As Western New Mexico University continues to search for deans for its five newly established colleges—Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health and Human Services, and Community College and Workforce Development—candidates visit the campus, talk to staff and students, and speak in public forums.
On Thursday, Jan. 17, Buddy Hooper of Texas A&M-Texarkana visited the campus as a candidate for the dean of the College of Education. He is department chair of education administration over the master's program, superintendent program, principal program and director of doctoral program in education administration, as well as founder of the golf program.
Hooper thanked students, "the backbone of this university," for attending the open forum.
He holds a bachelor's degree in animal science, a master's in science teaching and a doctorate of education. Hooper spent time as a child growing up in Silver City and at least once a year has traveled back to the area to hike into the Gila Wilderness. He said he learned to read at the library and his sister's house in Silver City.
"I believe in the promise of every student," Hooper said. "I have taught face-to-face and online, as well as a hybrid of the two." He has been involved in computers since his first—a Mac LC— in 1990. He also served on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo setting up tours for small children.
"I want to come back home," Hooper said of Silver City.
"I work to create a collaborative and participatory community," Hooper said. "I believe in rural and diverse populations, and in rural schools. Rural areas are a valuable resource of learning and child development."
In his vision, he said he believes in supporting and empowering the student, the community, the faculty and the staff of the university.
"I own and am chief editor of International Journal of Creative Research, which keeps me current on trends in education," Hooper said. "I am an effective communicator that builds relationships. I am ethical, moral, truthful and professional, as well as being very open."
Although he said he is not fluent in Spanish, he can get by in the language and he has transculturation. The university he serves presently is, as is WNMU, a Hispanic-serving university.
"I work well with others to achieve long- and short-range systemic goals," Hooper said. "I bring early childhood experience and a lot of experience in doctoral program and support faculty."
He also has experience in supporting, encouraging and ensuring the quality of online offerings, as well as integrating technology into teaching and learning programs in multiple academic disciplines. He has also assisted in fund-raising efforts at the university level and developing, coordinating and evaluating marketing plans and recruitment efforts.
The first questioner asked Hooper for his vision and strategy for the WNMU College of Education.
"The program needs to benefit all students," Hooper said. "If there is a need to create new face-to-face courses, hybrid or online courses, then do it. You need to involve students from the Mining District. We want to keep local students here. Students are why we exist. I want to look at what your faculty wants to do, because I want to do it collaboratively."
An audience member said that 48 states have agreed to use Common Core state standards for education of students. New Mexico asked for a waiver. "What have you done with Common Core?"
Hooper said Common Core is vital to success for students. "We must make it the thread for transfers. We have to visit and dialogue to help train me on legislative issues in New Mexico. At A&M, we had to keep Common Core even when we lowered the number of required hours from 36 to 30."
The audience member continued with the question. "More specifically, teachers who are teaching to the Common Core need to have that preparation."
Hooper agreed and said that in professional development, "we have to make sure every professor is trained in it. We have to educate our folks on it."
A questioner asked for examples of processes Hooper has used in program prioritization and to increase student participation.
"We have to be open with the students," Hooper said. "Often prioritization is done through budgeting. In the past, I have had professors rank ideas anonymously. The main thing is that we are listening."
Another audience member asked Hooper what he would let go in the College of Education.
"I can't answer that," Hooper said, "because I would have to ask you and we would prioritize. You have to ask what is important for you and then go back and ask again. There are limitations on the president and provost budgets, so you don't always get what you want. Keep looking for opportunities and keep asking for the money. I will continue to ask you and to prioritize. I don't know enough to know what to cut out or add. We will think and talk into a smooth transition. I will go to bat for quality things."
WNMU Scholar-in-Residence Felipe Ortego y Gasca asked how Hooper would further WNMU as a Hispanic-serving institution.
"I believe in a diverse university, and I see ourselves sustaining the designation," Hooper said. "We have to make sure we continue contacts."
As a follow-up to the previous question, "WNMU is not just Hispanic, but also has a large group of Native Americans. How would you support them?"
"I'm knowledgeable about what exists in New Mexico," Hooper said. "We have to ensure quality courses. I would personally like to provide transculturation. I have traveled to expand my understanding. I think I'm sensitive to the needs. Quality courses embedded in the curriculum are important."
An audience member asked Hooper to describe his collaboration on an international level.
Hooper said he developed the idea of the International Journal of Creative Research while he was in Taiwan. "Every two years, I travel to Taiwan. I didn't develop the journal on my own. It came out of collaboration. I will ask students what they would like to see in the college."
A student said she has been off and on in the College of Education since 2005, but received a master's degree in a different discipline. The university has flaws. "How do you support getting access to professors? There are many policies and procedures that are frustrating to students."
"That's the first I've heard about that," Hooper said. "Every student should leave the university with a good taste in the mouth."
The same student said she works in customer service. She admitted that there have been changes with the new university leadership.
Hooper said there would be dean-level meetings. "I will bring up the issue and continue to until the issue is resolved. If it can't happen, I'll have to communicate that to you."
Ortego y Gasca said his comment was totally biased and subjective. "I have not seen the university as student friendly. The offices are not student-friendly, customer-friendly or service-oriented."
Hooper said, at least, "I could fix that in my department. In McAllen, Texas, schools, we did professional training for secretaries for three days. We dealt with customer relations and how to be friendly and open. When you're responding to email, you have to respond. You have to use the sandwich effect—positive statement, meat in the middle and end with a positive statement."
"I've also said that secretaries need to have time to relax during the day," Hooper said. "Most schools do not give professional training to their secretaries."
An audience member asked what technical development would impact teacher education.
"The problem here is bandwidth," Hooper said. "We have to find ways to expand bandwidth, but you will find things that have surpassed bandwidth. Give students a sheet of what the college is going to do to improve things."
"What is your vision of the College of Education and the Community?" a questioner asked.
"We have to make contacts," Hooper said. "I took faculty members in my car. We took pamphlets of what we offered and went to superintendents. We have to have ties embedded in local communities, including the Mining District, and at the Legislature. When the mines shut down, we need work for those people."
The next open forums will take place at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan 24, and at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, at the WNMU Besse-Forward Global Resource Centerfor candidate for the College of Business Dean position Forrest Aven.