’ll try to keep everyone up to date as these discussions continue. I have worked in states employing both types of systems—one mega-board for all schools and individual boards at each school—and I have to say it did not make all that much difference as far as I could see. The structure just didn’t seem to be the driver in terms of overall performance. If board members were strong—to me, meaning they were absolutely committed to students and building great and affordable programs for them to complete—that trumped the structure, but that’s just my experience and I am sure others have had different experiences. Here’s a few articles about this issue—go to: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/09/05/will-politicians-latest-try-overhaul-public-higher-ed-governance-north-dakota and https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/23/politics-trumps-good-policy-proposed-governance-change-tennessee and here’s a recent editorial that touches on the topic: https://www.abqjournal.com/1239247/lawmakers-new-governor-must-do-higher-ed-math.html.
- Thanks to everyone who attended the HLC Forum on Tuesday afternoon. We discussed the progress we are making in the three areas we must address in 2020 and other HLC related matters including:
- the final approval by HLC of our newest program…the MFA. I actually heard that the program was approved last Friday when I was in the board meeting,
- rolling out our modest Outcomes Assessment Initiative. If you recall, this was included in the budget for 2018-2019. Implementing this program will hopefully improve learning outcomes and will also signal a clear commitment to our accreditor of our efforts to continuously improve learning and other outcomes on our campus, and
- encouraging some additional HU folks to attend the national HLC meeting in Chicago.
In my view, the transition from Brandon to Lee has been very smooth and we are in good shape in regard to the HLC. From my perspective, receiving the final approval of the MFA is proof positive that we are on the right track with our accreditor. Not every campus that puts forth a new program is approved by the HLC the first time around. We were and that bodes well for us.
- This week, the United States Department of Education issued the newest College Scorecard. This annual data set is intended to provide “consumers” (a term the USDoE uses—we call them students and parents and or others who pay the bills) with information about costs and other metrics including outcomes. Basically, HU’s costs are low, the graduation rate must be improved, but…the average salary after attending is good. The 2018 average salary for an HU graduate is $36, 300. That’s significantly better than Eastern’s ($29,500), Western’s ($30,900), New Mexico State’s ($34.600), Northern’s ($27,900), and Luna’s (a community college so not really a fully valid comparison) average of $28,300. UNM’s average is only one-hundred dollars better than HU’s ($36,400 compared to HU’s at $36,300. ). The bottom line for me is that HU provides a real bang for the buck—low cost and good earnings outcomes after graduation. I urge everyone to use these data when they talk to prospective students and their friends about HU. Here’s the website forThe College Scorecard: https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/changelog/.
- Several months ago, I asked Dr. Denise Montoya (HR) to devise an online exit survey for HU employees (faculty, staff, etc.). The purpose of the survey is to ascertain what we all might do to make HU a better work environment. This is another attempt to courageously examine data and then make changes based upon the information—not just personal experiences or guesses. Completion of the survey is optional and fully confidential. Denise sent me the data from the first four respondents. Thus far, we only have four so it is definitely way too early to make any decisions about what to do to improve things, but it is a start and those four added to others over time should provide some guidance. As one would expect, the initial results were mixed. The good news—Question #5 was, “my supervisor recognized the good work that I did on a regular basis” and all four respondents responded 5 (out of 5); the highest rating. Item #7 was, “I have had the opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with someone at work” and again, everyone rated their HU experience as a 5. Perhaps the most telling item was #14, “Would you consider returning to New Mexico Highlands if a position were available in the future?” and once again, everyone responded to that item with a 5…again, the highest rating. Of course, there were a number of individual concerns noted. One respondent asserted that human interactions at work (faculty-faculty, faculty-staff, faculty-administration) needed attention. Another suggested that communication up and down and horizontally could be improved. Yet another said that there were simply too few opportunities for upward mobility…at a small institution not really growing all that much, those in supervisory positions tended to remain there thus allowing few options for someone to move up and earn more. Another said that there were perhaps too many changes going on and even though “change can be good…even positive change can be stressful.” I get that, but in the 2018 environment, don’t change and …see what happens. We’ll continue to collect these data and I’ll keep people informed as more responses come in.
- The new Masters in Media Arts and Cultural Technology is getting some good press. Go to: https://www.krqe.com/news/new-mexico/nmhu-now-offering-new-master-of-fine-arts-degree/1562139241.
- I know everyone receives many emails, but I hope you take an opportunity to peruse the SEM Newsletters we started to send this term. They are brief, but provide a good overview of relevant performance in the Division of SEM and some issues and challenges we face as a campus. The latest version is attached above.
- Our Alumni Office continues to do great things. We recently held an informal alumni event in Las Cruces and attracted a supportive group of alums and friends. I was not able to attend the event due to previous calendar commitments, but I will connect with these friends of HU soon. Well done to Juli and everyone on the Advancement Team. A photo from the event:
- One of my former colleagues who is at the center of the nexus of technology and teaching (and recent recipient of a $13.9 million dollar grant to work in this area…wow…I’d be jealous except he is such a good friend and colleague) recently sent me some articles about a Georgia Tech professor who works with a Teaching Assistant named Jill Watson. The professor, Ashok Goel, teaches small face to face classes at Georgia Tech (as he puts it, the “holy grail” of teaching) and one large online class. His online class enrolls hundreds of students around the world and he quickly found himself struggling trying to manage the class the same way he managed his small face to face classes. For one thing, he was getting hundreds and hundreds of pretty routine questions from his online students at all times of the day and night—things like when is this or that due?, could you refer me to where this or that topic is discussed in the book?, what are your office hours?, etc. and he just felt swamped. So, he asked his TA, Ms. Watson, to deal with those routine issues leaving time for him to devote to more substantive topics and student questions. Thing is—Jill Watson was (and is) a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and not real at all. The big reveal that Jill was not a real person was eventually made to Professor Goel’s students. Their reaction—students received very quick and accurate responses and often those responses were highly personalized and sometimes humorous. Most all of his students rated their experience with Jill very favorably. The bottom line for me—when technology is used to enhance the human connection in teaching—Jill allowed Professor Goel to spend more quality time with his students—that is truly a win-win. This mirrors my own experience with online and other distance education types of classes. I was a hardcore skeptic. My training suggested that the gold standard was small classes, face to face, etc. The platinum standard at a small liberal arts school where I worked for a time was very small classes held in my office or an adjacent conference room (ideally, not a classroom) with coffee and tea available to everyone. Students were addressed as Mr. or Ms. whatever their name was and on certain days, professors were expected to teach in their regalia. I should add, but am a little embarrassed to write, that on non-regalia days I tended to wear tweed jackets with the obligatory leather elbow patches. I still have one or two of them, but of course, cannot really fit into them any longer. At any rate, when I attempted to apply the approaches I had successfully used in my face to face classes to a new modality…it mostly did not work causing me to assert that the new modality was a failure (“…see, I told you this wouldn’t work”). What I didn’t understand, is that my tried and true approaches would probably never work with the new modalities and what I needed to do if I wanted to be successful with them is learn new ways of managing those classes—really new ways of teaching. I certainly did not employ an Artificial Intelligence TA—I would have had no idea how to do that and I don’t think they even existed then—but I did learn about chat rooms, learning management systems, and things like that. When the light bulb went off in my head that I had to learn some new things, I had a much better experience with online classes and my students did as well. Here’s an article about Professor Goel and his AI TA Jill Watson: https://backchannel.com/a-secret-ops-ai-aims-to-save-education-c1c887a56a67#.wqa5ls2xb?mbid=synd_bizinsider.
- Thursday was a busy day beginning with the Council of University Presidents meeting. The presidents of all the four year institutions are working well together and fighting hard for the reinstatement of lost funding for higher education and compensation increases for our employees. The overall budget outlook for the state continues to look strong. On Thursday evening, Joan and I attended the annual Santa Fe Council for International Relations (SFCIR) gala. Other HU folks attending the event included Roxanne Gonzales, David Sammeth, Beth Massaro, Sean Weaver, Rebekah Peoble, and various spouses, partners, and other guests. Beth worked on connecting with SFCIR while she was the President’s Leadership Fellow. She now serves on the board and one of our students in working as an intern at SFCIR, so her efforts have definitely paid off. It was a really great evening. The guest speaker was Michael McFaul, former Ambassador to Russia under President Obama. Mr. McFaul delivered a talk on historical and contemporary relations with Russia and signed copies of his new book, Cold War, Hot Peace. I should also note that the SFCIR will be sponsoring another meeting December 5-7. This one titled Journalism Under Fire. Journalists from around the world will focus on contemporary issues in journalism, fake news, and the necessity of a free press. Featured speakers will include Dana Priest, investigative journalist at the Washington Post, Don Bartletti, photojournalist with the LA Times, Azam Ahmed, Mexico Bureau Chief at the New York Times, Valerie Plame, former CIA covert officer, and many others. Faculty—if you ‘d like to attend and take up to three students….please talk with Beth or me. This is an incredible opportunity for our students to interact with world class journalists. Thanks.
10.On Friday I met with a group of prospective transfer students from UNM Taos and shared with them the many advantages of a great HU education. As you know, working with transfer students and encouraging them to attend HU is a big part of our enrollment strategy.
11.HU will play at the Pit again this year. Please consider attending the tailgating and the game. Details below:
12.On November 8, HU will host Greg Lukianoff, a noted campus free speech advocate. He will speak on campus at 4:30 p.m. in the Highlands Student Center Theater. Lukianoff, a New York Times bestselling author and attorney, founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in 1999. The nonpartisan nonprofit focuses on civil liberties in academia. In his 2014 book Freedom from Speech, Lukianoff wrote: “Intellectual comfort is as dangerous as it is seductive.” He also wrote: “Colleges have a twofold duty when it comes to dealing with censorship. First, there is the duty to not censor the free expression of ideas, especially important and newsworthy ones. Second, colleges have the duty to protect speakers from being silenced by others.” Lukianoff’s other books include Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate (1994).Most recently, in 2018 he co-authored, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation For Failure. Dr. Beth Massaro played a key role in bringing Lukianoff to speak at Highlands while working as a President’s Leadership Fellow during the 2017-2018 academic year. In addition to his books, Lukianoff is widely published and or quoted in newspapers and on television including outlets such as The New York Times(https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/education/edlife/fire-first-amendment-on-campus-free-speech.html), The Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323582904578485041304763554), The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/college-is-not-for-coddling/2015/11/10/6def5706-87db-11e5-be39-0034bb576eee_story.html?noredirect), and other news sources. Please consider attending this important event and encourage your students to also attend. The public is also welcome. It is rare opportunity for our students to hear from the person who is arguably the foremost authority on campus First Amendment issues. A photo of Mr. Lukianoff:
Poem Of The Week
We’ve had a few light snows already and more on the way, no doubt. My Mom called these light snows “skiffs” of snow, but I’m not sure that term is used here. I think it is more of a Midwestern or Northern term. At any rate, in honor of these skiffs, one of my favorites by Emily Dickinson. That line referencing “alabaster wool” is a beautiful one, no? Can you think of a more perfect way to describe snow?
It Sifts from Leaden Sieves
BY EMILY DICKINSON
It sifts from Leaden Sieves –
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road –
It makes an even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain –
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again –
It reaches to the Fence –
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces –
It deals Celestial Vail
To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –
A Summer’s empty Room –
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them –
It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen –
Then stills it’s Artisans – like Ghosts –
Denying they have been –
Two very happy Halloween visitors to the HU President’s Office. To be young with a bag of candy…can it get any better?
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of October 22-26. This one a little early as tomorrow is a board meeting day:
- Once again, I want to thank everyone who worked so hard last week and weekend to make the 2018 HU Homecoming such a success. It was really a great one…large turnouts at events, upbeat vibe, and …how about that football game? A real HU classic. Thank you HU staff, faculty, alums, and friends for a memorable homecoming.
- Earlier this year, the City of Las Vegas and numerous other entities worked with the firm Architectural Research Consultants to devise a Metropolitan Redevelopment Plan for our city. There is an incredible amount of information in this report and it highlights some of the challenges we face in Las Vegas as well as some opportunities we have. The report also includes numerous recommendations to foster economic development and improve Las Vegas in other ways. A few challenges—first, population loss. From 2000 to a projected date 2040, San Miguel County is predicted to move from 30,126 residents to 24,123. Surrounding counties (e.g. Mora, Colfax, etc.) are projected to remain flat at best. No county in Northern New Mexico is projected to increase population. Trends in employment follow suit. Among major employers (150 employees or more), all have reduced employees in recent years with the exception of a large retailer in Las Vegas who went from 246 in 2011 to 250 in 2018. Four more employees—not much of an increase. HU reduced employees and that is very significant for Las Vegas. Turning to recommendations—the very first recommendation is to establish a vehicle priority route by making University Avenue a two-way street from I 25 to the downtown area. According to the report, , “…the present configuration of University Avenue allows only east-bound traffic on a critical portion…that disorients visitors, often resulting in visitors never finding the Plaza and Bridge Street area.” The report went on to suggest that there should be ,”…support for redesigning National Avenue between 8th and 11th Streets to improve pedestrian safety and campus unity.” Bottom line—-we face many headwinds when it comes to increasing enrollment in our traditional catchment area, but this report does provide some guidance on things we might do.
- I was out of the office on Monday and Tuesday to attend an RMAC president’s meeting. The drive to Colorado is a long one, but I do enjoy meeting with the other RMAC presidents. Frankly, we spend as much (or more) time talking about non-athletic issues than otherwise so it almost always turns out to be a good professional development session for me. We did, of course, discuss several athletic issues including sports wagering (we have that now in New Mexico and I am not a fan), the kneeling during the anthem issue (no RMAC school requires student athletes to stand with the exception of one private and church affiliated school), and the possibility of adding some public members to the NCAA governing board. Driving home on Tuesday I ran into a brief but pretty intense snowstorm on the Raton Pass. That’s not unusual. The weather on that pass is often terrible. I try to make a point each time I drive over the pass to play “Snowing on Raton” by the late great Townes Van Zandt and (also late and great) Blaze Foley. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ir4GLUavL8. Speaking of Blaze Foley, I’d also recommend the movie about his life, Blaze, starring Ethan Hawke. Very good.
- Many thanks to President of the H Club and HU supporters extraordinaire, Syl Perez and his wife, for spending their precious time recruiting for HU in their home state of Texas. Thank you so much!
- We held the EMT meeting on Wednesday since I was out Tuesday. In preparation for the meeting, we talked about the challenges students and parents face today trying to pay for college (https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2018/10/22/report-how-families-pay-college), the continuing enrollment challenges in New Mexico, particularly in regard to new freshmen (https://www.abqjournal.com/1235701/unm-sees-steep-freshman-falloff-176-drop-ndash-a-total-of-566-students-ndash-creates-97m-shortfall.html), and issues related to faculty membership on university boards (https://www.aaup.org/article/faculty-members-boards-trustees#.W9KC83tKipp). If you recall, I did propose putting a faculty member on boards and giving them full voting privileges last year. It really didn’t get a lot of overall support, but I’ll try again this year. We heard some updates on the town/gown commission initiative and the institutional dashboard Lee Allard is working on. By the way, Lee is doing such a great job and the transition from Brandon to him has been very smooth, professional, and high quality. We devoted the remainder of our time to preparing for the upcoming board meeting on Friday.
- Also on Wednesday, I visited with the faculty in regard to the very beginning stages of devising our new strategic plan. I requested that Dr. Sammeth lead an effort to recommend a structure to engineer the plan by the end of this term. That would allow us plenty of time to get the new plan done and approved by 2020. I frequently re-read an essay by Susan Resneck Pierce, President of SRP Consulting and former university president, about strategic planning in our sector. If you’d care to peruse, here it is: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2017/01/31/how-colleges-should-rethink-their-strategic-planning-processes-essa.
- Finally on Wednesday evening (a long day), I attended the inaugural meeting of the Community Foundation of Las Vegas. I was asked to serve on the Advisory Committee for this new foundation and I agreed. One of my goals this year was to pick up another board membership (I already serve on the Main Street Board) and the new Community Foundation is where I landed. I have previously served on a large community foundation and it was a very good and positive experience. It brought so many good things to the community (the New River Valley in Virginia) and although those meetings were on top of everything else I was doing, I always felt good afterward—my colleagues and I had made the world a little better. I thank Bob Mishler, the President of the Las Vegas Community Foundation and former HU professor, and his colleagues for getting this started. Together (only together) will we make Las Vegas better.
- I strongly encourage the campus community to attend an upcoming and very important AAUW meeting. The local branch of AAUW is sponsoring a community forum on the ground-breaking Yazzie v. State of New Mexico lawsuit which will change the way New Mexico funds public schools. The community forum is scheduled for November 10th at 10:30 a.m. at the NMHU Student Union Building, Governance Room, #320. The speaker will be Mr. Charles Sallee, Deputy Director of the Legislative Finance Committee. Mr. Sallee has worked for the Legislative Finance Committee since 2005, conducting and overseeing program evaluations of state agencies, higher education, and public schools. Mr. Sallee will be speaking about the lawsuit itself, the LFC’s education research on what works and what needs to change in the way schools are funded, what the Legislature has already done to address issues ultimately cited as problems by the court, what plaintiff groups say needs to happen, and a general fiscal and education outlook for the upcoming session. Mr. Sallee will speak and then allow about 30 minutes or so for Q & A. This is our opportunity to learn more about what to expect in terms of changes that may occur in public school funding, changes in teacher preparation program at HU and other universities and additional issues of vital concern for the future of education in New Mexico. I hope everyone will be able to attend this important meeting not only to learn, but to provide your input and to have any of your questions answered by someone who is as knowledgeable about this as anyone. Many thanks to Barbara Casey and AAUW for bringing this to our campus.
- I heard from AD Snow this week in regard to our new freshmen numbers who are also student athletes. Last year we had 60 first time freshmen student athletes…this year we have 101 first time freshmen in athletics. Last year we devised a strategy to attempt to increase new freshmen enrolment by adding some student athletes and it certainly appears to be working. Well done to all.
10.I hope everyone received the first Business Office Newsletter. This is yet another attempt to improve the communication network and I applaud the effort. We do not have a newspaper on campus so newsletters and similar things are really important to share information. The newsletter is attached (above).
11.This week, I also heard about some recent activities of some of our social work students. Diana Venegas, Shania Ramirez, and Karla Espinoza attended the Latino Social Work Organization Conference in Chicago and from everything I heard, represented HU so very well. Well done. A photo of our wonderful students in the Windy City:
Halloween is nearly upon us and that day evokes lots of memories of my kids getting costumes ready and planning other activities. One of my favorite Halloween memories is of our young son telling us that if the purpose of Halloween was to collect candy, he would not be going out into the neighborhood and instead, he’d just stay home, turn out the lights and not answer the door at all, thus keeping all the candy himself and saving him the trouble of walking door to door in the dark and cold. I really couldn’t fault his reasoning then and I guess I still can’t. In honor of Halloween, one of my favorites by Carl Sandburg:
Theme in Yellow
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.
Greetings Colleagues. A brief update for the week October 15-19. This going out a little early since I have many homecoming duties at the end of the week.
- Last Sunday, about 125 people attended the New Mexico Painter’s Show we hung in Santa Fe. This was the first time we took that show “on the road” and it was a huge success. Joan and I did not make the trip down for the opening reception due to the weather, which I regret. Many thanks to Renee, Terri, and the entire team in Advancement and Alumni Relations for their efforts as well as all who were able to attend and did so. Well done. It may not be all that apparent to many on campus, but there have been incredible improvements in regard to HU’s collection of art. When I arrived, I constantly heard about our wonderful art collection, but…no one really knew what we had, how much it was worth or frankly, even where everything was located. Today, we have a pretty complete inventory, a good valuation of the collection’s worth, and a robust art outreach program. We now have a well-engineered process for accepting donations of art. These improved outcomes are all due to the efforts of Renee Buchanan and Terri Law. We continue to receive rave reviews about our collection, our use of the materials, and on and on.
- Dr. Orit Tamir recently wrote me to let me know that HU will soon be receiving a gift of Southwest pottery and baskets from a generous donor. These artifacts will be on display in the Drew Gallery and used in our anthropology lab. Our students will have access to them, which of course, is an incredible opportunity for real hands-on and high impact learning. I am certainly not an anthropologist of any kind, but I did receive a good introduction to archeology and anthropology from Lewis Binford when I worked at Truman State. Dr. Binford hosted many good colleagues to his home in Kirksville, MO and often allowed guests to examine all types of artifacts he had collected over his extensive and storied career. He was a long term faculty at UNM, a great scholar, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a generous and good colleague. One lesson I learned from him focused on the many advantages of providing students with access to real objects—real artifacts. And…we are doing the same here thanks to the efforts of Orit. Well done.
- Joan and I attended some of the Siro-A performance on Tuesday evening and…well, it is hard to describe. They call it a Techno Circus. There was a clown and he (or she…not sure) was glowing. Super high energy. Lots of flashing lights. Kind of strange things happening on stage. An odd (and from my perspective, a little creepy) Hello Kitty kind of figure walking around. Lots and lots of audience participation. But, a lot of fun and really interesting. The group sometimes promotes their tour as “Something You’ve Never Seen” and I’d have to agree. Siro-A was brought to the campus by the Campus Life initiative. I should also note that the manager of this group spoke to me at some length about the hospitality demonstrated by the HU staff and also, how much the performers enjoyed the food in our cafeteria, particularly the Texas Toast burgers. He went on about that for some time…so go Sodexo. A very poor photo I took of the glowing clown, a much better photo of a performer from Sean, and all of the performers out of costume:
- You may have heard that our good colleagues at Luna CC have selected a new president. Dr. Bruce Moses currently works at Pima Community College in Tucson and he will start at Luna in a few months. Some years ago, I lived in Tucson and Pima CC always had a really great reputation. I have already contacted Dr. Moses, congratulated him on his selection as the new president, and invited him to meet with me at his earliest convenience to begin what I know will be a positive and productive collaboration. When we collaborate in significant ways with Luna, we all win. Students win most of all. A photo of Dr. Moses:
- This semester, I will be establishing a “town-gown commission” (might ultimately be called something else) designed to promote closer collaboration between the City of Las Vegas and the campus. I think all of the campuses I’ve worked in the past supported some group like this and I think we should do the same. Like other small towns where I’ve lived, the local state university (in this case, HU) is critical to the overall economic and social development of the area and the more we can work together—the better for everyone. The Commission will ideally include some individuals from the City, local PD, citizens of Las Vegas, and some folks from the campus. Dr. Sammeth will soon be briefing the Senate about this and soliciting some names of interested people to serve on the Commission. Please consider serving on this group. It is really an important thing to do.
- Additional public art installations continue to go up around campus and they really look great. Again, I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen, particularly Professor Lobdell and AVPAA Ian Williamson. I know there are many others who helped. This week the large monoliths were installed outside Rogers. They really look incredible and I’ve already heard some nice comments from people seeing them for the first time. I am hardly the first one to suggest that life in 2018 is pretty coarse. There’s so much divisiveness, ugly language, and anger these days. Some people just seem mad all the time. Just turn on the TV, read the paper, or whatever. Maybe that’s justified. Maybe not…but man…what a way to live. I think it is important that HU and all places of higher learning do what can be done to celebrate the aesthetic dimensions of life. The beauty of life. And the public art we are installing supports that very much. I mean…can you look at and seriously reflect on these monoliths and stay mad about something? Maybe. I can’t. Here’s a couple images of the sculptures:
- This week I was informed that our beloved VATOS won their last match. This victory—a victory over Colorado College—59-3. They are on a roll. Go VATOS.
- I ask that the faculty and staff to please stay informed of developments in regard to the ERB—the Educational Retirement Board. Numerous possible changes are being discussed including potential suspension of COLA adjustments for retirees. I and the other university presidents are very interested in all views on this matter so please let me know if you have some. Here’s a fairly recent article about some possible changes (https://news.unm.edu/news/new-mexico-erb-considers-pension-fund-changes) and here’s the ERB website (https://www.nmerb.org/). Many retirement funds across the country are underfunded and some are seriously underwater. I think of my Dad who had great overall benefits as a steelworker and a pension that was supposedly “bulletproof” according to everyone who worked there. Well…in the end it wasn’t bulletproof at all and what ultimately happened to him and his colleagues after lifetimes of hard and dedicated work was a real shame. More than ¼ of our staff are between the ages 55-64 and about 18% of our faculty are in that age range. Consistent with national trends, almost 21% of our faculty are 65 years old or older. Let’s don’t let this slip off the radar until it is too late to do something about it. I certainly stand ready to assist the staff and faculty as I can on this.
- The HU Office of Outdoor Recreation continues to arrange interesting and healthy excursions for our students. Ski season will begin soon, but until then how about some rock climbing at the Stone Age Rock Climbing Gym—one of the premiere climbing facilities in the entire Southwest? The trip is on Saturday, October 27 and is limited to 25 students. No cost to students for transportation, entry fee to the gym, etc. Everything is covered by the Campus Life fee. See attachment above.
10.One of my former doctoral students now works at Columbia University and she recently sent me an extremely thorough study done there regarding the experiences of women and faculty of color. A variety of issues were examined including compensation, work-life balance, work climate issues, overall workload (and the nature of that work), and other factors. Some gains have apparently been made there (and other places as well), but a variety of problems persist. This has been on my mind lately and I am thinking about what we need to do about it here at HU. There are a couple options that come to my mind, but I am also interested in hearing from you. I’ll ask Carolina to schedule an informal session where interested people can meet and we’ll have a discussion—that may lead to more solid action. But I want to hear from you. Be on the lookout for that announcement.
11.As I imagine everyone knows, this is Homecoming Week and my calendar is quite full with those events. I love Homecoming and it is so great to see alums, their families, and friends of HU. I enjoy hearing their HU stories. The word alum comes from the Latin alere, meaning to nourish and I love that idea. Attend a university and get nourished…nourished in new ideas. Nourished in new ways of engaging the world. Nourished in greater understandings of self and what it means to live a life of deep meaning and purpose. Nourished in deeper understandings of our responsibilities as humans…to each other, to the earth, and to justice. To making the world a better place during the short time we are on this planet. Dreams nourished. To be a part of all that is pretty special. I have participated or will participate in the Cowgirl Way Luncheon, the President’s Coffee, the Class of 1968 & All Greek President’s Reception, the 1893 Reception and Silent Auction, the Alumni and Distinguished Honoree Banquet, the bonfire, the parade, tailgating, the football and soccer games, and more. Thanks for attending these events as you can.
12.Breaking news—the actor and rapper Ice Cube is coming to HU. Brought to you by the Arts@HU Performance series. If you purchase a ticket—they range from $75 to $45. HU students—free to you.
Poem Of The Week—-this one In honor of dream and the first snow of the season in Northern New Mexico:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams g
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
An incredible carpet of yellow leaves in the front yard of the University Residence. Beautiful.
“Yellow is the color of the east, childhood, and morning.”
Jeffrey D. Anderson, Arapaho Women’s Quillwork: Motion, Life, and Creativity
The Noble One is no longer a resident of Las Vegas, but I remain in close contact. Panthera Leo Piper ready for Halloween:
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week October 8-October 12:
- Joan and I joined alums, faculty, staff, and friends of HU at a wonderful alumni/fundraising dinner on Friday evening. The event took place on the landing outside our telescope atop Ivan Hilton. It was catered by the owners of The Skillet and…it was really great. Small plates were conceptually paired with the planets in our solar system—a very different approach, but it worked. There was great music and an auction. This sold out event was really special. Thanks to Terri, Juli, and everyone who made it happen. Also many thanks to those who attended.
- Monday was Indigenous Day on the HU campus. We welcomed Deb Haaland, candidate for the United State House of Representatives. If Ms. Haaland wins, she will be the first Native American woman to serve in the House. Many thanks to all who attended this special event. A photo of Ms. Haaland speaking on our campus:
- Another news article about our new partnership with LANL and Pojoaque:
- On Tuesday, several HU folks appeared before HED to talk about our special (RPSP) requests this year. These requests are put forward by each campus and are considered “below the line” requests—that is, distinct from whatever increases (or decreases) the higher education sector in general receives. We proposed an expanded initiative in career services, an accelerated teacher education program designed to address the teacher shortage in New Mexico, a request for additional nursing faculty, a new initiative in Social Work designed to more powerfully serve Native American people, and others. All of our requests were very well received. Of course, this is but the first step in this process, but I will say I think we are off to a good start. Thanks to everyone who participated in this process. I’ll keep the campus informed as these various requests move forward.
- Also this week I was in Santa Fe for a special board meeting. This meeting focused on some of the fiscal challenges we face—the various long standing issues around the Student Union Building and those related to Highlands Stable Isotopes. One of my major goals this year is to deal with these once and for all and I do think we made a great deal of progress at the meeting. I see more clear paths to resolving these matters more now than ever before.
- I had to duck out of the special board meeting for an hour or so to participate in a conference call with Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. The Council of University Presidents (CUP) previously had a conference call with Steve Pearce and we had a similar call with Ms. Lujan Grisham on Thursday. It was a wide ranging discussion. Ms. Lujan Grisham spoke of the importance of working more collaboratively with the institutions of higher education, the importance of increasing faculty and staff wages (especially using some merit approach—she supports high achievers being rewarded for their extraordinary efforts), issues related to regents and regent selection, and others. I really appreciated the fact that both candidates took time to meet with the university presidents. I think that says a great deal about their interest in and support of higher education.
- HU has had a long and very positive relationship with the Denver Zoo and Rio Mora Refuge. The initial gift supporting Rio Mora has been spent down and in nearly expended altogether. It is really important that the partners, including us, find some way to continue the partnership and ideally, expand it. It is just too important. Several good HU folks are working very hard on this and I stand ready to help as I can. Here’s a very nice brochure detailing the partnership thus far: click here.
- I hope to see some good colleagues at the New Mexico Painter’s Show which is hung at the Santa Fe County Building in Santa Fe at 102 Grant Avenue. I think this is the first time we’ve taken this show “on the road” and doing so has generated some good buzz about HU and our commitment to the region. The show opens this Sunday at 4:00 p.m.
- Due to my and other travel schedules this week, we held the EMT on Friday. We began the meeting with a brief discussion about the changing face of the professoriate (go to: https://www.aaup.org/sites/default/files/10112018%20Data%20Snapshot%20Tenure.pdf?elqTrackId=821261a02dd04de7956245f69731a3ac&elq=dd050fa6e7c4464bb372a1ea43e4fe65&elqaid=20941&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=9917) . I hear many people assert that American higher education has not and will never change. That’s simply not true. No way—and the changing face of the professoriate is but one example. As a freshly minted faculty member, I’m not sure I ever heard the term “adjunct faculty” at all. I know for a fact that the first academic department I was in had no—zero—part-time or adjunct faculty whatsoever. Everyone was tenured or on the tenure track. 100%. Today, as you can see in the AAUP report, full-time tenure track or tenured) faculty members are a distinct minority in American higher education. The implications of that are huge and that change happened in one generation of scholars. So—change is afoot in American higher education. Good—bad—or in-between—things are changing. We went on to regional/state level issues and looked at the compensation challenges at our sister institution—UNM. All campuses in new Mexico face these issues. Basically, we’re all state employees and we reside and work in a relatively poor state. As everyone knows, that makes it a real challenge to recruit top talent and keep them here. I should note that the CUP is advocating a 5% compensation increase for next year. I’ll do my best to push for that. Here’s the article we read: https://www.abqjournal.com/1227524/unm-faculty-pay-trails-well-behind-us-averages.html. Finally, at the local level, we took a look at the press release pertaining to the new President of Luna Community College. Go to:http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/new-president-calls-luna-community-college-a-diamond-in-the/article_b2412bc7-471a-5e7c-b30b-f8e0ad4ea384.html. The remainder of the meeting was devoted to the campus emergency plan, an update on the institutional dashboard we are building, and other matters including a new “Seal of Excelencia” credential that would certify qualifying intuitions as great Hispanic serving universities.
Poem Of The Week—Another One For The Fall—A Real Classic
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week October 1-October 5.
- Late last week I was informed that our online nursing program was fully reaccredited. Our program is good to go until 2024. Well done to Dr. Flood, all of her colleagues, and everyone who helped make this happen. This is wonderful news.
- Our auditors should finish up next week and things look solid all the way around. We’ll have to pay close attention to spring enrollment, but if it holds up at all, we anticipate an improved financial picture for HU—one of my key goals this year. Many thanks to everyone in the Business Office for the extra efforts to accommodate our auditors and provide timely responses to their numerous requests.
- Our first major Campus Life performance for the fall, 2018 term will be held October 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Ilfeld. Our performers will be Siro-A, a dance troupe from Japan. This group appeared onAmerica’s Got Talent and afterward began touring around the world. Their performance incorporates modern dance, techno lighting, and special visual effects. I asked a student worker what this group did and she said they were at the forefront of the techno-dance movement. I nodded and walked on. Of course, I have no idea what any of that means. We’ll be announcing our first major Campus Life act for the fall term very soon. I have actually heard of him, so I am happy about that. Here’s a YouTube clip of the Siro-A group:
- Dr. Allard in Institutional Research recently provided a detailed report regarding our recent graduation rates. Here’s a few highlights from his report:
First-Time, Full-Time, Degree-Seeking Cohorts
- Fall 2014 cohort (4-year graduation rate):
o The overall 4-year graduation rate for this cohort was 20.4%, significantly higher than for previous cohorts.
o Graduation rates increase dramatically with increasing Highlands GPA. Students in this cohort with a final cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher had a 62.2% graduation rate.
- Fall 2012 cohort (6-year graduation rate):
o For the most part, graduation rate patterns for this cohort tend to mirror the fall 2014 cohort (see above), with a few exceptions.
o Athletes had higher 6-year graduation rates than non-athletes; this was true for earlier cohorts as well.
- Many thanks to the crews who recently completed speed bumps and other traffic control features on National Avenue. I have already noticed that traffic is slower on that busy street. This is a great example of “closing the loop” to improve outcomes. Last winter, some members of the student government and some administrators, staff, and faculty members toured the campus during the evening to identify safety issues and concerns. To say it was a “dark and stormy night” absolutely captures what was going on that evening. It was cold with a mix of rain and snow. The weather was so nasty that I assumed (and secretly hoped) the tour would be called off. But, our intrepid students would have none of that. We all did the tour and congregated at the end for some much needed hot chocolate. One of the areas we focused on was National…too much traffic, cars going too fast, and pedestrian crossings not really well marked. It is a dangerous street. The student government communicated their concerns to me and the Board and today…numerous improvements have been made. Problems noted—problems addressed—loops more or less closed. Well done to all.
- I am so pleased to see that we are offering so many interesting and fun activities to our students. Just this week I received emails about numerous free events for our students including a hike at Nambe Falls and, of all things, Black Footed Ferret Day. I had no idea there was such a thing, but apparently, we support BFFD here at Highlands. Maybe we just made the day up, but we held the event this week nonetheless. A poster in support of BFFD and a shot of Nambe Falls:
Speaking of free things for our students to do, I am pleased we are opening the SUB Theatre on Fridays for free screenings of 3D films such as Jurassic World 3D, Wonder Woman 3D, the gloriously gory Texas Chainsaw 3D (…a film initially banned in several countries…you go Leatherface…), and others. All films are free to our students. Concessions are also available. Well done to Margaret Gonzales and her team for bringing this to the campus for the benefit of our students.
- Margaret Gonzales, Juli Salman, and I were on KFUN radio this week to talk about homecoming events. I left the radio station in time to make this month’s Coffee With The President. The Coffee was well attended and many thanks to everyone who participated.
- Our recent MOU signing with Pojoaque Valley and LANL has attracted quite a bit of interest from the press. A photo of the partners signing the MOU for our Professional Development School and a couple nice newspaper articles on our new partnership:
- Roxanne, David Sammeth, and I had breakfast early Thursday morning with some of the first-year faculty. It was really a great discussion. I am so thankful that these top professionals elect to devote their time, energy, and talents to HU and our students. I anticipate we’ll do another breakfast for this group sometime in the spring.
10.Two great HU colleagues, Joe Dominguez and Tranquilino Hurtado, recently traveled to Adams State to participate in a panel discussion titled Great Stories From Hispanic Males. Joe and Tranquilino talked about their cultural traditions and family values, how those values influenced their success in higher education and in life, and related topics. Thanks to these two colleagues for representing HU so well. A photo of Joseph, Tranquilino, and their fellow panelists:
11.It is always important to “close the loop” ins some fashion. Identify an area of importance or potential problem or maybe even an area where there is a known problem, get direct information and feedback about how things are going in that domain, and then…make changes, as you can, on the basis of that information. As you know, HU has been criticized in the past for not doing enough of this kind of thing. But that has changed, at least to some degree. Yet another example—Margaret Gonzales recently sent an email to the campus community asking people to tell us how they’d rate their dining experience on campus. Please encourage students to participate in this survey. I promise we’ll take the results seriously and wherever the needle comes to rest—people are happy—people are OK with dining—people are not pleased—we’ll work to improve our performance. That simple continuous improvement process is the path to excellence—you try to get better no matter where you start. Being displeased or unhappy about something and not taking some action is a recipe for changing nothing—nothing improves. There is only griping. But measuring how things are going and then attempting to improve things based on the results—there is some chance for improvement with that approach. I am really pleased we are using data to move toward improved outcomes. Thanks to all who are using real information—not just individual opinions (although those count too)—to improve our outcomes.
12.I hope to see some good colleagues at this evening’s Molecular G Astronomy dinner at the HU Observatory on top of the Ivan Hilton Science Building. Local chefs extraordinaire, Isaac and Shawna Sandoval, will cater this special event and as I understand it, small plates will be served that somehow and someway connect with each planet in our solar system. Sounds fun and Isaac and Shawna always do a great job. This event is a fundraiser and I understand the event is sold out.
13.I continue to plug along on my Science of Happiness course from Yale University. I am enjoying it and since it is asynchronous, I can participate at any time—of course, as everyone knows, that’s one of the main advantages of online learning. The course is so well done—readings, exercises, etc.—all really well organized. I continue to be surprised by the never ending debate—is online as good as bricks and mortar? That’s really an apples and oranges kind of thing. For some students in some circumstances taking some classes from some professors, face-to-face is so much better. For other students in other circumstances taking some classes from some professors—online is superior, by far. And, of course, we cannot forget about the single most important driver predicting course quality and student learning—the professor. I am pleased we are moving forward in a thoughtful way in regard to online classes and programs. We already support some of that—not much, but some—and serving more students in demographic groups we have not really addressed all that much using “new” modalities (if online delivery can really be called new anymore) is the likely path forward. We should strive to serve as many students as possible with high quality and affordable cost and to also build enrollment to bring new resources to HU. I have been as direct as possible with the Provost—serve as many students as we can serve with high quality and….grow enrollment to bring new resources to the campus.
Poem of The Week
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Greetings colleagues. A brief update from the last weekend and for the week September 24-28:
- Last Friday afternoon I was able to attend a reception at ARMAS. Eli, Susan, and others worked with Renee to hang a number of paintings and photographs in the ARMAS area for the benefit of visitors to that space and, of course, the students who work and study there. The enthusiasm of the student hosts was really great. I am so pleased that this happened. HU has an incredible art collection and most of it is not on display. Art is to be shown. It is produced to feed the soul of the artist and to inspire, sometimes provoke, and to help people think about new perspectives and new way of engaging the world. The noted Santa Fe artist, Eli Levin, also attended the reception and interacted with our students and others in attendance. Well done to everyone who made this happen. An Eli Levin painting:
- I recently received an email from Tina Clayton, the HU point person with international students. Tina shared an article about Ali Sider, an HU student who participated in the UGRAD program. That program brings future leaders to the U.S. to experience the U.S. educational system, share their culture, and explore U.S. culture and values. The program is administered by World Learning on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. UGRAD provides one semester scholarships to outstanding undergraduate students from around the world for non-degree full-time study combined with community service, professional development, and cultural enrichment. Here’s the article: http://blog.worldlearning.org/global-gazette/2018/09/12/alumni-update-jordan/. Many thanks to Tina for managing this program so well and bringing top UGRAD students like Ali to our campus.
- The weekend was a busy one beginning with a Friday dinner with a good friend to HU, a faculty member, and two visitors from Flagstaff, Arizona. The folks from Flagstaff are associated with a longstanding Shakespeare Festival there and are interested in bringing some productions, master classes, etc. to Las Vegas and HU. It was a productive meeting and at this point, we are awaiting a more formal proposal from them. It would be great to have some Shakespeare productions available to our students, local K-12 students, and members of the community. It was fun to connect with them as they knew several people I or my daughter (who grew up there) call friends. If you’d like to learn a bit more about the Flagstaff Festival, sometimes referred to as FlagShakes, go to: https://azdailysun.com/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/flagstaff-shakespeare-festival-opens-fourth-season-with-the-taming-of/article_4cbd6d70-bfac-5307-81de-9a3ad58ecd04.html. Saturday morning and afternoon were filled with athletics events and on Saturday evening, I and several HU faculty, staff, and administrators attended the Castaneda Under the Stars (CUTS) event at the Castaneda Hotel. The hotel is very much an active construction site right now, but even given that, several hundred people enjoyed beautiful weather, a nice meal, presentations about the history of the hotel and plans for the grand re-opening, and music and dancing. The finished hotel will include the hotel, of course, an upscale dining and bar area, and beautiful restored accommodations right here in Las Vegas. Several members of our board, elected officials, artists, and others were there and I have to say, I have never seen enthusiasm for Las Vegas any higher. The phrase I heard more than any other was the “Renaissance of Las Vegas” with the historic Plaza Hotel at one of the street, the renovated Castaneda at the other, expanded and new businesses in-between, and of course, HU, right in the middle of it all. You may or may not know that Main Street Las Vegas has spearheaded an effort to produce shovel ready plans for development of the Railroad District and if those come to pass—and I think they will—that area will simply be beautiful—cobblestone streets, period correct lighting, public art, etc. If I can get the job done closing National and making University a two way street thus making the drive off of I-25 to the Plaza easier, more direct, and more intuitive—so much the better. A photo of Allan Affeldt and some of his associates in front of the Castaneda.
- Monday began with an early morning phone call from the Council of University Presidents to Congressman Steve Pearce, the Republican candidate for governor. Mr. Pearce shared his vision for New Mexico and then the university presidents asked questions in a variety of areas including the role of higher education in economic development, the higher education funding formula, faculty and staff compensation, regent appointments and training, collaboration with K-12, and others. The CUP will have a similar call with Michelle Lujan Grisham.
- Immediately after the phone call, the Executive Management Team met with HR Director Denise Montoya to finish up some training on various HR policies and procedures. Many of the people in higher administrative positions, including me, really have no formal training in management at all. They come from the faculty ranks and quite literally are trained on the job. What does “at will” employment mean? What does exempt and non-exempt mean? If someone tells you that they are resigning, is that as good as getting something in writing? These and many other issues were discussed and many questions asked and answered. The training was very well done and I thank Denise for her leadership.
- I learned on Monday that the Mighty VATOS won another game over the weekend. This time they defeated New Mexico Tech 59-10. Well done VATOS!
- With the recent rains, the campus is sprouting a pretty healthy crop of weeds. As a little experiment, we are trying a time honored goat control method that goes something like this—show goat weeds—goat eats weeds—weeds are gone—goat is happy—the end. Brownie the miniature goat is helping control weeds near Sanchez stadium. No noisy mower. No fossil fuel burned. 100% natural. Brownie is performing well and like goats around the world, will apparently eat virtually anything. A photo of Brownie the HU Weed Eating Goat:
- We held the usual Tuesday morning Executive Management Team meeting on Tuesday and morning and began with a discussion what so many people believe is an ever widening schism between the few institutions that have incredible resources and the vast majority of institutions that have seen their resources and support dwindling over the years. Here’s the article we read:https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/96-billion. If you look at the article you’ll see that Harvard University just finished up a five-year fundraising campaign and brought in $9.6 billion….yes, billion. An extremely conservative investment of 9.6B would yield about 288 million…every year. That would be enough for HU to build a new building or two every year, pay everyone top dollar, provide free medical care for everyone, completely replace all of our equipment whenever we wanted to do so, and…charge nothing to our students whatsoever. Totally free. Every…single…year…into perpetuity. The incredible differences between Harvard and HU did and do not occur by chance. Things have been arranged over the years for the Harvard corpus to dramatically grow—mainly by virtue of who is admitted in the first place—and now, as I wrote, they accrue 288mil every year just off that corpus. We discussed the implications of this kind of thing for American higher ed generally. Will, for example, many institutions shrink until death while a few keep all the marbles? Is that fair and OK? Can and should anything be done about it? It was a stimulating conversation and for me at least, very thought provoking. The remainder of the meeting was devoted to various HLC issues, HU’s emergency response manual, and updates from everyone.
- I spent quite a bit of time on Wednesday driving to Pojoaque to sign the MOU with Pojoaque Valley Schools and LANL. The Lab issued an RFP for institutions of higher education to enter into an agreement with them and Pojoaque Valley Schools to establish a partnership to improve teacher preparation and ultimately, to improve K-12 performance. People have been working on this for some time—mostly Virginia, Warren, and Roxanne—and yesterday HU faculty, staff, and administrators met with the board, LANL’s President and Lab Director, and others to sign the MOU. Well done to all who made this happen. A photo of everyone signing the MOU:
10.Thursday began with an early morning conference call with other RMAC presidents followed immediately by a wonderful Power Of Service event in the Student Union. We started the Power of Service program last year by offering a number of service oriented workshops—voluntary participation. This effort was led by Dr. Denise Montoya and included a fabulous team—Laird Thornton, Cathy Santistevan, Juli Salman, April Kent, Mary Cole, Patricia Lopez, Josephine Sena, Adele Ludi, and Michelle Bencomo. At the event on Thursday, we shared the results of our annual service survey where we ask students their perceptions of the service they’ve received. I am so pleased to note that the trend is going up. There is always more room for improvement, of course, but the trend is heading the right direction . There was a great panel discussion from HU managers and some businesswomen from the community who shared their perspectives on what good customer service meant, how they helped people provide good service , etc. The program ended when we awarded certificates and $100 checks to each person who attended all Power of Service trainings. Eighteen people received the awards and checks. Those colleagues are:
- Melissa Bassett, Recruitment and Admissions, Admissions Coordinator
- Michelle Bencomo, Strategic Enrollment Mgt, Customer Relations Coordinator
- Mary Cole, Recruitment and Admissions, Administrative Assistant
- Sharon Doom, San Juan College, Student Center Education Specialist
- Ron Garcia, Career Services, Director
- Jessica Jaramillo, Institutional Research, Institutional Effectiveness & Research Associate
- April Kent, Library, Librarian – Head of Public Service Division
- Patricia Lopez, Library, Office Coordinator
- Adele Ludi, IT Services, Technology Support Services Manager
- Caroline Montoya, Academic Support, Academic Advisor-Coordinator of Training & Career Assessment
- Yvonne Quintana, Finance and Administration, Executive Administrative Assistant
- Ivy Romero, Institutional Research, Institutional Effectiveness & Research Associate
- Shannon Saiz, Academic Support, Student Orientation Coordinator/Advisor
- Julianne Salman, Alumni, Alumni Director
- Cathy Santistevan, Human Resources, Administrative Secretary
- Josephine Sena, Library, Librarian-Head of Government
- Maria Sena, Strategic Enrollment Mgt., Executive Administrative Assistant
- Paul Tenorio, Library, Library Associate-Reference
I am so pleased about this initiative. Well done to all. A few photos from this well-attended event:
11.Also on Thursday, HU received information regarding our 3 Year Default Rate. This is a mandatory thing and measures the default rates of the loans our students are carrying. Our rate went down from last year and is significantly down since 2014. This means that our students are paying back their loans—good news indeed—and this I true, in part, because our students carry relatively low debt in the first place. Many trends are improving at HU. Our first time freshmen enrollment grew this year. Our retention rate was way up this year. Private giving is up from a few years ago. The academic performance of student athletes is up. Student satisfaction with service is up. All good things. Of course, there’s plenty of room for improvement. For example, we must enroll more students overall and we must continue to improve our CFI. But, I must say…I like the trends.
12.This week I tried to catch up on my online class, The Science of Happiness, from Yale University. The class is so well done. The recent topic was on the “culture of busyness” and how harried so many people seem to be these days and why that might be. Lots and lots of people, of course, are really busy. A 40 hour + job, a commute if you don’t live in the town where you work, non-stop emails and other social media activities, and of course….your whole life outside of work. That all adds up to a lot. If you have kids or are caring for someone, it can really get out of control. Believe me, I know. But, a lot of the reading and discussion focused on how so many people (me?) work so hard to portray their life as super busy…even if it is perhaps not really out of control. I learned that years ago the dynamic was…look at me…I am so wealthy that I have tons of leisure time. Yea me. Apparently, this stems from the noted economist Thorstein Veblen who wrote of the “conspicuous abstention from labor” among the wealthy. This was way back—1899. However, today, lots and lots of wealthy and famous people (and many who are neither…like me) go out of their way to talk about how super busy they are. According to my professor, this is often about status and some need to have others believe that you’re super important—your work, the others in your life, the world—just couldn’t get by without you. I learned how this can really be an unhealthy thing. I had some homework—query a few people about how busy they were. And, the results were exactly as the professor suggested they would be—everyone I spoke to was incredibly busy, out-of-control, and barely keeping head above water. After some reflection, I acknowledged that I have made these very same assertions many times and still often do. There were a few exercises to think about what might be done about all this. I won’t share those thoughts as they are too personal. But, in general, I wonder…what might be done to mitigate the culture of busyness?
“You can’t be unhappy in the middle of a big, beautiful river. “
Greetings colleagues. A brief update from the last weekend and the week of September 17-21:
- Many thanks to some members of our baseball team for assisting a local non-profit, MainStreet de Las Vegas, to move out of their old office and into a new space. At some point, we should probably try to calculate how many service hours HU students devote to the local community. It has to be a very high number.
- My most recent Op Ed appeared in the Sunday Optic. If you want to take a look: click here.
- At this time in the semester, some of our students are facing challenges—grades, self-doubt, maybe homesickness, etc. In an attempt to address some of these issues , I recently sent a message to our students offering a personal story and hopefully, a word or two of encouragement. Nothing is new, I’ve heard, and that is certainly true in this case. One of my president colleagues does this on a routine basis and he reports some interest in and positive responses to his messages. Here’s what I sent to our students:
By now, you’re well into your classes, and I hope your semester is off to a positive and challenging start. I also suspect you have hit one of your first challenges of the semester – or you’re about to do so. Overcoming challenges is a part of college life and life as a whole. You’re not alone.
When I was starting off in college, one of the first tests I took resulted in an F. A big, prominent, red F right on top of the page. FAIL. It caused me to wonder if I belonged in college. Like many of you, I was the first in my family to attend college and wondered if I should just leave and follow my father’s footsteps and go work in a factory.
It’s called impostor syndrome. It’s that nagging belief that you don’t really belong in college. That one day, you will be found out as a fake. It’s also 100 percent wrong. You do belong in college, and you most definitely belong at New Mexico Highlands.
Let me repeat that: You belong here!
When you look at all the successful people you know and the successful people in the world, they have two things in common: they made mistakes and they had failures. Just like you.
The great thing about being here at Highlands is you don’t have to go at it alone. Talk to your professors. Talk to your advisers. You might be surprised to find out they’ve had similar experiences and can give you the tools you need to succeed.
I consider it an honor that you chose New Mexico Highlands University. If you see me around on campus, please take a moment to say hi and let me know how your semester is going.
Sam Minner, President
I received a number of responses from our students and they were really very gratifying. I don’t think these small things will necessarily make huge changes in students, but you really can’t tell what might make a difference. I plan to send a few more of these kinds of messages out to our students. Faculty members, staff members, alumni, really anyone…if you have a personal story that you think might be encouraging to our student body, please feel free to send them to me and with your OK, I’ll email them to our students.
- In a previous weekly message, I mentioned that our good colleagues in Media Arts recently won a nice grant, but I had to wait a bit to provide more details. Now I can do so. The $250,000 grant came from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support programs in rural libraries in Taos and Rio Arriba. Media Arts students will create digital archives reflective of the history and cultural heritages of the communities. I was told when I arrived that the faculty in that discipline were motivated, student focused, and ultimately successful. I have certainly found that to be true. Congratulations to them.
- I received a note from Dr. Sarah Corey-Rivas. She shared a very nice article where her work was prominently featured. Go to: https://blog.nature.org/science/2018/09/17/the-mystery-of-the-dying-boreal-toads/. Sarah is a really wonderful professor here, a great mentor to so many students, and as you can see…a top-notch researcher as well. Well done.
- We held an abbreviated EMT meeting on Tuesday. This semester, we hold a full EMT meeting every other week (i.e., all direct reports to me + representatives from the staff and faculty senates and a few others) and a smaller group on the off weeks. This week I met with Provost Gonzales, Dr. Martinez, Mr. Baca, and Dr. Allard. We discussed efforts to collect and use more extensive data about our overall performance at HU. I strongly feel we need to take this approach in order to make good decisions about the future. I’ve frequently used the phrase “best in class performance” to describe my own hopes and ambitions for HU. Any effort to achieve best in class status simply must stipulate who is in the “class” and what variables will be measured to ascertain where in the class we stand. In this approach, the “class” (or our peers) might be different than peers considered in regard to compensation. Instead, variables such as retention rates, graduation rates, first destination performance, learning outcomes, and the like usually show up. I think those are the most relevant metrics to measure how good we are. There could be others, of course. I appreciated the discussion and we went on to other things including spring schedules and recent issues with our internet (now thankfully resolved).
- We are definitely on track to launch our newest degree program—the MFA. We heard from the HLC this week and now there is one final step at the Higher Learning Commission. Then we’ll launch. I’ll be in touch as soon as we learn we can start advertising for the program. One step to go. Everyone is very optimistic.
- Tuesday was a long day and ended only after a board meeting of MainStreet de Las Vegas. MainStreet in conjunction with folks at the Castaneda will be hosting the “Castaneda Under The Stars” (CUTS) event this Saturday evening. This will be an early preview of the renovation of the historic hotel complete with tours, a nice meal, music, and other activities. The event sold out and has attracted considerable attention including some national attention. The Plaza at one end of the street, the Castaneda at the other end, new business activity on the road between these historic hotels, and…of course…HU right in the middle of it all sounds like a pretty promising economic development plan. MainStreet commissioned a plan for the Las Vegas Railroad District and it is really stunning—public art, nice sidewalks, period street lights, etc. If we can get that done—and I think we can—it would be a great thing for Las Vegas, no doubt.
- Despite great efforts, we just can’t find a date acceptable to both campaigns to hold a gubernatorial debate. However, we still believe that both candidates will be able to appear on our campus (separately) to hold open meetings. I’ll let everyone know when these dates are set. Of course, HU has not and will not endorse one candidate over another—we will simply provide a venue for the candidates to speak and answer questions.
10.On Wednesday, the Provost and I met with Drs. Moore and Romero to discuss plans to more formalize and institutionalize the work of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. The group has been in existence for some time. They are at the vanguard of promoting human diversity in all forms at HU. I think about the recent activities celebrating diversity on our campus—the matanza, the re-establishment of the mariachis troupe, the successful Native American Learning Community, and on and on. I am pleased to support these activities and very interested in what more we could do to make HU an even more welcoming place for all of our students and a model for demonstrating how human diversity enriches all aspects of people’s lives.
11.We’ll soon be starting the budget hearings for the 2018-2019 academic year. Please start thinking about the budget items you would like to see funded and talk to your colleagues and chairs about them. Those recommendations will go to the deans or other managers and ultimately be reviewed and prioritized by the appropriate VP or other executive. We’ve used this process a couple times now and I think it has made our process stronger. Of course, this type of process always results in many items not getting funded. I think last year we had $3mil of requests, but in the early stages everything should be on the table for discussion and vetting. My overall plan is to push budget decisions to lower levels—the deans and ultimately, the chairs and the faculty and staff. I have worked in that kind of environment where deans and chairs made most of the budget decisions and I preferred that approach over centralized budget management. For example, I worked one place where the deans (I was one at the time) were provided a lump of money and told to manage their budget in ways they thought best and were consistent with the institutional strategic plan. As Dean, I kept very few dollars centrally and allocated most of the money to departments based on the number of faculty in each and their credit hour production. The chairs and the faculty made most of the decisions from there. They could do pretty much what they wanted as long as they did not go over budget and the funding decisions connected in some meaningful way with the strategic plan. Department A maybe devoted more money to travel. Department B needed an additional staff support person so they took actions, within their budget, to make that happen ( a full professor retired and they replaced her with a junior level person leaving enough money to hire a staff person—that’s how they elected to deal with the matter). On that campus, it was a new way to handle things and although most people liked it, believe me some did not, plus some deans and chairs were simply not prepared to manage a budget (I certainly wasn’t as a new chair) and things sometimes got out of hand. No system is perfect, I guess, but in general, I am a believer in making budget decisions at the lowest possible level. This overall approach is sometimes called Responsibility Centered Management or RCM. People have more control of their budgets, but then again, people who are perhaps not accustomed to saying yes or no to specific requests sometimes don’t really want to do that. Initially, I didn’t. I was more accustomed to telling my colleagues that the provost said no and I was kind of off the hook to make any hard call. That’s understandable, but that’s not really leadership either. Control and responsibility have to go hand in hand. For the time being, however, we’ll stick with the process we’ve used the last couple years and after all is said and done and the process is over, I’ll share with the campus the final prioritized list.
12.I am so pleased that HU is attracting some positive attention around the improvement of our retention efforts. I received more than 10 messages from all over the state and two from other states congratulating us on our improvements. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child and from my perspective, it takes a campus wide effort to improve student retention. I thank everyone who has worked and is working on that. Of course, every successful effort has a “tip of the spear” and in this case, that’s Dr. Martinez and his team in Strategic Enrollment Management. There is still much to do, of course, but adding first time freshmen this year (under some pretty difficult circumstances) and improving retention are really great achievements. Here’s the article that people saw about our performance: http://www.nmhu.edu/recent-retention-and-graduation-rates-increase-at-highlands/.
13.Several people have been working hard on our RPSP requests for this legislative session. The RPSP (Research Projects/Special Projects) process provides special funding for specific requests at each institution and requires legislative support to move forward. As we’ve done in the past, we have some RPSP requests in for nursing, social work, and several others. Several colleagues and I will make a presentation about our RPSP requests and then…we’ll see what happens in the legislative session.
14.The 2018 matanza is now in the books and I recently met with the people responsible for this successful enterprise. I asked them to provide me with recommendations about going forward…should we have another one?, should we do this on a regular basis?, what went right and what can we improve upon?, etc. I now have their report. Basically, the group feels we should do a matanza on a biennial basis. They also noted that the extra work so many people had to do to make this successful was considerable and if we go forward, we really need a well thought out budget including some resources for personnel. I’ll think about this and make a decision soon. If you have any thoughts, I welcome them.
15.Friday will end with a dinner—a good friend to HU, me, and a faculty member—where we’ll discuss the possibility of some type of Shakespeare event in Las Vegas. I’ll connect back with everyone once I have more information. The weekend will be another busy one—the dinner Friday evening, a football game on Saturday, and the Castaneda Under The Stars event on Saturday night. Busy—but all things that benefit or at least have the potential to benefit HU and our community so I am happy to participate in them.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
To hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
From “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake
Greetings colleagues. A brief update on events from the past weekend and for the week of September 10-14:
- On Friday evening, I and several HU colleagues met with a good friend to our institution to discuss some ideas in our teacher education program. From my perspective, the centrality of teacher quality is a given—the importance of that variable in predicting educational outcomes has been proven time and time again. Most studies find that the variation in student learning is something like 5-15% across schools and the variation between classes within schools is usually in the 50s. That means what happens in a given school is more important than what happens between them—hence, the variable of teacher quality emerges as critical. Bottom line—good school leaders matter, good physical plants matter, modern technology matters…really everything matters…but the thing that matters most is teacher quality. A good and especially a great teacher is likely to contribute to high student achievement…even if she or he is working in a poor school populated with students facing many challenges. This is true, in my view, in K-12 schools as well as higher education. It is true in all educational endeavors. I saw great teaching in a Quonset hut in Belize and I’ve seen terrible teaching in a state of the art classroom in a building costing $75mil. Now believe me, I certainly do not think this means that we should not fund education adequately. I do, of course…but focusing on what matters most is really critical. Although I think this is very well established, it amazes me that so little attention is paid to teacher quality variable and hours and hours of debates are devoted to less important issues. Much is also known about what a good teacher looks like—his or her characteristics. And this seems to be also true in higher education. Again, we really don’t seem to pay much attention to that.
- On Saturday morning AD Snow tried a new idea—Breakfast on Baca. Early risers enjoyed free breakfast burritos and donuts before the game and we ran out of both—a good sign. We played Adams State at 1:00 p.m. It was an exciting game and we won 65-37. I know it is only two games into the season, but HU is the #1 Division II team in the nation in regard to offense. That’s pretty good. We had a nice crowd at the game and I met several people who flew to Las Vegas just to see the game. Numerous out-of-town visitors also drove here and it was good to meet them. Our Cowgirls recently won at CSU-Pueblo and our soccer team gets going this weekend. A photo from the last football game:
- On Sunday, Joan and I hosted a reception at the University Residence to open the New Mexico Painter’s Exhibition, the only juried painter’s show in New Mexico. We welcomed about 25 people to the Residence for lunch. Afterward, Joan and I went to the opening of the show in Kennedy. It is really quite fabulous and I encourage everyone to see it. Later, we’ll hang the show in Santa Fe and we expect a large turnout for that as well. A photo from the opening at Kennedy:
That was the weekend…between the Friday evening dinner, the Saturday athletics events, and the painting exhibition events on Sunday…it was a busy one. But a good one.
Monday, September 10
- I drove by Kennedy and saw the Advancement team putting up the “free cookies and milk” tent. The team hands out free cookies and cold milk to our students on a regular basis. I know our students enjoy that kind of personal attention. It really goes a long way and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of any other school making those kinds of efforts. Well done.
- I was advised by our Environmental Health and Safety Officer, Brian Hennington, that the New Mexico State Fire Marshal will be on campus in a few weeks (specifically, September 24-28) to conduct required fire/safety inspections on our campus. If you have any questions, call Brian at 2059 or email him at email@example.com. Speaking of Brian, I was able to catch a television screening of Only The Brave, a film about the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Brian was a consultant on that film. He has written a highly regarded textbook on fire fighting and we’re lucky to have him here. He is a real professional.
- On Monday, Dr. Edward Martinez and I did a deep dive one some our retention data. In regard to fall to fall retention, we found that:
- African American student retention is significantly up,
- Hispanic student retention is significantly up,
- Anglo student retention is up a bit,
- first-generation student retention is significantly up, and
- student-athlete retention is significantly up.
Of course, some problems persist. For example, Native American retention was down a bit. Overall however, our first-time freshmen fall to fall retention rate was significantly up—-from 45.0% to 52.0%. That is a really nice single year improvement. Several weeks ago, the Executive Management Team had a phone call with the individual at Georgia State responsible for their phenomenal improvement in retention rates. That institution serves many students like our own and yet…they dramatically improved their performance. How did they do it? It appears that we are already doing some of the things in place in Georgia—learning communities, peer tutoring, etc.—but is also appears that they do some things much better than us. The two areas I noted were advising and last-minute financial aid. They went to a centralized advising system that is obtrusive and in your face. They don’t send out reminders to students to see their advisors or anything like that…they seek them out. I think there is a lesson in that for us. Earlier this week, I walked across campus and saw six students. I asked them who their advisor was. Their responses were not encouraging. Two said they didn’t know. One said he didn’t think he had one. Three said they knew and I asked them when they had last seen their advisor. One said last week and one said at the very beginning of the term. One said he could not remember. As I wrote—not really very encouraging. Georgia State also provides resources for students in their final semester of classes who have run out of financial aid or are otherwise experiencing financial stress. They simply tell those students that their bill will be covered up to, I think, $1500. I have been working with Dr. Martinez to see if we can launch some type of program like that. Every year, we award more scholarship money than is accepted by students (every school does) and perhaps we could use those resources to cover the costs. To try to improve our retention performance even more, a group of faculty members, staff members, and administrators will visit Georgia State and learn from their many successes. The itinerary for that visit appears above. Many thanks to the President’s Leadership Fellow, Dr. Denise Montoya, for arranging the visit.
Tuesday, September 11-Thursday, September 13
- This week was a little unusual as I attended an off-campus event Tuesday-Thursday. The event was the Domenici Public Policy Conference at New Mexico State. The Pete V. Domenici Institute is an annual event bringing world class speakers to New Mexico. It draws more than 1,000 attendees from throughout the region, the nation, and even the world. Speakers at this year’s event included Sam Nunn, Co-Chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Stephen Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Bob Ford, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, Steve Pearce, gubernatorial candidate, Xochitl Torres Small, congressional candidate, James Carville, political consultant, and others. The speakers were incredible, as usual, and I particularly noted how often they commented on a problem in society these days when someone disagrees with another person’s point of view and then quickly transitions to personal attack. The old—I don’t like what you said so I don’t like you—approach, which is all too common these days and almost always results in making things worse. When others rely on name-calling, ad hominem attacks, and automatically assuming the worst—well, it says more about them than anyone else, no? Plus, it almost always results in gridlock of one type or another. One of the greatest things about the Institute is that institutions from around New Mexico are invited to send a student to sit on panels and ask invited speakers questions. The fact that these students meet and have direct interaction with world class leaders is really special. We sent a graduate student, Ms. Cherie Romero, a first grade teacher from the Pojoaque Valley Schools. Cherie is a student in our educational leadership program. A photo of Ms. Romero at this event:
Friday, September 14
- I was struck this week by the number of announcements going out to our students about clubs and other social activities being organized on campus. This week alone, we announced meetings of the Native American Club, the Aikido Club, the Astronomy Club, a Morning Running Club, and others. Many thanks to Margaret Gonzales for her leadership on all this. I recently read an article about what gets a new college graduate hired—or not. New graduates mostly look the same—they all have a degree. They all have good grades—some better than others, of course—but basically all pretty good. They all have decent references. So what differentiates them to employers? Several things were mentioned—internships, for example—but leadership in co-and extra-curricular activities was in the top three. Active participation and engagement in these things really matter.
- Several people have emailed me to ask about the whereabouts of the Noble Piper and Jack the Nipper. Alas, both are now residing in Santa Fe with their human, Sam Wolfe Minner, also known as our son. The duo may be making the occasional appearance on the weekly message, but they will not appear every week. Both are missed although Jack the Nipper was a handful, no doubt. Simply put, dogs are better than some people I know. Always glad to see you. Always forgiving even when they perhaps should not. Simply living in the moment and glad to be around you. Sticking with the dog theme, I did read this piece that kind of struck me. Go to:https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/09/10/meet-other-empty-nesters-they-dogs-and-they-missing-kids-too/H5WOrDvWbh3vld9Kg72KPK/story.html
How do poems grow? They grow out of your life.
Robert Penn Warren
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the prior weekend and the week of September 3-7:
1. On Friday I was informed that our retention/graduation efforts seem to be paying off. I know a single data point does not make a trend, but late last week our four-year graduation rate for the first-time and full time 2014 cohort rose to 20.4%. That is a significant improvement over our previous rates which lingered around 10%. Well done to the faculty and staff who made this happen. Now 20.4% is hardly where we want to be, but the degree of improvement is really encouraging.
2. Joan and I drove to Durango last Friday to see the Cowboys play. We grabbed a quick bite before the game and met the family of one of our players. Mom, dad, sisters, and other family members made the drive from Las Vegas, NV to see their son and brother play in the Ft. Lewis game. The family made many positive comments about Highlands, particularly how welcome their son and brother felt on campus. I also saw several of our alums at the game (e.g., Mr. and Mrs. Darwin Ludi and others) and I appreciate the alum support at these events so very much. I met the new President of Ft. Lewis and look forward to working with him on the RMAC President’s Council. He came to Ft. Lewis via the Gates Foundation and he is really a great guy. Good luck to him. And by the way, the Cowboys won the game, but I have to say…the ball in the picture below looks like it could pop out at any time. I really don’t remember if it did, but we won the game so I guess it doesn’t matter.
3. Also last Friday and today, our basketball players met the kids entering local elementary schools. The players “high-fived” the kids and wished them a great start to the new school year. Well done. This very small kind of thing means so much to young kids.
4. Monday was Labor Day and I hope everyone enjoyed some well-deserved R&R and took time to reflect on the importance of labor in America. So many Americans have worked so hard over the years and lately with minimal improvements in wages or benefits. In some cases, they have experienced decreases in both areas. That’s just not right. American workers can get the job done and we owe them our thanks. I have many fond memories of Labor Day and Union picnics as a kid. As the son of hardscrabble union officials, I was often treated like royalty at these events (e.g., Heh, there’s Sam’s (my Dad’s name) kid. Come over here son). Those events included plenty of good (and mostly union inspired) music, adult beverages (well, only one beverage really and it had to be a union made yellow and kind of watery beverage made right in St. Louis in a factory that also had a facility for Clydesdales), and great food including…not a matanza, but a pig roast.
5. Tuesday was a busy one. I had my monthly meeting with Dr. Montoya, the Leadership Fellow this year and someone we will all work for someday, no doubt. I also had an update meeting with Sodexho about a couple items—food service, the bookstore, etc. I also had time on Tuesday to deal with a noise issue. Last week HU held an outdoor glow dance event and a community member contacted me to express some concerns about the noise level. I checked and Las Vegas does have a noise ordinance, but frankly, it would be a tough one to enforce. Basically, it says there should not be excessive noise after 10:00 p.m. It is silent about what “excessive” means. I am confident that “excessive” noise means one thing to me and a very different thing to the average 20 year old college student. At any rate, I asked one of the VPs to check around and see how other municipalities define excessive noise, to purchase a device to measure the level of sound, and to set an internal HU standard since there is not one defined in the ordinance. Once this is done, we’ll measure the sound volume at our outdoor events and if it is beyond our own self-imposed standard, we’ll crank it down. I then visited the person who had expressed the concerns and told her what we will do. She was very professional and respectful although it was kind of hard to hear her a few times as the seemingly ever present motorcycle revs blasted away on the road outside. At any rate, this is how things improve…when people work together and listen carefully to each other while focusing not merely on problems, but solutions.
6. Wednesday started early when I joined our recruiters for an early morning College Fair at Robertson High School. I spoke to many juniors and seniors who were interested in Highlands and I heard so many good things about the institution. I rushed from that event to the first Cowboy Coffee of the year. The room was mostly full. I reported on a number of campus events and responded to questions from the audience. I thank everyone who attended. A couple photos from the recruitment event:
7. One of the items that came up at the Cowboy Coffee focused on other interventions we might consider to improve our retention and graduation rates and I mentioned Georgia State where they’ve managed to improve retention and graduation rates more than 20%. They are considered one of the top performers in improving rates for students with academic and financial challenges. I should note that Georgia State serves a student population very similar to our own—many first-generation students, quite a few poor students, etc. How do they do it? Well, we are doing many of the same things they are doing, but I do think that institution is much more proactive than us. That is, they really don’t wait around much for students to ask for assistance. They actively seek them out and see how they can help. For example, for students in their final semester who appear to have depleted their financial aid and or have no other means of paying for the final term, they simply give them the money (up to $1500) if they’ll finish up. It is a one-time offer. That’s an interesting approach and it prompted me to ask folks to look into how many students we have who are close to graduation, but have not completed possibly due to financial issues. Of course, there may be other issues as well, but initially I wanted to focus on finances. We’ve done an analysis on that and this is what we found—take a look at these data. As you can see in the first data display, for example, 154 students who have between 90-120 credits have not graduated from HU or anywhere else that we can ascertain. These students owe us nothing—not a dime. Why haven’t they graduated? What should we do to help them finish up? Also, 165 students in total have not finished up (again, the first data display) and most of them owe us very little. Same question—what should we do to help them finish? Take a look at the last data display. Those students have earned 151 or more credits. That’s enough for a BA and most graduate degrees and yet, they have not finished up and most of them owe us very little. As I understand the situation at Georgia State, the institution works individually with students like this to help them finish—whatever the problem might be and whatever it takes to get the job done. I asked the VP in charge of retention at Georgia State who is also a Philosophy Professor there, which is an interesting path to higher education administration, if they were going too far to help students—were they doing too much? He said they carefully thought about that question and they decided they really didn’t care—the goal was to get students to graduation without lowering academic standards and if efforts were not made to help their students including efforts that some might think went “too far”—well, he said, they just would probably not graduate. So, which path was most desirable—possibly going “too far”(whatever that means) or having the student not finish up and carrying debt without having a degree? We’ll look carefully at our data and make a decision how we’re going to proceed. At the very least, we should make every possible effort to contact these students and determine if we can assist them in some way. I should note that this problem in not unique to HU. The National Student Clearinghouse estimates that about 2 million students nationwide are eligible to finish a degree immediately if…they would simply apply for graduation and or pay, in some cases, a very small amount of money to cover debts at their home institutions.
8. Wednesday was a very good day in Advancement. We received a $100,000 legacy gift and a stock gift valued at more than $50,000. That is good performance and I thank the team there.
9. On Thursday I received the latest School of Education Electronic Blog. Here it is: https://nmhusoe.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/september-blog/. These things always take time to do and you rarely know how many people actually look at them. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years it is this—there is no upper limit in broadening the communication network. You really can’t do too much. Of course, no one likes to be bombarded with excessive messages or meeting requests (that’s why I ask people not wanting to get these weekly messages to let me know and I’ll take them off the list), but frankly, I’ve never worked at any school where when asked, people thought they were really well informed. It just doesn’t work that way…at least in my experience. I worked at a large land grant…people said they did not know what was going on. I worked at a medium size school. Same thing—no one knew what was going on. As a faculty member I rarely felt that I was really well informed about campus happenings, but then again, for the most part I was totally OK with that. I had my own work to do. I really did not need to know most things and often had little interest in them. At any rate, the sentiment that people did not know this or that was truly ubiquitous. People should always be able to opt out of things—newsletters, blogs, etc.—but in my experience, in the end very few really do. People want access to information, but they also want to be free to attend to it or not. I am totally OK with that. Our communication network here at HU consists of the monthly open meetings I hold, the weekly messages I send out, routine faculty and staff meetings, many committee meetings (too many?), emails (I routinely receive more than 200 per day), and other things like the SOE blog. What routinely happens at the department and college/school level I really don’t know, but that’s where most of the relevant and need-to-know information should probably be shared. If more of that kind of thing is needed, I urge everyone to speak to their chair, dean, or supervisor and provide them with whatever suggestions they may have. Are more meetings or emails at the department and or school/college level required? Should there be routine agenda items at those meetings (e.g., upcoming deadlines, etc.)? Bottom line—let’s keep trying to improve the communication network as best we can without intruding on the core work of our organization—-serving students, pursuit of scholarship, and service to others.
10 Also on Thursday I was informed that HU was awarded a $250,000 grant from a top national foundation. I’m not supposed to reveal more until the foundation approves our press release on this, but I was so happy to get the news. More on this later….
11. Our new mariachi troupe had their first practice the other night. At this point, we have about 15 in the band. Check out a brief video of the first in the attachment above. I also learned on Friday that our beloved Vatos played in a 10s tournament last week and won the tournament beating the likes of UNM and UTEP. Go Vatos! All GA contracts for this term were issued well before the disbursement date for financial aid. A few GAs have still not signed their contracts, but they were issued before the deadline—a first for HU, at least in my time here, and another sign that our business processes are indeed improving thanks to the hard work of the staff in those various offices. Karlene Gonzales-Martinez sent me a really nice article about our fair city. It includes some information about the campus. Take a look: https://themagsantafe.us14.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c86a0a11103bf4d740c56bce8&id=3cdc7def7b&e=93a3b6cc02. Friday will conclude with a dinner shared with a good friend to HU who has an interest in supporting our teacher education program.
This Coming Weekend
12. This coming weekend will be a busy one. HU hosts Adams State on Saturday and Joan and I will attend the game. On Sunday, we’ll host a reception at the University Residence kicking off the Invitational New Mexico Painter’s Exhibition in Kennedy Alumni Hall. This is the only annual juried exhibition of New Mexico painters in the state. Numerous artists featured in the exhibition will attend as well as other artists and supporters of the arts from throughout the region. I walked around Kennedy the other day and the show was not quite all up, but what I saw was really great. I encourage everyone to see it.
Quotes of the week:
Unlike a lot of writers, I don’t have any craving to be understood.
The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
Not Deceased, But Fond Of Writing About Those Who Are
Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.
Long Deceased, But Lives On In Virtually Every Introduction To Philosophy Textbook Ever Published
Greetings colleagues. A brief update for the week of August 27-31. Again, this one is going out a bit early since I will be on the road on Friday.
- The matanza took place last Saturday. We had lots of students, staff, faculty, and community members there. I have attended a number of pig/cow roasts over the years. These are common in the Midwest and Southeast and I’ve also attended some memorable roasts in Africa and Central America. But, this was my first matanza and it was truly a glorious event. The combination of a wonderful university/community activity as well as the deep cultural significance of the event was really special. Thanks to all who attended and many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to bring this together. We also held a bizcochito contest. We had five entrants—Virginia Padilla-Vigil, Juli Salman, Barbara Martinez, Roxanne Gonzales, and Susan Rudolph. The winner was……Juli Salman. Congratulations Juli! As I’ve often said…she is truly the Martha Stewart of Northern New Mexico. And as she also adds…perhaps, but without a prison term. Here’s a few photos from the matanza and you can access a brief matanza video here: https://www.facebook.com/HighlandsFarmington/videos/1811160198938548/UzpfSTQyNDMyNTYxMjkxOjEwMTU1Mzk0MzYzNjMxMjky/?fb_dtsg_ag=AdzCzpcQv1dnhzza5JqP5A56FGjn_DC4zaw3SaQPvkiRaA%3AAdwRAnJMr4qzp2Ocg8i8V1AGWOPn7mKSA6jw5AsR44cMkg
- I arose early on Tuesday morning to talk to the 7:00 a.m. Kiwanis group about the upcoming GO Bond election. I also spoke to the 12 noon Rotary Club about the GO Bond. Both groups expressed strong support for Highlands and a willingness to help in every possible way. My colleagues, HU has many strong supporters here in Las Vegas. I will speak to a number of other local and regional groups prior to the GO Bond election.
- We held the regular Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting on Tuesday and began the meeting with a brief discussion of some of the drivers increasing the cost of higher education. We read this article:https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/four-tough-things-universities-should-do-to-rein-in-costs/2015/11/25/64fed3de-92c0-11e5-a2d6-f57908580b1f_story.html?utm_term=.cd831641629f&noredirect=on. The author suggested that universities could do four “tough things” to rein in costs including capping non-instructional costs (e.g., security, student support, accreditation support staff, etc.), operating year-round (since many campuses continue to maintain a schedule with an old agrarian timeline—two 15 week or so terms followed by a long summer break), requiring the faculty to do more teaching and less scholarship, particularly in Non-Research 1 or Research Intensive schools, and organizing and implementing better and cheaper general education (mainly using technology). These are hardly new ideas, but they are worth thinking about. We then moved forward with the agenda—Beth Massaro ’s report from her experience at the HERS Institute, an update on our campus emergency plan, and some discussion of interim appointments across the institution.
- I previously mentioned that there has been some recent interest in revisiting the Higher Education Performance Funding Formula in New Mexico and a report was recently issued by the Legislative Finance Committee. It is a substantial document so I won’t append it to my message, but it does contain lots of information about the formula and what is being proposed at this point. One area of the report focuses on institutions facing “headwinds”—that is, colleges and universities with declining enrollment and high expenditures per student. As you can see in Chart 3 (below) these school include a number of community colleges and some four year schools. You see the decrease in credit hour production at each school (the blue bar), the decrease in overall FTE (the orange bar), and increases in I&G expenses per student. A number of variables contribute to these data including scale (size of the institution), the programs each school focuses on (some programs are simply more expensive than others), and other variables. These “headwind” schools may be doing an excellent job and still be on the list…it is a complex thing and certainly requires careful thought before changes are made.
- I had a phone call from a reporter on Tuesday asking me to comment on the ranking of Las Vegas as the 16th worst city in the nation for high school graduation rates. I told the reporter that I knew nothing about that whatsoever and she referred me to a story in Money Magazine. I pulled up the story and…come to find out, the ranking was for the “other” Las Vegas—Las Vegas, NV. So much for reporters doing their due diligence. I guess fake news does exist…this is kind of an example. However, I looked at the story and New Mexico, unfortunately, was prominently mentioned—Farmington ranked #14th lowest rate in the nation, Santa Fe ranked #6th lowest, and Albuquerque was the third lowest. The high school graduation rate in Albuquerque was reported at 66.1%. Only two cities—Carson City, NV and Sebring, FL achieved lower high school graduation rates than Albuquerque. As I and many others have said many times, the path to improving outcomes in New Mexico is a strong K-16 system. We must engineer a strong early statewide early childhood program, we must graduate more kids from our high schools, we must get more of them into some form of post-secondary education and graduated with low debt, and we must do everything possible to encourage them to remain in New Mexico to build our economy and make communities stronger. That’s easy to write…hard to do. But really…what is the alternative?
Speaking of data, The Chronicle of Higher Education also published their Almanac last week and that publication is another great source of information about higher education. A few highlights about the situation in New Mexico. I think these data are from 2016-2017:
- the average tuition across all higher education institutions in New Mexico= $6,860 (nationally, that’s low)
- one-year change in state funding in NM = -3.1% (nationally, that’s a big decrease)
- total number of higher education institutions in New Mexico = 42 (for a state our size, that’s high)
- largest school in the state = UNM (N=26,999)
- New Mexico schools censured by AAUP = 0
- New Mexico schools on NCAA probation =1
- There was a nice article in the Santa Fe paper on Wednesday highlighting the new deal we have with ProView Network to stream home football and men’s and women’s basketball games. Last year, ProView’s online footprint drew approximately 5 million hits. For more details, go to: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/sports/highlands-strikes-deal-to-broadcast-games-on-tv/article_81467a54-db27-5833-96c0-e5221c9bb8a1.html.
- The 125th Planning Group met on Wednesday to discuss the matanza—lessons learned, what we would do next time, if we should do it again, etc. I once again congratulated the group on a job so very well done last Saturday. My message to them was basically—an organization moves closer to excellence when people try to do hard things. Things that are big…and potentially great. Of course, hard things can also go sideways so there’s always that. But, you simply do not move closer to excellence unless you establish high goals and try to accomplish big and hard things. I learned that lesson at Truman State. We were dropping precipitously in enrollment, we offered OK, but not stellar programs, and we were basically doing things as we had done them for many years. Essentially, the water temperature in the pot grew higher and higher and we stubbornly remained in the pot hoping that things would somehow improve. They didn’t. Some big and hard things were suggested. Could we change the name of the institution? Could we change the mission…not merely revise it around the edges, but change it fundamentally? Could we set as our goal “best in class” status? All that was really hard…and bold…and as anticipated the naysayers lined up to argue why we should and could not do those things. But, they did happen and for many years now, that institution is ranked as one of the best in the nation. It all started with a commitment to doing big and hard things. In my view, the matanza was an example of that here at HU. It would have been easy to do a 125th luncheon or something like that and it would have been fine I am sure. But a matanza—complete with cows and swine and fiery pits and huge bubbling cauldrons and dozens of volunteers and setting up and tearing down for live music and fire and safety issues and health department checks and on an on—that was hard. But it was done and it was great.
- It looks like we have a great lineup of HU: Learning Happens Here sessions this fall. I saw an email advertising a metal casting session led by David Lobdell and one focusing on medicinal herbs taught by Linda LaGrange. This is a really great program and one I am so happy to support. Staff members who participate in this program receive a free lunch while they are learning some new and interesting things.
- Also on Wednesday, I met with some folks from the New Mexico Department of Transportation. They operate a bus from the NMHU campus to Santa Fe where students can catch the train and get to Albuquerque. It is a bit of a circuitous path, but it can be done and it is inexpensive. We’ll be distributing the fliers about this around campus and I’ll work with Sean to get the details out on social media. Wednesday was a busy one with a 5:00 p.m. fundraising event for athletics and an even later dinner welcoming Native American students to our campus.
10.There was a well-attended “glow party” event on Wednesday evening. Apparently, a glow party involves music, dancing, and some glow-in-the-dark objects. Not exactly my cup of tea, but then again, I am not exactly young. A photo from the event:
11.Thursday began with a conference call with other presidents in the RMAC. The RMAC has a new deal with Under Armour and also recently engaged a firm to help the conference with marketing and branding. The presidents had a discussion about the most recent Football Media Day. While there, student athletes, including those from Highlands, spent half a day painting a Headstart facility. Those topics took up most of the phone call. The call was followed by a meeting with Dr. Sammeth (the two of us will routinely meet this year as has been the case with other leaders of the Faculty Senate), a meeting with my board colleagues of Main Street de Las Vegas, and finally a community meeting focusing on the NMHU golf course. The goal—keep the golf course open and if possible, improve it while being fiscally responsible.
12.On Friday, Joan and I will leave for Durango to see the first football game. We hope to see a Cowboy victory against Ft. Lewis and return to Las Vegas on Saturday.
Quote of the week:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
but men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
– William Carlos Williams
Greetings colleagues. My weekly message/email/blog starts again this week. This one is for the week of August 20-24.
Once again, I’ll provide some updates and information on my activities during the past week as well as some reminders about things and previews of next week’s activities. If you do not wish to receive these, just email me and you’ll be removed from the list. Believe me, I will not be offended if you do that. Just let me know. Of course, hitting delete is yet another option.
- The week began with a new student orientation—the last before the fall term opening. The folks organizing these are doing a nice job. There’s a mix of light activities (e.g., a “dance off” between FYE and Student Support) and some serious advice-giving from students, staff members, and me. My advice to them—(1) you belong here and do not quit when you bump up against obstacles, (2) to the maximum degree possible, get engaged in the life of the campus (e.g., clubs, intramurals, attendance at various events, etc.), and (3) have fun—within limits. Fully participate in all the campus has to offer, but remember that you are here—mainly—to earn a solid degree and move to the next phase of life. I’m not sure how valuable advice-giving really is to students…as a young student, I didn’t pay much attention to that kind of thing—but I won’t stop doing it. You never know when it might connect with someone. A photo from that early Monday morning event:
- Walking to my office from the new student orientation, I saw Max Baca and he just didn’t quite have the same spring in his step that I usually observed. What’s up with that? Well, he arose before dawn last Sunday and drove to Breckinridge, Colorado to participate in the annual Spartan event. That event—a race over a number of obstacles— begins at 10,000 feet and goes up from there—I think to about 13,000 feet. Spartans were tough. Participants in the Spartan event have to be too. Yes, Laconism is alive and well even today! The event is for real beasts. Each event of the three is longer and tougher than the last. Each time someone finishes one part of the triad, they receive a plaque and ultimately all three pieces fit together if…you get through all of them. It is tough to do that. Believe me, I have no personal experience with it myself. Thankfully. Max did well overall and was the Number One contestant from NMHU. Well…he was the only contestant from NMHU, I think. At any rate, congrats to Max on a great personal accomplishment—1/3 of the Triad now done. Two to go.
- A bit later on Monday, HU hosted a nice crowd at a cookout in Melody Park. I met new students from Mora, Zuni Pueblo, Los Angeles, and Cheyenne, Wyoming (a student recently graduated with an IB Diploma and an incredible overall academic record). Lots of staff and students were there as well. Thanks to Sodexho for a job well done and thanks to all who attended.
- Also on Monday (a very busy day), Roxanne hosted the department chairs at (I think) the first department chair academy on our campus. Department chairs exchanged ideas and discussed several case studies to promote their professional development. I heard many positive comments about the event. I’ve served as a Department Chair a couple times (including, I should note, a department I was not even a member of, but was so dysfunctional that everyone felt it best to get someone who was not in the unit at all) and I know that it is a very tough, but also very important job. In my view, it is a job that predicts overall departmental success as powerfully as any other single variable. Have a strong department…there is probably a great department chair there and really strong departments have probably had a string of good chairs. Is the department a mess…well, first look to the department chair and you are likely to understand why, at least to some degree. Pretty much the standard approach to serving as the department chair is the concept of primus inter pares (first among equals). I think every place I’ve ever worked relied on that idea and it does have merit. However, a very good mentor once gave me some good advice while I was serving as a new department chair. He said (this is pretty close to his words), “First among equals is fine, but to be a really great chair, think about what you are doing to allow the members of the department to devote maximum time and energy to their main work—teaching and scholarship. Sam, you spend too much time griping about how hard it is to get things done and too little time getting in there and making sure the faculty don’t have to deal with those issues in the first place.” That was really good advice and when I devoted more time to that kind of thing, I think I significantly improved in my role as chair and the department performed at a higher level as well.
- Finally, on Monday I learned of the passing of Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, a great scholar and champion for conservation around the world. We were both in Belize at the same time. I was assisting the Belizean government to establish the first national university and Alan was studying jaguars and establishing the first jaguar preserve. When I was there, one could literally buy a jaguar in a local market. I am not kidding. Jaguar hides were also quite plentiful. Alan was a big part of changing all that. He was such a great guy. He and I spent quite a bit of time together at the Hotel Mopan on Regent Street in Belize City. I took many meals there and you could order anything you liked as long as it was beans and rice. I recently learned that the Hotel Mopan, a place I met some incredibly interesting and a few shady characters, is now closed. Alan invited me to his place a couple times and during my first visit, we saw a jaguar maybe 20 yards away. I’ve only seen two of them in my life, so that was a big event for me. On another trip, he stopped me from stepping on a Fer de Lance (called a Tommy Goff in Belize) that seemed about 50 feet long. OK…it wasn’t 50 feet, but it was a big one and they can be pretty aggressive. One of my students down there died from a Tommy Goff bite while he was clearing the jungle in order to construct the first university building. So, did Alan save my life? Don’t know. I didn’t step on the Tommy Goff…thanks to him. His passing is a great loss and he will be missed. A photo of Alan:
- We held the freshmen convocation on Tuesday and had more students show up than we had seats…a great problem to have. I appreciated all the comments made at the event and the attitudes of our new students—so positive—as they joined the HU family. Last spring, I commissioned a poem by Dr. Tyler Mills and I read it…a world debut…at the convocation. It was beautifully written and I received many favorable comments about it. I’ve attached a copy above (To The Students). Well done to everyone who attended and the team who organized this event. Immediately after the convo, we had a nice BBQ lunch in Melody Park. Again, attendance was very good.
- Later on Tuesday, we held the first Executive Management Team (EMT) of the fall term. We started the meeting with a discussion of how people, particularly those in leadership positions, decide if, when, and how to publicly admit making a bad call and reversing a decision. People were honest and forthright about all this, which I appreciated, and shared several examples of when they did and did not do that kind of thing. I think there was some general consensus that leaders need to think about this carefully. For example, I’ve known a few leaders who reversed course frequently. Maybe that was the best thing to do, but I’ve also heard others in the organization criticize them for doing so (e.g.,…she can’t seem to make up her mind, he seems to be making too many wrong calls…I’m nervous about his leadership, etc.), but I’ve also heard many criticisms about leaders not doing that often enough (e.g., …he never changes course even when it is obvious he should, she will never say she’s made a bad call even when she has, etc.). It was a good and honest discussion and provided some good opportunities for professional reflection. We then discussed several other matters—the upcoming Power of Service event, the matanza, the location of the e-sports room, and others. The team also heard a presentation from a company providing a single sign-on service for all the applications used at HU (e.g., PeopleAdmin, D2L, email, everything). Doing this would touch everyone on campus and the group decided to broaden the discussion—faculty, staff, and students—before we moved forward on this.
- Tuesday was a long, but good day and ended with a board meeting of Main Street de Las Vegas. I am on the board of that nonprofit. As you may know, our Director, Ms. Cindy Collins, is retiring. Cindy has been a great director and a real champion of all things Las Vegas, NM. Her recent leadership in winning a major grant from American Express to finish the renovation of the Romero Firehouse is but one example. There are many more. In recognition of her accomplishments and commitment, she received a special award at the statewide Mainstreet meeting a few days ago in Raton. Joan and I were able to drive up to see her receive the award. She is truly very deserving. You may or may not know that I ask each of the HU executives to get engaged in the life of the local community, state, or region by joining some boards or volunteering and HU has a great reputation for civic engagement across the board. I discuss civic engagement with each direct report during their annual performance review. This is very important to me and to the region. How do things improve? Individuals and groups get involved. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
- I met with AD Snow on Wednesday and he reported that the all-student athlete meeting held the night before was successful. The idea of an all-student athlete orientation was hatched by the HU Futures/Athletics Task Force. We apparently had not done that at least in recent memory. Everyone was introduced to the athletic administrative team. Craig talked about his expectations for the year and everyone heard about relevant polices for student athletes. Our new Sports Information Director (SID) went over improvements we’ve made in streaming games, social media, and other media outlets. I am very pleased with how things are going in HU athletics. We’ve gone from (last year) really no professional game announcer. We’ll have one this year. We’ve gone from one camera filming games to three this year. We had no SID last year and now we do—a real professional. So, we’re trending positive. Craig also reported that we are having some success with our athletics fundraising campaign. A couple thousand came in this week alone. In sum, Craig and his team are doing a great job and HU athletics is on an upward trend.
10.On Wednesday, I did a radio interview with Tom Trobridge from KSFR in Santa Fe. I think the interview is scheduled to air on Friday from 8:00-9:00 a.m. I think you can also listen on a podcast. You can access KSFR here: http://www.ksfr.org/.
11.Finally on Wednesday, Joan and I attended a reception at Secretary Barbara Damron’s home to meet with representatives from universities in Sonora, Mexico. Provost Gonzales and Sandy also attended. The Sonoran officials are interested in forming more and more meaningful connections with universities in New Mexico. Roxanne and I spoke with an individual working in the area of teacher education, specifically ESL, and we hope to explore some partnership with her institution. We’ll see what develops on this.
12.This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published their Almanacs. Those publications provide lots and lots of good data about the higher education scene. I perused the “Compare The States” section focused on population variables. The median age of residents in New Mexico is 37.7 years—fairly young overall. The poverty rate is 19.8%. That’s high. Most states are lower and some (e.g., Connecticut, Vermont, etc.) are much lower. Of greatest concern, perhaps , is our population loss among high school students. We are down about 7.9%. Almost all other states are also down, but our decrease is notable. And troubling.
13.We are in the final stages of hosting one or both gubernatorial candidates on our campus. The focus will be on rural issues in New Mexico. I’ll provide more details as they firm up. This will be a wonderful thing to bring to HU and I thank all who are assisting to make it happen, particularly Dr. Joe McCaffrey.
14.My weekly message/update is going out today (Thursday) since we’ll have a board meeting on Friday and sometimes those go pretty long. As I always do, I’ll send the campus an update from the board meeting early next week. This weekend promises to be a busy, but an exciting one. The matanza will be on Saturday. Here’s some last minute matanza details and reminders from Juli:
Don’t forget that today is the last day for staff, students, and faculty to pick up your complimentary ticket at the Foundation Office, 905 University Ave. Faculty, please remind your students – thank you! In addition to the matanza festivities on Saturday, 10 am- 4 pm, there is a unique opportunity for our campus community to participate in the cultural traditions surrounding the preparation of the cooking pit and the meat. Come to the Sanchez Stadium starting at 3:00 pm Friday to take part in these preparations and to learn about the cultural significance of the matanza. You’re welcome to bring musical instruments to participate in informal campfire entertainment, but no outside food or beverages are permitted. We encourage you to bring your own chairs on Saturday as we are expecting large numbers of people to attend this celebration of our 125th year. Lastly, we are in need of clean, old bed sheets that will be torn into strips and used to prepare the meat for roasting. Contact Juli at 2155 if you can donate.
Our Cowgirls volleyball team also play a series of matches this weekend and we wish them well as they begin their new season. Our soccer team recently played an exhibition game and shutout the opponent. Well done to the Cowgirls and Coach Mendoza.
General Jack…the new dog in town…says, “I will rule this house.” The Noble Piper says, “Don’t bet on it my friend. I am top dog around here.”
To the Students
In celebration of New Mexico Highlands University’s 125th Anniversary
When the sunflowers extend their lion manes
along the railroad tracks near the Hotel Castañada
and the earth gushes obsidian swirls
steaming from the hot springs by Montezuma
to warm the wind of late-summer afternoons,
we welcome you: back from a hunt,
from your grandmother’s ranch,
from your road trip down south
where you sang the song (you know the one) you can’t get out of
your head—windows down to tufts of piñon
offering their fruit to the pattern of your breath
as you blurred by. We welcome you
back from the feast days where you danced
the steps your family taught you
so the movements braid into wool threads
extending behind and in front of you into time’s design.
We welcome you back from Southern California,
Chicago, Arizona, Mexico, from Africa,
from Vietnam, from Charlie’s
where you just might have written
your name in pencil under the table
of your favorite booth before you scooped green chilé
from a chicken enchilada onto your tongue
while your friends told a joke and the sun
bathed the trucks outside in buttery light.
We welcome you back from babysitting your niece and nephew—
how you taught them to swim in the Pecos River
that glitters in the wind.
Back from starlit dawns sharing chips and hot fries,
back from work
at Dairy Queen where your twists looked like perfect helmets,
back from training for softball, football, wrestling, soccer,
baseball, basketball, cross country, volleyball, track and field,
or rugby where you worked your muscles until they burned
so now they feel like smooth stones
tucked under your skin.
Back from the room you grew up in—
the adobe house or brick house or second floor
walk-up where you took your first steps,
where your daughter or son took their first steps.
We welcome you back from a first try, a second try,
an internship, a break,
the purple notebook on your lap
shiny with a silver “H” you outline with your finger:
home. Highlands. We welcome you, welcome you
back from giving birth, from serving your country
on a ship on a distant shore,
back from LA or the Plaza Hotel
where you played an extra on TV,
back from chasing a dream, from living a dream,
from bringing the cattle in—the calf that learned
to jump the fence. We welcome you here
into the poem, into the lab, the play, the studio,
the discussion, and into the song
to make, do, think, and remember.
And our walls have withstood fire
and the storms that come and go
like thunderheads in monsoon season:
sometimes the arroyo runs with rainwater,
and sometimes you can walk the path
with your dog and watch lizards scurrying away.
And what we say on this day,
this 125th anniversary, this special time, is we were we
before New Mexico became a state, and we welcomed you then,
and we welcome you now, to be a we together
and look ahead to chilé roasting, to the new days
shortening then lengthening, to laughter in the halls,
but most of all, we look forward to you—
your footsteps, your voices floating out our open windows,
your hands raised because you have just one more question.