On Tuesday, members the Western New Mexico University Board of Regents discussed their evaluation of the university president Dr. Joseph Shepard and rated his performance as exceptional, noting that as a result, a bonus would automatically be awarded.
“Starting three years ago, we began to use the strategic plan as the basis for the evaluation of the president. This report is really culling information from the entire university team. This is basically our evaluation of the university as a whole,” Regent Chair Dr. Mary Hotvedt said.
“Each of the regents found that Dr. Shepard exceeded our expectations on every level. There was an emphasis on student learning and supporting students during the pandemic. It’s a reflection of his leadership in the state that we see the university’s programs expanding. We were extremely pleased with the year and looking forward to working with him on next year’s plan,” board member Dr. Lyndon Haviland said.
Looking at Dr. Shepard, Dr. Hotvedt said, “There are a number of things that we’ve talked about in the past couple of years that you have tried for building this university that haven’t worked, but I think they’re all brilliant attempts at taking this university in a new direction. I thank you for the attempts that haven’t gotten to the finish line.”
In response, Dr. Shepard said, “University presidents are not standalone islands. Some think they are, but they aren’t.”
Board member Dr. Daniel H. Lopez expressed a similar sentiment: “The quality of the president is measured by the people around him.”
Noting that the board’s contract with Dr. Shepard is nearing its end, Hotvedt formally stated the need to enter into contract negotiations for another four-year contract. Dr. Shepard said he would be willing to enter negotiations. “It’s because of the place and the people that make me and my family, my wife, like being here,” he said.
Drs. Lopez and Haviland agreed to head a committee tasked with developing a contract.
Also during the public meeting in the Serna Conference Room of campus’ administration building, the board approved a list of new degrees and certificates for submission to the state Higher Education Department. The programs included a bachelor’s in communication and thought, an associate in health science education, minors in international commerce and trade as well as finance, and certificates in human resources, geographic information system science, outdoor behavioral health, export-ready, and international commerce and trade. Pointing out the undergraduate degree in communication and thought, Hotvedt said, “I really am a fan of programs that combine skills and put together a new combination as it relates to modern life.”
After tabling the election of officers at the last board meeting, members came prepared to make a decision: Regent Vice Chair Janice Baca-Argabright and regent member Dr. Lopez proposed that the chair and vice chair positions remain as is and that Dr. Lyndon Haviland, who had agreed to serve as the interim secretary/treasurer, continue in that position.
WNMU Vice President for Business Affairs Kelley Riddle presented the past fiscal year’s fourth quarter financial certification, saying, “This lets the board know that we are able to make our payments. I include our budget and our actual. I don’t have any concerns with what’s being presented here.”
Dr. Shepard asked Riddle about the carryover, and, hearing that the instruction and general balance is over $8 million, said that university budgets are complicated. “A year ago, roughly, we made a commitment that would take our reserves down. That’s one-time investing in a lot of positions to stimulate our recruitment. We were worried about its impact in this year if we did not get to 4,000 students. I just reported that we’ll be right around 3,500 students. We have enough savings to push us forward another year.”
Hotvedt agreed, saying, “We have two ways we measure the 4k initiative besides just the money.”
Moving on to the endowment fund status summary report, Riddle said that the document uploaded to the board website needed to be corrected. “We want to make note there was a formula error, and the total numbers did not match up,” she said. “We did have a total loss of $128,000, but others experienced losses too. It left us with a total amount that was above the corpus since we can’t go below the corpus.”
Hotvedt asked, “Essentially we’re in compliance with the endowments from the state?” Riddle confirmed the university is.
Riddle also briefly went through a summary of the WNMU Research and Public Service Projects for fiscal year 2023-24 for presentation to the higher education department. The document summarized funding increases to Mustang Athletics for the addition of women’s soccer and baseball; the Early Childhood Programs to strengthen the quality of the workforce; the WNMU School of Nursing for expanded cohort sizes and new graduate programs; and the WNMU School of Education for the Early Childhood Programs Center of Excellence and for a technology that is used to recruit, teach and retain prospective or current educators.
Other requested appropriations are for instructional television, pharmacy and phlebotomy programs, Truth or Consequences nursing programs, Mimbres Press of WNMU, Student Success Center, Veterans Center, Rural Public Safety Training Institute and Police Academy, Center of Outdoor Recreation and Education Excellence and Institute for Health and Human Performance. “All of these together total $9,610,000, close to $10 million,” Riddle said.
Explaining the submission of a rock-climbing wall project request to the higher education department, Riddle said, the construction will be funded by a $9-per-credit-hour fee that is for student-specific projects.
At the start of the meeting, Dr. Shepard provided fall enrollment projections. “Knocking on the door of 3,500 hundreds would be just fantastic,” he said. “To be that in terms of Deming and us would be great. We’re making inroads in Gallup. It looks like we’ll have about 100 students there this fall. We’re working with some of the local leadership like Senator [George] Muñoz and Representative Patty Lundstrom to find a space.”
He pointed out that a photovoltaic array is being installed over the parking lot between the WNMU Fine Arts Center Theatre and the Juan Chacon Building. “Walmarts have them. Airports have them. Along with our partnership with PNM, which we entered into a contract with a couple years ago, it means we’ll be getting a significant percentage of energy from renewable sources. That saves us money,” he said. “We just got approval to build a new softball field with turf. Just on the softball field alone, we’ll be saving a million gallons of water.”
The board of regents also heard reports from other university leaders, including WNMU Faculty Senate President Scott Smith, who is an associate professor in the WNMU Math and Computer Science Department.
Smith provided the board with a report about the recent seminar for staff and faculty at the Ritz Carlton, where he said they focused on enhancing communications and discussing the importance of making university processes more efficient. “We came away with an increased commitment to promoting a culture of excellence in service at WNMU,” he said.
He also said that four teams have been working on making recommendations based on the employee engagement survey results. “A report will be forthcoming.”
Adele Springer, who is WNMU Staff Senate President, reported that the staff counterpart of the employee engagement teams are also meeting regularly.
Hotvedt asked what employee turnover has been like this year. Springer reported the employees slated to participate in the inaugural combined staff and faculty orientation this August are mostly in positions that opened when people retired.
Dr. Shepard said training is usually one of the first things you cut in a budget. “But I’m pleased with what the staff is doing.”
He introduced Guadalupe Cantoran, who is the new student body president. In her final semester of nursing school, she said she is finishing her second bachelor’s degree from WNMU. “I also was a cross country and track and field student athlete. My plan is to work on having students on campus and online know who we are. We need to be more present as we are here to advocate for students.”
The board will meet next on Thursday, September 29.