The Western New Mexico Board of Regents unanimously approved the Five-Year Plan for New Degree Programs, Sabbatical Leave Recommendation 2018-19, Capital Transmittal for Ritch Hall and Regents Row, and Mid-Year Budget Adjustment Request Fiscal Year 18 and Approval of Asset Disposal during their meeting on Dec. 7 on the WNMU campus in Silver City.
Chair Jerry A. Walz, Vice Chair Janice Baca-Argabright, Student Regent and Secretary/Treasurer Arlean Murillo and regents Drs. Carl Foster and Dan Salzwedel were all in attendance.
The board approved Drs. Alexandra Neves and Andrew Hernandez to take sabbaticals and continue research and academic work during the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters, respectively. “These are two outstanding faculty members that are doing exceedingly good work that will bring renown to the university,” Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost Dr. Jack Crocker said.
Commenting on WNMU’s Five-Year Plan for New Degree Programs, Crocker said, “The minor in Geographic Information Systems will enhance our natural sciences programming. GIS is part and parcel of our lives. Students can get an associate degree in rural health and community care while they’re getting the baccalaureate in nursing degree as well.”
The regents approved Capital Transmittal for both Ritch Hall and Regents Row, residence halls that will be repurposed for other uses.
The Ritch Hall renovation will add features that better equip the building as a conferencing and special use facility. Foster said, “We are helping out the community by housing our students from Mexico in the hotels this week. If this hall had been refurbished, we would have been able to house all of these students on campus. We could generate enough revenue to more than pay for the expenditure.”
A heating and cooling system will be installed at Regents Row, the first two floors of which will be rented to Aldo Leopold Charter School. The third floor will be blocked off for possible renovation in the future. “Regents Row has been vacant since spring 2013,” Vice President for Business Affairs Kelley Riddle said. “Aldo is expecting to use the first and second floors to bring the junior high and high school onto our campus. If we do renovate the third floor, that will allow them to expand.”
Salzwedel said that campus sharing arrangements between high schools and universities are common nationwide. “This is not unusual at all,” he said.
After minimal discussion, the regents approved the Mid-Year Budget Adjustment Request and Asset Disposal.
The board also heard from President of Student Government Timothy Stillman, President of Staff Senate Dean Foster, President of Faculty Senate Dr. Andrew Hernandez and WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard.
“When we hear these speakers, it shows what a terrific university we have,” Walz said.
Stillman updated the regents on security camera installations and reported that the student government will make the same legislative request that it made during the 2017 session and appeal for funds to make virtualized applications available remotely. “Our online student base is increasing. These applications will make it possible for students to access software and technologies online without having to physically come to campus,” Stillman said.
With flowers and a plaque, WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard honored outgoing Staff Senate President Donna Rees, who introduced Dean Foster as the current Staff Senate President. Dean Foster said staff senate is working on a compensation plan and staff salaries benefit study through the College and University Professional Association. “It’s a comparison of institutions that look like Western,” Rees said.
The staff is also putting together a quick reference guide to help staff answer common student questions, developing a new communications plan and piloting a succession plan program. A recent joint social event “opened communications between faculty and staff,” Dean Foster said.
President of Faculty Senate Dr. Andrew Hernandez told the board that his group is working on a proposed policy of hiring spouses and domestic partners and is interested in the possibility of raises.
“It is our stated goal to raise faculty salary. You are going to see some movement in the not too distant future to bring faculty salaries into parity with other universities,” Walz said.
In his report, WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard said that due to WNMU’s above average performance, it is in a position to get a greater share of the state monies available. He noted that funds from the upcoming state general obligation bond will go toward Harlan Hall renovation and infrastructure improvements.
The president said the default rate for WNMU graduates with student loans has gone down from 29.4 percent to 19 percent. He also attributed the increase in transfer students at WNMU to the work of faculty members who are in contact with prospective students.
President Shepard encouraged the regents to download the Mustang mobile app and gave each of them literature about the WNMU Foundation’s President’s Society and about the Office of Cultural Affairs’ inaugural ¡Fiesta Latina!, briefly discussing each initiative. He closed his report saying, “Let’s celebrate what our students have achieved.”
Sharing the floor with President Shepard, Crocker commented on WNMU’s areas of distinction, particularly the Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences designation. “We just finished our first semester of a pilot program. It has been extremely successful,” he said.
The required freshman Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences course, an approach on big history, is content-centered with a focus on critical thinking and discussion in small groups. “Students are now having to accept responsibility for their own learning,” Crocker said.
The provost highlighted WNMU’s efforts to infuse the Gila National Forest into curriculum. “We’re striving to raise the use of the Gila since it’s one of this area’s major amenities. Some of these students have never seen the milky way. They haven’t been out where there’s no place to shop,” he said.
Crocker said the university is working to develop more business-to-business contacts, expanding summer conferencing opportunities, and pursuing grant opportunities in order to bring in funding not reliant on tuition or the state.
Vice President of External Affairs Dr. Magdaleno Manzanares updated the board on drone technology programs, international student recruitment, and proposed degree programs. “Right now, we have 60 high school students from three private Catholic high schools on campus. Many of them are talking about coming to Western. Those are the people who can afford tuition at an American university,” he said.
Walz said that the board and faculty members are in talks with the king of Zambia. WNMU may someday open a learning center in the African country. “They don’t have traditional colleges but crave them. A lot of the students getting their degrees are going to China, and the government is paying for it. It could help us internationally so we’re going to continue exploring it,” he said.
In closing, Walz noted his appreciation for commencement speaker race car driver Bobby Unser. “It’s not often you can have a living legend present,” he said.
Before the meeting adjourned, regent Foster thanked faculty, staff and administration. “You make us look good. Because of your hard work, these decisions are easy for us. We are progressing as a university,” he said.
Salzwedel echoed Foster’s sentiments. “Our progress in physical facilities and culture of learning is palpable,” he said.
The next WNMU Board of Regents meeting will be in Santa Fe on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.