Photos and Article by Shirin McArthur

Dr. Shepard gives his State of the University Address

Western New Mexico University President Joseph Shepard addressed an overflow crowd of interested locals, visitors from Las Cruces, and WNMU students and staff in his "State of the University" address at the Silver City Museum Annex on Saturday afternoon, August 16.

He announced that WNMU has completed a Master Plan, which sets goals for the University for 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years out. He then proceeded to outline many of the capital expenditures being undertaken now and his hopes for the years to come.

General Obligation Bond funds are, or will be, allocated for the following:
• $2 million for completion of renovations of Light Hall, including classrooms, the 190-seat theater and a patio entertainment space since the building's historic designation does not allow for expansion of the small lobby.
• $3.8 million for the WNMU Museum, for an external paint job, security and fire alarm systems and an HVAC unit to help protect the fragile museum exhibits.
• $200,000 to develop plans for the renovation of Harlan Hall, which is the 50-year-old science building. Dr. Shepard hopes that future GO Bonds will support a $6 million renovation.
• The Fine Arts building, which would be renovated with approximately $3.9 million in future GO Bond funds, would include expansion of the lobby and restrooms, addition of a fire suppression sprinkler system and better lighting and sound technology.

Dr. Shepard also addressed the need for upgraded exterior lighting throughout the campus, as the current light fixtures are inefficient and contribute to light pollution. He expressed his desire that WNMU continue to reduce its carbon footprint, as the new fixtures would save $12,000 per year.

Better signage is another priority for Dr. Shepard, who would like to see marquee signs on Watts Hall, College Avenue and the Fine Arts building. He sees these signs as an opportunity to share notice and advertising space with the community.

The WNMU fitness center facilities around Old James Stadium are another area slated to receive significant renovations, including repair and redesign of the swimming pool and the addition of fitness equipment, a jogging track and basketball and volleyball courts. The WNMU students, faculty and staff will use these facilities for free, while payment of a nominal, to-be-determined membership fee will allow the public to enjoy these facilities.

Dr. Shepard discussed a number of WNMU partnerships with the community, including existing relationships, such as with Senior Olympics and Mimbres Region Arts Council, and proposed partnerships, which would create a monthly jazz night at the Parotti Recital Hall.

Additional relationships being developed include a connector trail to the Continental Divide Trail, which would allow hikers to use WNMU dormitory and shower facilities, and the creation of an artist-in-residence program and a concert series.

WNMU is experiencing the same downturn in enrollment as other higher education institutions in the state, which Dr. Shepard attributes to the improving economy, noting that when the number of jobs increases, the number of students goes down. With the addition this year of 48 new beds, the WNMU residence hall capacity is now 376 and has an expected fall occupancy rate of 80%.

In one of many efforts to increase enrollment, the university is creating Memoranda of Understanding with a number of international universities. For example, the country of Brazil has committed to sending 100,000 students to the U.S. over a ten-year period, and WNMU is one of 16 universities where such students will come to study for a degree in education. There are also a number of other MOUs being created with universities in Mexico.

Dr. Shepard then discussed the younger generation's facility with the web and online technology, noting that while he is a believer in technology, it supplements what WNMU has to offer. WNMU's smaller regional campus (currently serving 3,500 students) offers advantages not available to online students, including a community that cares and affordable tuition that is approximately $3,000 less than the national average of $9,000 per year for in-state residents. Currently 12% of WNMU students come from out of state.

Dr. Shepard concluded his prepared remarks with the fact that he and the faculty will be engaging in a review of the curriculum, because WNMU will need to more specifically target its limited resources toward particular offerings in future years. Some specifics that he offered included a robust arts curriculum in connection with the vibrant arts community in this area, courses that can be supported by the rich wilderness resources available nearby and the study of the stars in the relatively dark sky of southwestern New Mexico.

Photo:A full house gathered to listen to the State of the University Address

Dr. Shepard then took questions from those present, speaking positively of his hopes for WNMU's existing sports programs and addressing the lack of baseball and swimming teams. In response to a question about walls and barriers to community partnerships, Dr. Shepard spoke of the need to focus on the positive in a season of change and expressed his desire for more of a "university town" relationship with Silver City.

"I use the word 'we' intentionally," he concluded, encouraging the community to contact him with their questions and to challenge negative information in a helpful manner.

5115, 19 – Dr. Shepard gives his State of the University Address
5120 – Dr. Shepard discusses the various capital expenditures outlined in the 5-year Master Plan
5127 – A full house gathered to listen to the State of the University Address
5131 – Dr. Shepard spoke with individuals after the address

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