CAMPUS UPDATE — September 13-17, 2021
I imagine most people saw or heard about the governor’s order for all individuals to continue wearing masks while indoors. NMHU has worked hard to consistently implement all state health orders so that order, of course, will also be in force at HU. In an effort to further reduce COVID cases, we will also be rolling out an incentive program to add to the number of those registering their vaccination status with us and we may also implement some additional measures. I heard that the surge curve may be–that’s the critical phrase–may be–flattening at least a bit, but as is always true with COVID, we’ll just have to wait and see what that looks like. I also continue to read and hear some predictions that the fall and especially the winter could be rough. The combination of “regular” COVID, COVID variants, and the seasonal flu could certainly present major challenges. On the news last night, I heard that COVID has resulted in the deaths of 1 in 500 Americans. Incredible. I really could not believe that, but I checked a couple places and it is apparently true. Clearly, we must remain extremely vigilant. Best advice I have: get vaccinated, wear a mask, try to social distance as much as possible, and…don’t forget to attend to your mental health. Finally, be kind and gentle with others. That is free and very much needed right now.
I have detected an uptick in the number of comments made by people about what other organizations, schools, businesses, etc. are doing and more frequently, notdoing relative to COVID followed by harsh and in some cases, extremely mean-spirited comments directed toward those organizations and the people leading and managing them (e.g., this business is closed, your business is open…don’t you even care about people’s health?; that school has an online option, another school does not…what’s with that superintendent?…she should be fired!; this university has no vax mandate, another university does…shame on the former school). Given the circumstances before us, I think this is understandable, but I do not think it is at all helpful. I am not the first person to suggest that COVID hit at the worst possible time in our society. There are so many schisms and divisions and fractures in our society these days and for those inclined to participate in those divisive discussions (some seem to even enjoy them and that is kind of incredible to me), COVID presents yet another opportunity. I think everyone knows what we are doing at HU. We have a vax mandate. We have an indoor masking mandate. We have a social distancing mandate. We sponsor vaccination and testing clinics right on campus and many members of our community volunteer their time at those clinics (sincere thanks to them!). We have cancelled many events. Most of our classes are online. In some cases, our handling of student athletes exceeds both RMAC and NCAA guidelines. Generally, we are exceeding many recommendations. And yet, others feel not enough is being done.
My take on all this is that no one–not a single person–has any direct experience dealing with a virus like COVID and I have and will continue to assume that people are doing the best they can and making the best decisions they know how to make in this uncharted territory. I have personal opinions about the wisdom of what others are or are not doing right now, but I’ll leave the criticisms of what others are or are not doing to others and just will not participate in that kind of thing.
Several HU administrators continue to devote more time to the upcoming legislative session. The presidents and chancellors recently focused on compensation and the very real fact that virtually all faculty members in New Mexico are compensated less than faculty members doing the same basic things at peer institutions. I think that might not be true for a few stellar research faculty members at one of the research universities, but for most, it is absolutely true. That is a major problem and apparently, has been a problem for many years—even decades. The next presentation to legislators will be about compensation and one of the presenters will be our provost, Roxanne Gonzales. I know she’ll do a great job. She’ll be joined by others from other universities including Edward Martinez, President of Luna Community College.
The sign for the NMHU Cultural Park has now been installed. There are just a few minor things to be done to complete that new space on our campus. Hopefully, everything will be done before this fall’s matanza (assuming we can actually hold the matanza). Also, we will once again be doing chile roasting this fall. I think we purchased 25 bags to provide a couple servings to each person attending the event.
I have personally observed many examples of deep regard for others and courage in the face of adversity during the COVID pandemic. Those examples give me hope and on some days, the ability to remain positive and optimistic (although I must admit that has been a little tough to do on a few days, but only a few). But, I think I have been remiss in not noting the extraordinary efforts of HU folks who have consistently shown up, tried to do their best, and ultimately, served our students during this terrible ordeal. In this case, I am specifically referring to the NMHU staff. Many of them hold forward-facing jobs serving students and our colleagues and many of them have jobs that simply cannot be done remotely. So, they show up. In some cases, they have been at work every single day during COVID. It is always a little risky to name people who have done or are doing great things since dozens or even hundreds of people demonstrate high efforts and I just don’t know about it, but just recently the names of two staff members–Lou Ann Martinez and Ted Gonzales–have come to my attention. I thank both of them sincerely and all staff members who continue to dedicate themselves to our noble mission. I also thank all HU folks–faculty members, administrators, and others–who continue to demonstrate deep dedication and commitment to our students during the time of COVID.
Hamatis (Latin: Barbed Wool)
Every serious fly-fisherman eventually purchases a set of waders. Lots of trout streams are just too cold to wade in shorts. I’ve fished in shorts (and jeans) before and it can be OK, but mostly….trout streams are just too cold, even in the summer. So….you put on some waders. Waders come in two basic styles–hip waders and chest waders. As you might guess, hip waders come up to your hips or waist while chest waders come up to the middle of your chest. The critical decision on which type to use is mostly about the depth of water you are fishing, but sometimes there are other considerations like water temperature (chest waders are warmer than hip waders and some of them are even insulated), the ability to carry tackle around with you (some chest waders have pockets where you can put flies, leaders, or other tackle), and safety considerations (hip waders can fill up with water before that typically happens with chest waders). However, recent debates have mostly not focused on the advantages of one type of waders over another, but what’s on the bottom of the shoe or boot attached to the waders.
The two major options are felt and rubber (or some type of composite material). Waders were initially made with felt bottoms. Felt made it easier to wade with fewer falls. Felt provided greater stability and that’s really important while fly-fishing. Many serious fly-fisherman (including me) have fallen in a stream a few times and their waders have partially or totally filled with water. That is a very serious situation and can lead to even more serious issues–including death by drowning. I’ve fallen more times than I care to remember and a couple falls were quite serious. I’ve also been around when others have fallen and I’ve seen and even taken part in some pretty dramatic rescues. Once while fishing in the White Mountains of Arizona, my friend fell while wearing chest waders. The stream was not very deep, but he walked into a hole that was over his head…maybe ten feet deep. His waders completely filled and he simply could not get out of the stream. It was a very serious matter and the only thing that saved him was the fact that the stream was pretty narrow and I could grab him from the shore and pull him in. Which I did. His waders had rubber soles and there was really not much of a cleat. Felt bottoms tend to grip a little better and I don’t think he ever wore his rubber bottom waders again. It shook him, no doubt.
But….felt waders also have some issues. Although they are good in a stream, they are not so good when you leave the stream. Mud and snow can quickly build up on felt waders and again, result in some dramatic falls. If this happens and you are not in the water…it is probably not a big deal, but I’ve seen some big falls on the banks of streams. One resulted in a broken nose. But the main problem with felt waders is the potential to bring invasive species into a stream and that happens more times that you might imagine. A small stream I enjoyed in Central Arizona was totally ruined by invasive species–some type of invasive mollusk–and the conventional wisdom was that the species initially came into the stream on the bottom of someone’s felt waders. The stream was filled with these small striped freshwater creatures and not a trout to be seen—or caught. I have been to a few spots where fishermen were asked (or even required) to disinfect their waders in a solution that killed whatever was on the bottom of their felt waders. The bottom line—waders with felt bottoms can really help with stability, but they can also bring invasive species into a stream with sometimes devastating results. For that reason, I think most people do not use felt waders at all.
Two sets of waders–rubber on the left and felt on the right:
Me with my rubber-soled waders on…not sure where this location is. I would also note that fly-fishing is almost the perfect COVID safe activity and can be a real stress buster. You do it outdoors. You can do it alone. In some cases, you don’t even see another human being and trout cannot be infected with COVID (that I know of).
CAMPUS WEEKLY UPDATE AUGUST 30-SEPTEMBER 3
COVID, particularly the Delta variant, continues to present major challenges and everyone must remain vigilant as we face them. In addition to the various measures we are taking on campus, we will be taking some additional actions in hopes of reducing the spread. The next at-home athletic competition is a volleyball game next week. I have spoken with our Athletic Director and a decision has been made to not allow any fans in the gym for that game. At this point, this only applies to the volleyball game next week, but that could change dependent on COVID conditions moving forward. The campus has been under the vax requirement standard for a while now and beginning next week, we will be ramping up our compliance efforts. If you are on campus, you must register your vax status or be subjected to our testing requirement. Please, comply with this measure and encourage others to do the same. I have had several conversations with state health officials over the past week, and they have promised to provide us with an additional contact tracer. I thank them for that very much. We will host a free PCR testing clinic in Melody Park. The clinic will run from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Thursdays. It is available to the HU community as well as the local community. Finally, I met with other city officials (city government, K-12 schools, etc.) this week and we agreed to routinely meet at least once a week to discuss what’s happening in our various organizations, what we might do collaboratively to reduce COVID, etc.
It does seem to me that this phase of COVID is much different than others. When COVID began, more than a year ago now, there were lots of efforts to shelter in place, stay home as much as possible, and hope that things would improve. Many businesses were closed. Some municipalities mandated curfews. Lots of schools were closed or went completely online. There were no vaccines. There were lots of crazy ideas about the virus (unfortunately, I’d say that continues today). Today, it feels to me that there is a general recognition that the virus in some shape or form will be with us for some time–maybe a long time–and the focus has shifted to how we just might have to learn to live with it. Of course, not everyone agrees that we should behave that way, but when I look around, I see businesses open, restaurants serving patrons, athletic events taking place, movie theatres open, and on and on. I mostly hear about why it is important to keep schools–K-12, higher ed, etc.–safely open. Again, I have my own opinions about all that and I am sure you do as well, but that is what I see going on around me.
I remain guided by state and federal health mandates and recommendations and what I think is the best science available. This includes: get vaccinated, wear a mask indoors, social distance as possible, stay home if you are unwell and wash hands frequently. Does all that guarantee good results? No. Absolutely not. But, I do think that’s the best and safest path forward.
The physical health challenges associated with COVID are all too real and in many cases, quite terrible. And yet, I continue to be at least as concerned about mental health issues as anything else. I urge everyone to focus on their mental health at least a few minutes each day. Try to clear your mind, read a good book, see a great film, fix a wonderful meal, or whatever works for you. If you need assistance, we have free counseling services available via our HU benefit package (see the HR website). If you see someone else struggling, reach out as you can.
Every day, I see great acts of courage and sincere efforts to help others. For that, I thank you my colleagues.
I’ve never been a big fan of university ratings. The U.S. News ratings probably attract the most attention around the country and they have been criticized for years. Basically, the tougher a school makes it to get in–the higher the rating. Not a fan of that notion. However, some organizations use different criteria and one of those ratings came out this week. Washington Monthly just came out with their “best bang for the buck” ratings. That list ranks schools according to things like return on investment–which schools lift students out of poverty or simply improves graduates’ lives the most? We do pretty well on that one–rated #76. We’re slightly below New Mexico Tech (#66) and Arizona State (#73) and above University of Oregon (#90), Northern Arizona University (#95), Western New Mexico (#194), St. John’s in Santa Fe (#210) and hundreds more.
Although I am not a fan of rankings in general, students and especially their families, are. At least sometimes. I worked at Truman State for about a decade and that school consistently enjoyed very high rankings both regionally and nationally. That’s not a surprise. When I left Truman, the average ACT score was 29 and that was (maybe still is) about the 92nd percentile. Basically, only excellent students were admitted. Retention was just not a problem. Everyone graduated—even my own son (but not in four years!). The presidents I worked for at Truman all felt the rankings were very important and I think all of them even had performance incentives in their contracts to at least maintain the top rankings and ideally, move up. Many of my colleagues there were not as enthused about rankings (including me) and frequently downplayed their importance. However, the institution once hired a firm to check on that…the critical question…was that ranking important to students and their families? They were very important and the firm told us to emphasize them even more in our promotional materials. We did and it seemed to work…we saw increased enrollment afterward. So, like rankings or not…in some cases, they seem to matter quite a bit.
Lots of great work going on even during COVID conditions. Dr. Jesus Rivas and several colleagues recently had a chapter published in an edited book focusing on…what else for Jesus?—reptiles. Well done. Ms. April Kent was recently named Librarian of the Year by the New Mexico Library Association. That’s a great accomplishment. Dr. Ali Arshad published an excellent paper concerning the impact of COVID on the economy. Other colleagues are working on grants, new programs, or other interesting projects. However, what is mostly occluded but absolutely the most important work we do are the student breakthroughs we have every day in classes, labs, studios, during office hours, and or other interactions with staff and faculty members. That is our core work and COVID has perhaps altered the way all that gets done, but still…it is happening even under COVID and that is a truly beautiful thing.
Hamatis (Latin: Barbed Wool)
Ernest Hemingway is perhaps the most notable writer who spoke and more critically, extensively wrote about fly-fishing and fishing in general. His Hemingway on Fishing is a real classic. One of the more interesting tales about Hemingway and fishing is about his …perhaps…missing trunk of fishing equipment.
In 1940 Hemingway took a train to Sun Valley to do some fishing. Everyone agrees on that. He had packed a large trunk containing his beloved fishing equipment, especially his Hardy Fairy flyrods and his expensive and rare Everol reels–imported from Italy. But somehow and someway…the trunk didn’t make it. It was not on the train. I’ve read stories that Hemingway was so upset about the whole thing that he rarely used a flyrod afterward. He couldn’t bear the thought of his equipment in the hands of someone else. He turned to pelagic big-game fishing instead.
But, the plot thickens. A few years later, a Hardy Fairy rod came up for auction and it was said to be Hemingway’s Hardy–allegedly from the missing trunk. It sold for a lot of money and then, the provenance became suspect. Highly suspect. It was perhaps not one of Hemingway’s flyrods after all. Later, a note attributed to Hemingway was circulated asserting that his pack and his equipment was not lost at all and a later rumor circulated that some unscrupulous person promoted the lie in order to sell the equipment at auction. There’s been lots of confusion around all this and it is still not clear what really happened. It isn’t totally clear if he ever really lost his equipment at all. If he did lose it, it isn’t clear if it was ever found or where it all might be today. And rumors still persist that Hemingway was somehow involved in the whole thing to somehow benefit himself financially. Like many authors, he was often in need of additional resources. But, I would say anytime a Hardy Fairy flyrod or an Everol reel comes up for auction or for sale on eBay, take a good hard look…Hemingway’s old equipment might still be floating around.
I learned to fly-fish with my grandfather’s nine-foot bamboo flyrod and I still use it from time to time. It’s not a Hardy rod, but it still gets the job done and it is a source of great pleasure to use it now and then. I’ve broken it three times, repaired it each time (poorly) and can’t stop smiling as I string the line through the guides, tie on a tippet and a dry fly, and cast toward an (ideally) rising brown trout. And of course while I am getting all set, I recall my grandfather–Bill Wolfe–great union organizer, steelworker, and wise mentor to me. My colleagues, for me that’s a good day.
This is a decent rainbow from the Rio Chama—caught with my grandfather’s antique flyrod:
A disassembled Hardy Fairy bamboo rod…
…and Papa H. himself:
CAMPUS WEEKLY UPDATE August 23 — 27
I was out of town much of last week, but I did have the time to meet with a number of our students to discuss how the semester was going and what might be done to help them. I was so impressed with their resilience and I would say courage, but clearly, they are facing many challenges under the current COVID conditions. Their input to me was remarkably consistent–they have many COVID concerns (though most voluntarily shared with me that they were fully vaccinated), but also longed for face-to-face instruction. For many of them, Zoom classes were just not cutting it. They also shared many issues that I considered mental health challenges. Clearly, they longed for something much closer to engaging in a more typical freshmen life on a more typical residential campus. They mentioned serval faculty names as individuals who stood out to them as mentors and advocates and I reached out to those individuals to specifically thank them. My basic takeaway–mental health is of utmost concern.
Although many are very familiar with the Trinity Project and the plight of the Tularosa Downwinders, many students in New Mexico K-12 schools are apparently not. There are few curriculum materials about the Downwinders, particularly materials specifically designed for students in New Mexico. Last week I met with an advocate for the Downwinders and she is interested in working with HU to address that situation. I will be speaking with Roxanne about this project and it is my hope that some of our great faculty (and students) will get involved. The goal—research this event and then develop one or more curriculum modules. Our partner is initially interested in developing materials for middle school students. More on this as things develop.
Also this week, I met with representatives from the Instituto Cervantes (the Cervantes Institute) and they are very interested in working with us to bring their world-class Spanish language programs to HU, particularly to the Higher Education Center in Santa Fe. The Institute has similar partnerships with other colleges and universities around the globe. This from Wikipedia:
The Instituto Cervantes is a worldwide non-profit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. It is named after Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), the author of Don Quixote and perhaps the most important figure in the history of Spanish literature. The Cervantes Institute, a government agency, is the largest organization in the world responsible for promoting the study and the teaching of Spanish language and culture. This organization has branched out in over 45 different countries with 86 centres devoted to the Spanish and Hispanic American culture and Spanish Language…the ultimate goals of the Institute are to promote the education, the study and the use of Spanish universally as a second language, to support the methods and activities that would help the process of Spanish language education, and to contribute to the advancement of the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures throughout non-Spanish-speaking countries.
The classes offered by the Institute are non-credit bearing (although students do receive a certificate if they successfully complete the class), but it is possible to offer credit if we wish to do so. That’s up to us. But, part of the reasoning to potentially start in Santa Fe is to make sure we do not compete with our own Spanish classes on the Vegas campus.
It was a great meeting and I will be turning this over to Academic Affairs to ascertain the interest on the campus and if there is sufficient interest, to take next steps. The Institute is a branch of the Spanish government and is broadly admired throughout the world.
Hamatis (Latin: Barbed Wool)
Very few people have been able to make a living doing something related to fly-fishing. One exception is Lee Wulff. Mr. Wulff was an author, an artist, a filmmaker, and pilot. He opened a very successful fly-fishing school and gave lectures around the world on the many pleasures of fly-fishing, particularly fishing for Atlantic Salmon. He and his wife, Joan Wulff, frequently appeared on outdoor television shows, especially The American Sportsman, which aired in the 1960s.
I met him was a kid at a St. Louis outdoor trade show and got his autograph–my very first autograph. I sometimes wondered if I was perhaps related to him in some way. My maternal grandfather’s last name was Wolfe, which he changed from Wulff when his family arrived in American from Germany. A photo of Mr. Wulff:
Mr. Wulff was also a very prolific fly-tier and many flies bear his name. This is one of his most famous flies–the Royal Wulff. This example is barbless (like you might use on the San Juan):
CAMPUS WEEKLY UPDATE Week of August 16 — 20
Greetings colleagues and I hope you are well. A brief update for the week August 16-20:
It was a challenging COVID week, and we had several on- and off-campus cases. In order to do more contact tracing with our on-campus cases, face-to-face classes were cancelled on Wednesday-Friday. Many thanks to all students, staff, and faculty for their flexibility in this attempt to keep people as safe as possible. We’ve added some new members to that group and hired additional contact tracers. These very rapid adjustments will likely continue as COVID transforms itself over time. My favorite COVID quote of the week: “It may sound extremely dark, but nobody knows what they’re doing when it comes to COVID. Some are just good at making the right guess, at least some of the time, and when they are right they can feign omniscience.”
Our enrollment census date is coming up and it looks like that we’ll be down in undergraduates and up in graduate enrollment. Based on most of what I’ve recently read, this is very common nationwide. Why are so many schools down among undergraduates and up in terms of graduate students? The most common thinking is that undergraduate students (usually, but not always younger than graduate students) are simply waiting for COVID to dissipate a bit so they have a better chance of experiencing a typical college life. Many of them are apparently simply taking a pause and not enrolling anywhere. In regard to graduate students, many of them are already in jobs, but were rattled by the economic downturn accompanying COVID and now seem very interested in gaining new skills, acquiring new degrees, and in some cases, ramping up skills for potential remote work. That sounds about right to me. We are experiencing success in our new Wiley partnership. The initial goal was to bring 45 new students to HU (via Wiley). That was increased to 55 and today, we actually have 60 Wiley students enrolled at HU. If you recall, we have three programs in partnership with Wiley–Nursing, the MSW, and an MBA.
Most of this week was devoted to the annual Council of University Presidents (CUP) meeting. The presidents and chancellors of the four-year schools are a close and highly functional group, and I always enjoy getting together with them. I learn a great deal when I do. Of course, there is a level of competition among the group–we all compete for students, capital outlay, research dollars, etc.–but everyone is dedicated to improving outcomes generally and we work hard to accomplish that goal. We talked about many things, but mainly focused on working to improve compensation on our various campuses, what might be done to increase the overall number of students pursuing some type of post-high school education in New Mexico, and what it might take to significantly improve our retention and graduation outcomes. There was also a lot of discussion about the funding formula used here in New Mexico.
Higher education funding formulas came into fashion several decades ago and I’ve personally worked in three states employing some type of funding formula or performance funding scheme. The basic idea is to identify what are thought to be critical outcomes (e.g., graduation rates, infusion of grant dollars, etc. and believe me, getting agreement on those is not easy) and then provide a financial incentive to colleges and universities to improve them. That’s the idea, anyway. Here’s a decent overview of these programs (https://sr.ithaka.org/publications/an-overview-of-state-higher-education-funding-approaches/). If you want to just read the conclusions of the paper, here they are:
First, we suggest that states determine levels of adequacy–the minimum threshold of funding that would provide colleges with the capacity needed to serve their students properly. Second, adequacy thresholds alone may perpetuate inequities if states do not adjust funding formulas to account for differing needs across students and institutions. States should ensure that adequacy levels incorporate the unique needs of subgroups of students, including lower-income students, racial and ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities, to name a few. Finally, performance metrics are one factor that states can consider as they determine the equity and adequacy needs of institutions and work to improve underperforming institutions. We recommend that performance metrics be used to identify areas of need rather than to penalize institutions.
I’d say these findings are consistent with most research examining funding formulas. Namely, let’s fund higher education in an adequate way first and then…let’s discuss performance funding. There will be a state group examining our existing formula in New Mexico. If you have any suggestions about how the formula might be/should be adjusted, please let me know.
This week I’ve heard several colleagues talking about the new Netflix series, The Chair. It is about a new department chair (Sandra Oh) who is the first female and minority English department chair at some anonymous university. As you might expect, she faces the usual challenges (e.g., budget issues, personnel issues, generational issues among the faculty, etc.) along with some personal drama thrown in to make things even more interesting. And by the way, the department is basically a dumpster fire. I think the entire first season is now available on Netflix.
A portion of the review from the Wall Street Journal:
“…The Chair is full of charm, and a captivating humor, a kind evident during a faculty party. It may not be the best of times for celebration but celebrate the faculty does anyway in the midst of job worries and ominous administrative directives like the one that requires longtime Chaucer scholar Joan Hambling (a wonderfully regal Holland Taylor) to be moved to a darkish basement office, part of the dean’s bullying strategy to encourage retirements. Prof. Hambling isn’t inclined to take this unsubtle hint of her reduced status lightly. She’s one of the faculty members whose age and long employment at Pembroke make her a prime candidate for one of the job cuts the administration yearns for. The celebration in question is in honor of the appointment of the first female chair of the English Department.”
The many foibles and idiosyncrasies of life in the academy have been the stuff of many novels and films and in most cases, those books and movies skewer some of the longest-standing traditions in the academy. Let’s face it—what is sometimes very important to us seems kind of ridiculous to non-academics. Writers and filmmakers often exploit that kind of thing as they portray what we do and how we think. The Chair is the latest depiction of life in higher education. Take a look if you have a Netflix account. Here’s a trailer: https://www.netflix.com/title/81206259
This week marked the passing of Mike Rose, Mike was a giant in the field of literacy and critical theory applied to preK-16 education. As a faculty member, I drew from and assigned several of his books, particularly Why School, Back to School, and one of my favorite books on writing, When a Writer Can’t Write. Due to a mix-up, Mike was accidentally placed for a time in a “voc-ed” track in high school and that experience really influenced his overall philosophy and his professional work at UCLA and other schools. His well-known essay “I Just Wanna Be Average” touches on his experience in voc-ed classes and the discrimination he suffered there. His work often focused on how uneven the playing field is in public K-12 and higher education and how those systems serve to promote cultural reproduction. He was a giant in our field. Here’s an excerpt from the I Wanna Be Average essay:
“It took two buses to get to Our Lady of Mercy. The first started deep in South Los Angeles and caught me at midpoint. The second drifted through neighborhoods with trees, parks, big lawns, and lots of flowers. The rides were long but were livened up by a group of South L.A. veterans whose parents also thought that Hope had set up shop in the west end of the county. There was Christy Biggars, who, at sixteen, was dealing and was, according to rumor, a pimp as well. There were Bill Cobb and Johnny Gonzales, grease-pencil artists extraordinaire, who left Nembutal-enhanced’ swirls of “Cobb” and “Johnny” on the corrugated walls of the bus. And then there was Tyrrell Wilson. Tyrrell was the coolest kid I knew. He ran the dozens’ like a metric halfback, laid down a rap that outrhymed and outpointed Cobb, whose rap was good but not great — the curse of a moderately soulful kid trapped in white skin. But it was Cobb who would sneak a radio onto the bus, and thus underwrote his patter with Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, the Coasters, and Ernie K. Doe’s`mother-in-law, an awful woman who was “sent from down below.” And so it was that Christy and Cobb and Johnny G. and Tyrrell and I and assorted others picked up along the way passed our days in the back of the bus, a funny mix brought together by geography and parental desire. Entrance to school brings with it forms and releases and assessments. Mercy relied on a series of tests, mostly the Stanford-Binet,’ for placement, and somehow the results of my tests got confused with those of another student named Rose. The other Rose apparently didn’t do very well, for I was placed in the vocational track, a euphemism for the bottom level. Neither I nor my parents realized what this meant. We had no sense that Business Math, Typing, and English–Level D were dead ends. The current spate of reports on the schools criticizes parents for not involving themselves in the education of their children. But how would someone like Tommy Rose, with his two years of Italian schooling, know what to ask? And what sort of pressure could an exhausted waitress apply? The error went undetected, and I remained in the vocational track for two years. What a place.”
A photo of Mike Rose:
NMHU faculty continue to do outstanding work in the area of grants. We recently won a National Science Foundation award—a $3.8-million project. Wow. The project will provide 16 scholarships for both graduate and undergraduate students studying biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and geology. The grant will fund travel, research, and publication opportunities for students, and will provide them with job skills for future employment. Many thanks to Gil Gallegos, professor of computer science, professor Tatiana Timofeeva, professor Michael Petronis, professors Shipra Gupta, Luis Raul Castaneda Perea, and Naveen Singh, and the director of the university’s center for Achievement in Research, Math and Science, Kelly Trujillo. Well done to all and thank you for your efforts.
We are also working with some legislators and state officials to bring new resources to the campus to establish a forestry reforestation center. This could be a major project for us including new program offerings, multiple collaborations with other universities and the private sector, a new building, and possibly a new revenue stream for the institution. One potential aspect of this initiative pertains to the use of drones to reforest areas devasted by drought, fire, etc. Here’s an interesting story from Forbes about the use of drones to make our forests and woodlands healthier and more verdant (go to:https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2020/09/30/drones-can-reforest-the-planet-faster-than-humans-can/?sh=152ea016341f). More on all this as things evolve, but I am very hopeful.
To mend means to fix something. You mend some socks. You can mend a shirt. That word is also often used in fly-fishing. It is called mending your line or sometimes called “fixing” your line. One critical variable in successful fly-fishing is somehow and someway getting your fly to move through the water column in a natural looking way. If your fly is moving faster than the current, trout usually will not bite. Same if it is moving slower than the stream–again, probably no bite. But flies move faster or slower than the stream flow all the time. That’s when you need to mend your line. If you are fishing a dry fly (one that floats on top), it is pretty common for the fly to move too quickly. If you have a lot of line out (you’ve made a long cast), the mass of the fly line floating on top can sometimes build up energy and move the dry fly too fast. The fly is moving faster than the flow. You need to mend your line by raising your rod tip and flipping the line upstream. This (if it works) will serve to slow the fly down a bit causing it to float, ideally, at the same rate as the stream. If you are fishing a dry fly or a streamer or something like that (something that is intended to be near or on the bottom), your lure might be moving at the wrong pace. Again, you might have to mend your line by raising the rod tip and flipping it downstream. Once again, if it works, that will serve to slow the fly down and get it deeper. I’ve taught fly fishing a couple times in my life and I’ve told my students so many times–mending line in an effective way is just as important–maybe more so–than casting. There’s a fly-fishing bromide that is relevant here…if the float is wrong–the day will be long. In other words, mend that line to do everything possible to make the float look right and natural.
In the photo below (sorry for the low quality), the tide was coming in very quickly in the Mosquito Lagoon (FL), and I had to aggressively mend my line to match the flow. As you can see—it worked. That’s a very large redfish, sometimes called a channel bass. They are sometimes also called “shoulders” to describe their strength and how tough they are to land, especially on a flyrod. I caught and released this fish in Florida and for most of that summer, this one was a local record on a fly.
CAMPUS WEEKLY UPDATE Week of August 9 — 13
I want to thank my colleagues who emailed or phoned me after my campus address on Thursday and or the Board meeting where we discussed new campus COVID precautions. All campuses are appropriately places of vigorous debate and lots of ideas about how things should work and frankly, that’s one of the things I love about working on college campuses. I assure everyone, I listen to all input and in many cases, reflect on it right up until the time a decision must be made. I think that’s an important part of my job. Still, the positive and supportive comments, particularly about my contract extension, were really appreciated. I assumed everyone was aware of that, but apparently not. As we launch the fall term, I will be scheduling the typical once per month Coffee with the President meetings (they may be virtual again), some open office hours, and of course, anyone can make an appointment with me via Maria. I’ve also been working with the Student Senate to schedule routine breakfast meetings with students (no agenda, just conversation). I’ll be attending all the faculty senate meetings I can attend and will also attend all staff and student senate meetings when invited (and in town).
This week the university presidents and chancellors met to prepare for our annual Council of University Presidents meetings. They’ll be next week in Santa Fe. This is an important set of meetings for CUP–we establish our common legislative agenda, discuss tactics to hopefully move the agenda forward, and meet with numerous elected and state officials to discuss ways to make New Mexico higher education better. At this point, we are, once again, stressing compensation increases and new resources to help get us closer to pre-recession funding levels.
An interesting piece from the Santa Fe paper pertaining to population changes in New Mexico (check out the photo of Las Vegas in the article; go to: Census: Rural New Mexico becoming more rural. The state of New Mexico did add people from 2010-2020, but only about 58,000 in total with most of those individuals moving to Rio Rancho and other more urban areas. Most rural counties lost population. For example, San Miguel County moved from 29,393 to 27,201–a loss of 2,192 residents or about a 7.5% decrease from 2010-2020. The City of Las Vegas moved from 14,043 to 12,919 (I think that’s a 2019 number; not from 2020) for a loss of 1,124 or about an 8% loss. Mora moved from 4881 to 4189; a 692 loss or a 14% decrease. Raton moved from 6885 to 5938; a loss of 947 or about a 14% decrease. On the other hand, Santa Fe moved from 67,947 to 87,505; an increase of 19,559 or an increase of about 28%. These data are of great concern for many reasons (I personally prefer to live in rural areas and I know others move here to have that kind of life), but one of the challenges pertains to our recruitment efforts. The so-called “rule of 50” or sometimes called “the rule of 75” is that the majority of students at regional comprehensives come from 50-75 miles around the campus. Every school recruits from beyond those ranges, but the rule has generally held true for many decades. With dwindling population in our service area, we simply must make more efforts to recruit from beyond our historical catchment. Obviously, we will never stop serving our traditional service area, but we must look beyond it for growth. We are doing that, and we must continue.
A photo of the recent Math Leadership graduates, NMHU officials, and our LANL partners. Photo taken in front of the new LANL offices in Santa Fe. I think this event was the first event in LANL’s new Santa Fe space.
NMHU was pleased to host Lt. Governor Howie Morales to our campus this week. He visited a couple organizations and agencies in Las Vegas while he was here and spent some time with me and later, our deans and other campus officials (e.g., the AD, the Faculty Senate Leadership, etc.). The Lt. Governor has been and remains a strong and important advocate for HU and the entire higher ed sector.
We were informed this week that our proposal to offer the Bachelor of Science in General Business was approved by the New Mexico HED. Still some steps to take (e.g., HLC), but we are moving forward with that program. Well done to all who helped make this happen.
This week I and others prepared for the NMHU presentation on Capital Outlay. Once again, we were proposing a demolition and rebuild of the Facilities Building. The building is in very poor condition, has no insulation whatsoever, has several ADA issues, and most critically, issues with fire suppression and other safety concerns. Plus, it houses a significant number of HU employees who deserve an improved work environment and on top of everything else, it is right in front of the Trolley Barn–one of the most attractive buildings on our campus. I think the hearing went well…now we wait.
Hamatis (Latin: Barbed Wool)
Many people question me about my interest in and commitment to fly fishing when I so frequently come home with nothing whatsoever in the creel and no trout for breakfast. Apparently, some people believe that the major goal–maybe the only goal–of fly fishing is catching a bunch of fish. Many dedicated fly fishermen (and women) think that’s way off. I do too. For many of us, a day on the stream is as much about being in nature and reflecting on the beauty there as catching a fish. A few months ago, I was fishing in the middle of the week and I think it might have been the longest stretch in many months when I was totally alone. I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t talk to anyone and after an hour or so, I could literally feel my breathing slowing down and my shoulders lowering from up around my neck to a more normal and relaxed position. An eagle was nesting in a tree near where I was fishing and believe me, that glorious bird was catching plenty of fish. I watched him or her (I certainly cannot tell the difference at all…my biologist colleagues…is there a way to tell?) swoop down at least three times and attempt to catch a fish. It was nature at a most brutal form, but…it was also a very beautiful thing. I must have watched for an hour or so. I (and many others) often compare fly fishing to art. I am not an artist, but some artists I have known told me that one way to define art is a representation (realistic, evocative, etc.) of something in the world produced after careful observation and reflection. I’d say, that’s at least close to fly fishing as well. You need to carefully observe what is going on in the stream. Where are the areas that might hold a fish? What are the best spots to cast so you don’t scare the fish away? What’s happening below the surface? On it? Do you see any bugs? What do they look like? Do you have a fly that looks like those bugs? After all that observing and reflection, you make choices and work to select a fly and a cast to represent that small piece of the world right in front of you. Kind of like making art.
Of course, you can also just tie on anything at all and cast it out there and see what happens. Even that makes for a good day. Another good day–take your fly stuff and a good book…and just read the book. Another good day–take your fly equipment, a good book, and a lunch and just have lunch. Maybe a nap. You really can’t go wrong.
Talk about the beauty of nature and a great spot to reflect on just about anything…how about this image of Grand Lake Stream, Maine. Of interest to academics, every summer some of the top economists in the nation hold meetings in the village of Grand lake Stream and they have done so for many years. Rumor has it that trickle-down economics was hatched at a Grand Lake Stream meeting. I hope the economists there at the time of the discussion had more luck fishing than they had with that economic initiative. Various boards and think tanks also routinely meet there. The Penn State Board of Trustees was meeting there while I was fishing.
CAMPUS WEEKLY UPDATE Week of August 2 — 6
One of the first things I do each morning is read Inside Higher Ed, and I was struck by one of the articles appearing on Wednesday. It captured many of my sentiments and feelings exactly. The author, Matt Reed, is one of my favorite contributors to IHE. I’ve also heard him speak once or twice and he’s down to earth, but very smart and I would say, very much in line with how so many HU staff, faculty, and administrators feel about things. He’s one of us. Here’s Matt’s article: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/strains
We are starting to see some use of our (at this point, only) electric university car. I hope more people use that vehicle over time. I know it takes some getting used to, and I know that you must be cognizant of the locations of charging stations, but…I remain committed to going electric as we can. Perhaps you saw the recent editorial in the Albuquerque paper: https://www.abqjournal.com/2416947/nm-right-to-accelerate-toward-cleaner-new-cars.html.
The various opinions about COVID responses continued this week. One of the more interesting developments pertained to a proposal by a few elected officials to strip federal funding from any public university mandating certain COVID restrictions. Obviously, I’ll have to monitor this closely, but I think the chances of this really happening are low…but not zero. Here’s an article about this: https://www.abqjournal.com/2416293/herrell-cosponsors-bill-that-could-strip-universities-of-federal-funds-ex-dpnm-chair-calls-the-move-not-only-unacceptable-but-also-dangerous-for-all-americans.html. I have been working closely with various health experts and others on COVID matters, and will be making a COVID announcement soon. Many trends are going the wrong direction (again) and I think we must adjust accordingly. As one physician noted, “COVID 19 may be at least partially behind us. COVID 21 is here now and it is raging.” Of course, the greatest challenge right now is the Delta variant and to make matters worse, many experts believe that there may be additional variants this fall.
I met with the officers of the NMHU Staff Senate this week and we reviewed the results from the Staff Senate Workplace Quality Survey for 2020-2021. I was pleased to learn that 83.3% of all respondents (N = 60) would recommend NMHU as a good place to work. Findings from some studies suggest that about 85% (or so) of employees hate their jobs https://www.staffsquared.com/blog/why-85-of-people-hate-their-jobs/, so if that is true, we are looking pretty good. Of course, there is always room for improvement and several suggestions were made to make the workplace better including more time for training, more opportunities for advancement, and more and or more frequent recognition for jobs well done. Several respondents also recommended continuing work in equity and inclusivity. Some concerns were noted pertaining to the treatment of some staff by others on campus. We identified a small number of things we might/should do to address some of these issues and will roll them out this fall. I want to thank the Staff Senate for their work on this survey and moving toward action in a collegial and productive way. In my experience, internal surveys often result in little or no changes at all, particularly if there are many unconstructive criticisms. But, the conversation I had with Staff Senate officers was very direct and honest, but also constructive and I’d say definitely designed to improve HU. Well done, my colleagues.
I hope you’ve had a chance to visit the NMHU Virtual Cowboy Art Show. It is always great and this year’s show is no exception. Here’s a link to visit: https://www.nmhu.edu/fourth-annual-cowboy-art-show-on-view-virtually-at-highlands-university/
Everyone may already know this, but New Mexico is extending the cash incentive program to encourage vaccinations. Here’s the details: https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/local/new-mexico/2021/07/29/new-mexico-covid-vaccine-incentives-august-offer-another-round/5423466001/.
Lots of planning underway for the 2021-2022 Cowgirls and Cowboys athletic seasons. If we want to compete, we’ll have to strictly adhere to the RMAC and NCAA COVID requirements, which are quite stringent. Planning is also underway for the Vatos season. We went through this kind of planning last fall and of course, only competed in a few matches. Let’s hope we can move forward this year, but we must be nimble in the face of COVID’s ever changing status. Many thanks to our student athletes, our coaches, and others who are working with all this without any certainty at all.
It was a busy week–in addition to normal duties and numerous COVID meetings, there was lunch with a prospective Foundation board member, a very nice graduation celebration honoring the first cohort of graduates in our math leadership program, hosting the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, and more.
Hamatis (Latin: Barbed Wool)
We are really blessed to have several tremendous trout fisheries here in New Mexico, but few if any can really compare to the San Juan river behind Navajo Dam. Opened in the 1960s amidst much controversy, the dam turned the warm, muddy and highly seasonal river to a cold-water stream producing one of the best rainbow and brown trout fisheries in the entire nation. The San Juan is designated a Blue Ribbon fishery. A Blue Ribbon designation is made by the United States government and sometimes other authorities to identify recreational fisheries of extremely high quality and the San Juan is very high quality to say the least. If you want to try some top-notch fly fishing right here in New Mexico, take a day and visit the San Juan. If you fish in the Quality Water section, you’ll need to use barbless hooks and abide by numerous other special regulations. But, you will not be disappointed. Here’s a typical rainbow from the San Juan River.
CAMPUS WEEKLY UPDATE Week of July 26 — 30
This week was yet another week filled with local, statewide, regional, and national meetings pertaining to COVID. I imagine everyone has seen or heard about the CDC’s newest recommendations and on Wednesday afternoon, when the New Mexico Department of Health held a meeting focusing exclusively on issues here in New Mexico. I also had a lengthy meeting with other RMAC presidents and chancellors as we get closer to fall sports. Then, on Thursday, this from the Governor: https://www.abqjournal.com/2414518/gov-to-state-workers-get-vaccine-or-prepare-for-lots-of-tests.html
After getting this news, I immediately called HED Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez who informed me that, after consulting with her colleagues, the Governor’s orders did not apply to institutions of higher education. That could change of course, and the pace of change is but one of the many challenges of COVID. A group gets together to discuss some COVID related issue and before that’s done, something changes. A state health order is added or rescinded. New guidance from the CDC. And this week was a great (terrible?) example of what I am referring to — lots of announcements, some changes, and a vigorous churn. I have received a couple messages from students, their parents, the staff, the faculty, and community members and I listen carefully to each bit of input, but as you might imagine, it is all over the place because people have very different ideas about what should be done. I was struck by an epidemiologist recently quoted in the New York Times who said something like, we have moved from a cloister type of situation to a new reality that we are all going to have to find some way to protect ourselves and others (with no guarantee of either) to a place where that is certainly important, but also trying to find a way to live — to co-exist — with COVID. That struck me as maybe about right. Get vaccinated — that’s still the best path forward, in my view.
This fall (COVID permitting — I am so weary of that phrase), we’ll be bringing the acclaimed photographer Ms. Traer Scott to campus to do a talk and book signing focusing on her images of shelter dogs. Here’s her website: http://www.traerscott.com/ and the cover of her wonderful book.
There will be an event on our campus and a community event supporting the local animal shelter. We’ll also be bringing the long-form documentarian, David Sutherland, to screen and do an after film talk and Q&A session on his film, Marco Doesn’t Live Here. Mr. Sutherland is one of my favorite documentary filmmakers (check out Kind Woman, Country Boys, and or The Farmer’s Wife). I’m not sure, but I think you can screen these films for free on the NPR website — most of his films air on NPR. The Marco film is about a Mexican citizen who comes North and eventually marries a woman in the US. He returns to Mexico and gets stuck there — tragically separating him from his family. We’ll have two screenings of the film — one for NMHU folks and one for the community.
I am so proud of the NMHU cohort who will be graduating with our program in Educational Leadership with a special concentration in mathematics. This initiative is in collaboration with LANL — another great partnership we have with them (among many). I always hesitate to point out a single person or even a small group who spearhead some new thing, but I would be remiss to not acknowledge the contributions of the Dr. Robert Karaba and others in the School of Education who helped make this happen. Here are a few more details: https://www.nmhu.edu/six-highlands-graduate-students-earn-a-degree-in-a-pilot-program-in-math-leadership/. I think New Mexico ranks 49th in math achievement. No-one thinks that is OK and this program will do at least a little something to help move that needle. Well done to all involved in this.
We are planning some new activities for students living in our residential facilities, including a bus/van tour of the city and several key locations of potential interest to students. The families of students will also be invited to participate during move-in. The basic idea is to familiarize new students (and their families) with the city and offices, services, etc. they might need. Of course, the tours, how we conduct them, etc. might be impacted by COVID restrictions. Here’s a promotional flier for these tours:
If you participated in the face-to-face or virtual board meeting last week, you learned that Baker and Associates was selected by the board for the renovation of Sininger. It is important that HU folks have opportunities to make recommendations about what that renovation might look like. The opportunity to redo a major campus building only comes around every 30 years or more so we need to try to get it right. Of course, I think every new or renovated building I’ve been involved in over the years has begun with lots of great ideas and often, sky-high expectations. That’s OK, but the reality of what things actually cost soon sets in. For a building like Sininger, a lot of cash (much of what we have) will go into infrastructure like HVAC, plumbing, roofs, and other necessary improvements that cannot readily be seen, but are nonetheless necessary. Speaking only for myself (and given what we went through and continue to go through with COVID), I am interested in trying to engineer some nice outdoor spaces for instructional and other purposes.
You may have already seen our newest promotional piece. I think it is really great and captures much of what is special about this place. We’ve received lots of positive feedback about the production value and especially the messaging. If you want to take a look, here’s a Facebook link to see it: https://www.facebook.com/HighlandsUniversity/videos/403732643931273 Thanks to University Relations for a job well done on this.
HU continues to get some positive press related to some work done by former faculty member and Jefferson Science Fellow Dick Greene. I have not kept close track, but I think his work regarding the benefits of walking is among the top media hits we get here at NMHU. Here’s the latest (May 2021) that came to my attention: https://www.eatthis.com/what-going-for-a-morning-walk-does-to-your-body-says-science/.
Things are moving forward on the NMHU Cultural Park. A photo of the horno there:
Hamatis (Latin: (Barbed Wool)
Norman Maclean was an academic (University of Chicago) and, of course, an avid fly fisherman. He is also the author of what is arguably the greatest fly-fishing book ever written, and some critics even list that book as one of the greatest American novels of all time. The book, A River Runs Through It, was published in 1976 to widespread acclaim. The film by the same name also won numerous awards and is on several Top 100 American Film lists. Both the book and the film are certainly some of my favorites. I’d recommend both to you without reservations.
The first line of the book (“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing”) and the last line (“I am haunted by waters”) are very well known. I once even got a Jeopardy question right when I knew the book where that last line was from (although I did not answer in the form of a question, so technically, I did not get it right at all), but my favorite passages are these:
“Poets talk about ‘spots of time,’ but it is really fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No-one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone.”
“We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.”
Stay safe. Try to stay optimistic under these challenging conditions. Let’s be kind and gentle with each other.
All the best,
CAMPUS WEEKLY UPDATE Week of July 19-23
NMHU faculty continue to perform at a very high level in grants and contracts. Last week, we were informed by the National Science Foundation that we’ve been funded for $3.8mil to support a project titled BioPACIFICMIPcollaboration in design, synthesis and application of metal-organic hybrid biomaterials. The PI on this is Gil Gallegos. Tatiana Timofeeva, Kelly Trujillo, Mike Petronis, and Javier Read de Alaniz (UC-Santa Barbara) are Co-PIs. Well done to these good colleagues and thank you for your efforts. Last week, we were also informed by Senator Lujan’s office that we’ll receive about 300K to encourage greater participation in some STEM disciplines. More on this one as we develop a joint press release with the Senator’s office. Chemistry professors Arcadius Krivoshein and Tatiana Timofeeva, and natural resources professor Michael Petronis, were recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant of $150,000 that will go towards the purchase of a special microscope. The microscope, which is used to perform Raman spectroscopy, is a relatively new technology that has been increasingly used by many industries over the past ten years—including pharmaceuticals, geology, forensic science, and quality control, among others. The microscope will arrive on campus in September and will be available for classroom use as well as for students’ senior projects and theses. We’ve received several other grants over the summer and depending on how frequently you check the HU Website over the summer (I hope not too frequently), you may have missed them. I’ll try to catch people up over the next several weeks.
Fall enrollment projections appear to be stable at this point—little or no gain in undergraduates and some gains in graduate students. Of course, the numbers that count are those at census date, so these are projections only. Much of the improvement in graduate enrollment is in our Alternative Teacher Education Program, the new online program in Social Work, and other students from Wiley.
Our own former Vato and HU alum, Kevon Williams, is participating on the USA rugby team in this year’s Olympic games. Kevon was a standout rugby player here at HU and a wonderful example of how HU can help students graduate and achieve great things in their lives. At this point, Team USA is 2-0 with a tough match with South Africa coming up. Mr. Williams played very well in both matches. A link to an article in the Optic: https://www.lasvegasoptic.com/content/tokyo-bound
I cannot say how much I appreciate the continuing work of the HU Sustainability Task Force. These totally volunteer faculty, staff, and student members are leading the way to make HU better stewards of our precious environment and modeling what great stewardship looks like. To all those who dedicate their precious time to this initiative, I thank you sincerely.
Hamatis is Latin for “barbed wool” and that phrase is one of the earliest descriptions of fly fishing. There was a small book titled Hamatis by an ancient sportsman and devotee of the sport. I think the author’s name was Autus, but not sure. Apparently, someone back then had the idea to wrap some wool on a bronze hook and sling it into the water and…voila…the guy was fly fishing. Today, modern fly fishing is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, possibly due to the many pressures and anxieties related to COVID. Fly fishing is a highly reflective pastime and I’ve personally found it difficult to be overly anxious or worried while pursuing the sport. The fact that it is often done in some of the most beautiful settings imaginable doesn’t’ hurt either. Coming out of COVID, people seem to seek out peaceful and reflective pastimes like fly-fishing. During the 2021-2022 academic year, I will conclude my weekly (or almost weekly) campus reports with a line or two under the heading Hamatis.
A photo of me in Northern Maine practicing the sport of hamatis…but in my case, the result of me casting a nymph (a type of fly) in Grand Lake Stream, Maine while the air temperature was about 35 degrees. That’s a 23-inch smallmouth bass.
All the best,