Making its way through the New Mexico state legislature is House Joint Memorial 14, designating Western New Mexico University as the liberal arts and sciences university for the state.
New Mexico does not have a public four-year higher education institution designated with a specific liberal arts and sciences identity. The bill would specify WNMU as the applied liberal arts and sciences university, emphasizing the application aspect of the liberal arts curriculum.
“The workplace is changing frequently and substantially. Employers are looking for candidates who are well-rounded, can adapt to change, and possess more than technical skills in a single area,” said Dr. Jack Crocker, WNMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Essential skills are critical thinking, effective communication, quantitative reasoning, and the ability to make practical application of knowledge.”
The skills and behaviors gained from a liberal arts and sciences education are outlined in the bill, which also emphasizes the importance of a college graduate’s need to compete in a global economy.
“To succeed in the 21st century graduates need these applied skills but also coherent knowledge of the broad procession of human history and a deeper understanding of their place and identity in it. The basic questions Socrates confronted are still relevant in living ethical and socially responsible lives,” Crocker said.
WNMU will soon introduce a newly required applied liberal arts and sciences core curriculum for all entering students.
“A Big History approach, the curriculum will investigate where we came from, where we are now, and where we seem to be going, including the future of work and career planning,” Crocker said.
A final project and problem-based capstone course will require students to demonstrate application of the essential skills.
“The academic liberal arts and sciences foundation allied with the applied requirements of the workplace will provide value-added quality for our graduates and bring distinction to WNMU,” Crocker said.
If passed and signed by Governor Susana Martinez, the applied liberal arts and sciences designation will be the culmination of a new identity for WNMU which recently turned 124 years-old and has been offering associate, baccalaureate and master degrees from its main campus in Silver City and online.
“For the last year, the administration, faculty and staff have come together to create areas of distinction for WNMU, recognizing that we can’t be all things to all people but we can offer something that sets us apart from our competitors,” Crocker said.
Introduced on February 7 and heard by the House Education Committee on February 27, the memorial is sponsored by Representatives Rudy Martinez, Candie Sweetser and Patricia Lundstrom. House Joint Memorial 14 is a duplicate of Senate Joint Memorial 22, sponsored by Senators John Arthur Smith and Howie Morales.