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WNMU Regents Meet in Santa Fe, part 2

Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a three-part report on the WNMU Board of Regents meeting in Santa Fe on Jan. 30. The Beat watched the proceedings by webcast.

At the beginning of the business portion of the Western New Mexico University Board of Regents meeting in Santa Fe, the date and time of next meeting were discussed.

WNMU President Joseph Shepard, said the meeting would take place Monday, March 18, or Tuesday, March 19. After discussion, he said the meeting would begin at 10 a.m. Monday, March 18, and likely would last about half a day. The main topic would be tuition.

Staff Senate President Danielle Moffett presented the first report. She recognized the employees of the month, Joseph Holguin and April Matthews.  "We are developing a pathway for staff with compensation concerns to learn how their position is classified."  The Staff Senate continues to post its minutes and agendas to the WNMU website. Moffett reported the group honored five retiring staff members, three of whom were from the early childhood program.

She cited the current priorities of the Staff Senate, as evaluating employees of the month, as well as the appeals classification and compensation committee. "We have offered recommendations for a replacement provost, and in March we will discuss employment retirement benefits."

Faculty Senate President Emma Bailey reported: "Faculty members are amazingly busy and hard at work on committee assignments. Some are in the process of five dean searches. We have already heard from four candidates and are scheduling seven or eight more. The task takes at least 10 extra hours a week for the faculty members."

Bailey said the General Assembly had met the previous week and had considered two items of interest. The first, which was unanimously recommended, was that domestic partners receive the same benefits as married couples for all employees. The second was freedom as academics to have the ability to design their own courses with the approval of department chairs and new deans.

The Faculty Senate continues to consider issues, policy and procedures, including academic freedom issues, incentive programs, and "we want input on what to do in inclement weather." The group continues to work on faculty expectations, and has a call out for awards of excellence in faculty, teaching and service.

"One of the ways to organize a university is with colleges headed by deans," Bailey commented. The new College of Arts and Sciences is considering its new structure, she said.

Board of Regents Chairman Jerry Walz said Shepard is streamlining the university to avoid duplication.

"We had 15 departments competing for resources," Shepard said. "Having deans of five colleges comes with better access. We are in the process of the dean search and have completed the interviews with the College of Business applicants. Our idea is to have all the deans in place by July 1.

"This is more than just a dean search," he continued. "There will be consolidation, and there will be the challenge for faculty moving from one office to another. We advertised for the dean in various journals. They need to be committed to diversity, and we're seeing a diverse pool."

Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Faye Vowell said the search committee also represents members of the university staff and the community. "The candidates have been congratulatory about the committee."

Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Isaac Brundage presented the head count of students enrolled as of Jan. 30. "We are up 8.88 percent in enrollment, with full-time enrollment up 5 percent. The first freshman semester enrollment is up 32 percent compared to last year. Eighty-seven percent of the students are receiving financial aid. Although dual credit is down from the fall, we are still seeing an increase from last year. We are changing the focus of the dual enrollment to having students become university students at Western."

He reported the number of students in housing went down. "We are redoing the housing contract."

Last summer, 467 students went through new-student orientation.

"We are proud to announce we will bring back the Student Hall of Fame and induct up to 10 at the end of the semester."

Brundage pointed out Western has 15 partner high schools for dual enrollment. "We have one of the largest dual-enrollment programs in the state."

Shepard said the dual-enrollment students do not always get to 32 credit hours, so "it is an unfunded mandate that can affect the budget." Some of the classes are online, some at the high schools and some on campus. "With dual enrollment the students do not have to pay tuition or buy books. If students start in their junior and senior year, they can get an associate's degree, and can ultimately get a full degree for less than $10,000. In the larger markets, we have to balance how much we offer because other universities are there. We are unique, because we are a community college, a four-year degree-granting university and also offer master's degrees. We have traditional and non-traditional students. I see dual enrollment growing."

Outgoing Student Regent Kelly Clark asked Brundage about the first time freshmen seeing an increase. "I didn't have orientation. Seeing them involved before they become students, do you see it working for us?"

"It is a recruitment and a retention tool," Brundage said. "We had a lot of current students involved in the orientation, and they continue with the students through the year."

"Wish I had had it," Clark said. "I think it's a good program."

Board member Tony Trujillo said: "When the number goes up, it tells us we're doing it right."

Newly appointed Regent Dan Salzwedel asked about the percent of Internet and TV students. Vowell replied that they were maybe 10 percent of the student population.

Salzwedel asked if the increase in the number of students correlated to an increase in lottery scholarship numbers and whether it was included in the fall statistics.

Vowell explained that students don't get the lottery scholarship their first semester, and it does not cover housing.

Brundage said most students use financial aid to cover housing. "It is included in the package application form."

"When we create a financial aid package, it includes tuition, books, housing and miscellaneous expenses," Shepard said.  "The estimated family contribution is taken into account. If it is zero, the student is entitled to apply for Pell grants, as well as for subsidized loans. Not at any point can the student receive more than that financial aid budget. Most students have unmet needs, but can get scholarships to help."

Walz asked for the demolition date for Eckles Hall. Brundage said perhaps sometime in the fall. "We could make it an event for those who lived there." Shepard said the demolition date was more realistically to be in the spring of 2014.

Trujillo noted another dignitary had entered the room—Silver City Mayor James Marshall.  

"Mayor Marshall was on the search committee that helped select me," Shepard said. "He asked what my stand was on town and gown. Now we're talking about joint efforts. We have had great communication in terms of College Avenue."

"It is an honor to serve Silver City," Marshall said. "Having the university is part of sustainability to serve the community and students."

Shepard thanked Marshall for allowing Western banners in the downtown area.

Vowell gave the next informational report. "In terms of restructuring the faculty and department chairs in Arts and Sciences, we have named an interim dean, Dr. Jeff Hill, so before we hire deans, we will have the college structure in place."

As for more graduate degrees, the university will go through the state process, looking primarily at the economics of adding degrees.

"In terms of accreditation for the Social Work Program, Fast Track is an option, which takes less time," Vowell said. "The campus is beginning to write its self-study for accreditation in November.

"Our remediation efforts are robust, and the math and English faculties are beginning to implement them," she continued. "We will have a co-requisite course in developmental writing and Comp. 1. We are working toward making it possible for students in developmental math to finish courses 1 and 2."

She addressed the earlier comments by the Higher Education Department Secretary José Garcia on the need for students to take more classes at a time. "It is important the advisors understand financial aid and how to give better advice on whether a student can drop a class."

"In terms of his call for educating government workers, Western is well positioned," Vowell said. "We have a major in government administration, a certificate in non-profits and a Chicano/Chicana Hemispheric Program."

Trujillo said, since Western is an open-enrollment university, remediation is important.

Walz said higher education conferences are good, but Western has challenges that are often economic. "The tension is what is the best thing to do. Then you have the professional student, who just keeps taking courses."

Vowell pointed out that one challenge was the 120 credit hours. "Nursing requires 154 hours."

Regent Janice Baca-Argabright said she believes Western is ahead of the game at most higher-education conferences.

The final article on the Regents' meeting will cover financial reports and bond financing resolutions.

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