Regents Approve Budget, New Degree Programs, Capital Project Priorities

© Western New Mexico University

The Western New Mexico University Board of Regents whizzed through a lengthy agenda Friday, approving the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, agreeing on proposed new degree programs and ensuring the university is poised to capture anticipated Federal funding for infrastructure projects.

After receiving general updates from faculty and staff senate presidents, student body president and also university president Dr. Joseph Shepard, the board members addressed 17 action items, tabling just one and unanimously passing the rest.

Discussing the $50-million 2021-2022 fiscal year budget, Vice President for Business Affairs Kelley Riddle said, “For Instruction and General, we’ll be budgeting a carryover balance of $5.4 million. This includes a temporary budget for the Road to 4k Initiative previously approved by you,” she said.

Dr. Daniel H. Lopez, one of the newest members of the board who was President of New Mexico Tech for two decades, said he asked a lot of questions about the proposed budget at the finance committee meeting, and all were answered to his satisfaction. “I have no concerns at this time, but I’ll continue to monitor.”

Also, after questions from finance committee members Student Regent Brenda Hernandez and Dr. Lopez, the board unanimously passed the final fiscal year 2020-2021 Budget Adjustment Request, which brought the final approved budget to nearly $75 million.

The board approved Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost Dr. Jack Crocker’s recommendations to give retiring faculty members Alireza Arasteh and Douglas Medin emeritus status; promote five faculty members to associate professor and three to professor, grant tenure to three, and renew tenure for six.

Dr. Crocker also proposed eight new degree programs, which included an associate degree in wildland fire, a bachelor’s in political science, and a bachelor’s to master’s program in special education — all for possible implementation in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Another of the now-approved associate degrees is in Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences, the passage of which will help launch a new program designed to provide every degree-seeking WNMU student with a credential that could support their entrance into the workforce should they be unable to complete their bachelor’s programs and to better assist students in obtaining entry level positions or sought- after internships while completing their studies.

Underscoring the importance of maintaining a current wish list of capital projects, Dr. Shepard said the university will be prepared to tap into funding that could be made available through the proposed American Jobs Plan. The regents passed the five-year plan that has Graham Gym renovations and Kentucky Street improvements, Fine Arts Center Theatre renovations, underground power and campus security high on the list of needed infrastructure.

Following explanations from Dr. Shepard, members voted to move forward with the $1.5-million demolition of the 24,000 square foot vacant housing facility Regents Row and also the $2.5-million Harlan/Fleming Hall commons and 10th Street infrastructure project, passing a resolution to sell real estate in Luna County too.

Presenting the university’s alcohol and other drugs biennial review, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Dr. Isaac Brundage said the campus saw a reduction in violations this past year and noted that WNMU is considering how to update campus policies to reflect the state’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana.

Keeping house, the board greenlighted updates to the staff senate election cycle and retreat guidelines and also to leave policies as outlined in the staff handbook, finally approving asset disposal and adopting the resolution to operate in accordance with procedures pursuant to the New Mexico Open Meetings Act.

The WNMU Board of Regents plans to meet next in July.

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