The Western New Mexico University Board of Regents came together both virtually and in person Tuesday to approve measures that will advance the institution through the coming fiscal year and beyond, also sharing their evaluation of WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard’s performance.
After hearing an informational report from Dr. Shepard, the board passed a change to the faculty remote work policy, which establishes guidelines for short- and long-term remote work assignments, which take into consideration technological advances along with market demand for online and distance education. “Some positions may be conducive to less traditional work site arrangements. In addition, remote work assignments may offer benefits such as the recruitment of diverse and quality candidates, as well as contributing to enhanced student learning and retention,” the policy reads.
They reviewed and approved the requests for funding for fiscal year 2022-23 research and public service projects, including increases of $750,000 to the Mustang Athletics appropriation for the purpose of adding women’s soccer and baseball, $121,700 to the Early Childhood Programs to offset rising costs of maintaining National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation at the university’s lab sites, $100,000 for the WNMU School of Nursing for the continuation of high-quality education of rural/frontier healthcare providers in line with standards set by the New Mexico Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, $107,763 for a Web-Based Network for Teacher Licensure in order to increase WNMU School of Education capacity through electronic delivery, $20,000 to support the delivery of synchronous video-conferenced courses to our extended university sites, regional high schools and other communities by hiring technicians, and $20,000 to offset costs associated with anticipated changes to state pharmacy tech and phlebotomy program and certification requirements.
New requests included $282,000 for the expansion of the WNMU School of Nursing in Truth or Consequences, $1 million for the Early Childhood Program Center of Excellence, where teachers will be prepared with the knowledge and strategies to support children dealing with adverse experiences in becoming resilient learners, $150,000 for the establishment of a Center for a Sustainable Future to provide leadership, access to education and training, and coordination among the various external initiatives, $200,000 to provide for a financial literacy counselor and a retention specialist as well as increases in programming including life-skills workshops within the Center for Student Success, $250,000 for an expanded WNMU Veterans Center in order to offer comprehensive support services, $260,000 for the Rural Public Safety Training Institute and Police Academy to further develop the Forestry Wildlife Law Enforcement degree and create an integrated university sustainability plan with specific targets and accountability measures at the request of the N.M. Game and Fish Department, $150,000 for the establishment of a university press, supporting university faculty in publishing their scholarly and creative works as well as enhancing the university’s Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences designation.
With the board’s support, the research and public service projects funding requests will now go to the state Higher Education Department for approval and to the legislature for final consideration.
Members discussed and approved a Student Leadership Scholarship that is intended to better enable students to serve on the board of regents, with current Student Regent and Board Secretary/Treasurer Brenda Hernandez Gonzales recusing herself from the vote. They unanimously agreed to the release of funding for the new 14,286-square-foot facility in Deming, providing a permanent home for establish educational programs that are being run from rented facilities not tailored to the needs of the programs. Plus, they conducted housekeeping, approving the fiscal year 2021 Fourth Quarter Financial Certification, the disposal of a campus police car, and the State Investment Council Agreement.
Having covered all the other agenda items, the board presented its evaluation of the university president’s performance. Regent Vice Chair and Evaluation Committee Chair Janice Baca-Argabright said, “We found the president exceeds expectations, and the evaluation averaged out as exemplary.”
Regent Chair Dr. Mary Hotvedt told Dr. Shepard, “We want to acknowledge that when we evaluate you, we evaluate the whole team. You’ve set a challenge for the entire staff and faculty to meet, and that is to create not just 4,000 students here but a way that all the parts of the university will be talking to each other and working together to achieve that kind of goal.”
Hernandez testified to Dr. Shepard’s job of putting students’ minds at ease during the pandemic, while member Dr. Lyndon Haviland said, “Covid-19 challenged the nation and education systems. President Shepard thought strategically about how to maintain and build community. He also thought about the values of the institution and where we want to go.”
The WNMU Board of Regents plans to meet next in September.