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Regents Approve Building New Campus Residence

SOCORRO, N.M. September 24, 2015 – The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents is moving forward with the search for a new president and decided to replace the “President’s Residence.”

At the September 21 meeting, Board member Jerry Armijo said the current house was constructed in the 1960s by a former university president who donated the house to Tech. He said the house is inadequate for hosting official functions and is “junk.”

Armijo recommended razing the structure and building a new house on the same site, which is at the corner of Bullock Avenue and Lopezville Road. The board will hire an architect and borrow funds from the New Mexico Tech Foundation. Armijo said he expects the project would cost $600,000 to $1 million.

Armijo also pointed out that the Presidential Search Committee, which he co-chairs, has found that virtually all university constituent groups place a high priority upon having the new president live on campus.

Later in the meeting, Armijo presented an update on the search process for a new president, since Dr. Daniel H. Lopez is retiring in June 2016. The search committee includes nine members from the faculty, staff and student body. They held a full day of focus sessions to get input from the campus community. Armijo and co-chair Donald Monette said the feedback received was very similar from each group.

Based on campus input, the committee drafted a job description and an advertisement, which is a condensed version of the job description. Armijo said the majority of the input centered on the qualifications of the ideal candidate. The committee spent a lot of time working on the job description, with the final draft not completed until the night before the Regents meeting. The Board of Regents made one change from the committee’s recommendation, stating that a teaching/academic background is “preferred, but not required.”

Board member David Gonzales said applicants who are career administrators or industry professionals will be given a chance. Armijo said the advertisement will be published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Lopez also reported on the recent President’s Scholarship Fund Golf Tournament. He said the event raised almost $200,000, with an increase in profit of about 4.5 percent. That scholarship fund stands at about $500,000 and has helped more than 250 students over the past 20 years. He said the goal is to help students who have exhausted other funds, like the N.M. Lottery Scholarship.

In other news:

  • Lopez said the university is one step closer to demolishing the old Bureau of Geology building, which will make room for a new chemistry building. The N.M. Higher Education Department has approved the project. Tech now will get approval from the N.M. Board of Finance.
  • Alex Garcia, assistant director of Facilities Management, said the old Bureau contains more asbestos than previously thought, particularly in the drywall. Asbestos abatement and demolition will be handled in one contract. He said that demolition is expected to begin by the end of October.
  • JoAnn Salome, Director of Human Resources, presented an update on minimum wage earners. She said Tech has raised the university minimum to $9 per hour to all regular hourly employees.
  • Dr. Peter Mozley, the new Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, reported on the accreditation effort for the Distance Education program. He said a key element of accreditation is “Does senior leadership understand the role of distance education?” To that point, he presented the Board of Regents with a report detailing how distance education fits into the New Mexico Tech mission to serve the entire state and beyond. Mozley said many distance students are working professionals who are pursuing graduate work. The academic experience for traditional students is enhanced by interactions with distance students who have experience in their chosen fields, Mozley said.

The Higher Learning Commission will have two representatives on campus later in September to assess Tech’s facilities and programs for Distance Education.

  • Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero reported that the Air Force Research Laboratory recently approved a contract with Tech for $25 million to develop the Magdalena Ridge Observatory. The new funding will allow Tech to begin doing science at the interferometer.
  • Lopez presented the annual Research and Public Service Project request, which will be forwarded to the state legislature prior to the 2016 legislative session. The Petroleum Recovery Research Center, Graduate Research Center and Energetic Materials Research Testing Center are the top three requests. Lopez said he is also fighting for small increases to the State Science Fair and State Science Olympiad offices.
  • The Board learned that 11 degrees were awarded in June, 9 in July and 9 in August.
  • The Board approved a resolution officially authorizing Lonnie Marquez, Vice President of Finance, to sign official documents on behalf of the university.
  • The Board approved emeritus status for two recently retired faculty members. Dr. Fred Phillips of the hydrology program will continue his research activities in the Earth and Environmental Science Department. Dr. Reid Grigg of the PRRC will also continue as emeritus researcher.
  • The Board approved tenure requests for two Bureau of Geology staff scientists: Dan Koenig and Geoff Rawlings.
  • Director of Advancement Colleen Guengerich presented a report from the New Mexico Tech Research Park Corporation. She said the corporation now owns 32 percent of the company RiskSense (formerly known as CAaNES), down from 50 percent. Lopez said the company will be aided in its expansion efforts by offering ownership to outside investors. He said the private owners also relinquished a similar share of the company to attract investors.

“The feeling of the members of the corporation is that it’s better to own a smaller part of a larger company,” Lopez said. “This frees up RiskSense to be more aggressive.”

Monette, who recently was appointed president of the Research Park Corporation, said the board is revisiting its bylaws, which were written in the 1980s.

  • Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Warren Ostergren and Director of Advancement Colleen Guengerich presented ongoing work to enhance retention and accelerate graduation for New Mexico Tech students. This includes efforts to increase student engagement, improve planning of schedules and assess required number of courses.

    Ostergren and Guengerich have formed a Six Sigma team that is analyzing data to identify the key factors for improving student success.  Preliminary data was provided at the meeting and further data is being obtained.  Some improvements from this effort have already been implemented and full implementation is targeted prior to fall 2016.

  • The Board learned that State Mine Inspector Terence Foreback has announced his retirement. That position is appointed by the Governor, but is an employee of New Mexico Tech. Board president Deborah Peacock recommended that the university start the search process in order to make an informed recommendation to the Governor.
  • The Board set its next meeting for Monday, Oct. 26, in Socorro.

-- NMT --