September 3, 2020
Las Vegas, N.M. – Spintz Harrison is the new Native American liaison at New Mexico Highlands University.
Harrison, whose heritage is Shoshone and Navajo, comes to Highlands from Kansas State University, where he taught in the Department of American Ethnic Studies from 2017 to 2020.
“I am Native American and understand how hard it is for native students to be successful in postsecondary education,” Harrison said. “There are so many problems and traps my people fall into. I can help them avoid some of those issues and problems.”
Harrison said his top goal at Highlands is to retain Native American students until they graduate.
“I am committed to assisting native students at Highlands in reaching their goals. I also want to increase Native American student enrollment at Highlands,” Harrison said.
Currently, students from 19 Native American tribes attend Highlands.
Harrison earned his Ph.D. in American Indian studies from the University of Arizona in 2006 and his master’s degree in sociology from Highlands University in 2000.
Previously, Harrison taught on the faculty of the Department of Ethnic Studies at Bowling Green State University from 2010 to 2016, where he specialized in Native American studies courses. Harrison also taught at Northern New Mexico College from 2009 to 2010, with a focus on Pueblo Indian studies.
Harrison received teaching awards at Kansas State University and Bowling Green State University.
“As much as I love teaching and enlightening my students’ minds, in my heart I know that I am not fulfilling my obligation to native people. This position at Highlands will give me the opportunity to do that,” Harrison said.
Harrison said at every university where he taught, he also participated in recruiting events, speaking with potential students and parents.
“Native American recruitment is an important element of my position at Highlands,” Harrison said.
Harrison said he has visited every Native American reservation in New Mexico and has also worked with Pueblo governors in the past, experience that will be useful as he works with native leaders while at Highlands.
“Native leaders and community members need to see university representation at their reservations because it gives them a sense of belonging to the university community,” Harrison said.
Harrison said he will use his experience as a Highlands alumnus as a tool to promote the university and encourage students to continue their education.
“Being an alumnus of Highlands, I know what it feels like being on campus and interacting with students and faculty. In my new position, I can help Highlands students who face problems academically and also provide cultural support,” Harrison said.
At Highlands, Harrison will oversee the university’s Native American Center.
“The Native American Center is important because it provides an outlet for native students on campus to feel comfortable away from home,” Harrison said.