CHAMA, N.M. August 17, 2009– The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents discussed budgets, research and funding at the Saturday meeting in Chama.

The meeting served as the end of the Regents’ annual retreat. President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez reported that preemptive austerity measures taken in 2008 have resulted in a healthy cash balance for the university, despite a 2.5 percent budget cut.

“By continuing to monitor budgets, we’ll get through this difficult year,” he said. “I’m worried about 2012 because the federal stimulus funding will expire by then. Who knows what will happen with the economy.”

Lopez also said the university has submitted a handful of proposals to receive federal stimulus funds, including a request for $11 million to complete a geothermal project to heat the campus.

Dr. John Meason, director of the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, reported that division has entered into a memorandum of agreement with a technology industry partner with special focus on, but not limited to, unmanned aerial systems technologies at the university’s research center in Playas, N.M.

Pending a formal contract, the university and the technology industry partner will collaborate to investigate ways in which to best address needs and problems associated with unmanned aerial system operations and technologies.

The project would include improvements to the Playas airport facility and potentially make use of facilities at the Grant County airport.
Meason and Lopez also reported to the Regents about Tech and EMRTC partnerships in the Middle East.

New Mexico Tech is assisting Sinai University in Egypt to establish an engineering program. Lopez said the collaboration is expected to lead to graduate student exchanges.

In Jordan, Tech and EMRTC are working to establish a blast mitigation program that would serve as a regional research facility.

The university is also working on two projects with the government of Saudi Arabia. Tech is establishing a training program and a separate program to assist Middle Eastern governments deal with sealed source radioactive waste.

Government regulators are increasingly finding medical waste, like cesium and cobalt, being disposed improperly.

“Governments are becoming aware of that problem,” Lopez said. “And they’re looking to us to assist them in how to handle radioactive materials.”

Regent Richard Carpenter asked if these international partnerships would generate a profit and if the curricula have been approved by federal security agencies.

Lopez said each of the programs will generate positive cash flow for the university. He also said each of the collaborative efforts go through rigorous oversight by outside agencies.

Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said Tech already educates foreign police officers at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Roswell. He assured the Regents that university personnel are familiar with security rules and regulations.

Lopez also spoke about the university’s partnership with the University of Cambridge to develop the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferomenter.

Lopez and Romero are trying to enlist the assistance of the Sen. Jeff Bingaman to meet with Cambridge officials, who are experiencing belt-tightening in research funding.

The Regents also approved tenure and promotion for President Lopez as a professor in the management department.

Regent Carpenter expressed regret that Lopez had not been given tenure before.

“Previous boards were derelict in not doing this,” he said. “This should have been done long ago.”

In other action, the board:

  • Approved the 2009-2010 schedule of board meetings
  • Heard that new student enrollment is just shy of last year’s incoming class.
  • Awarded a master’s degree in biology to Felicia Navarro.
  • Approved the five-year facilities plan, which includes these priorities:
    • Bureau of Geology, $24.4 million, 2010
    • Jones Hall (chemistry/materials), $16 million, 2012
    • Wellness Center, $16 million, 2012
    • Brown Hall addition, $5 million, 2010
    • Research matching funds, $4 million, 2011
    • Bureau of Geology, phase II, $6.2 million, 2012
  • Officially approved the Research and Public Service Funding requests, as presented at the emergency meeting on July 29.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing the sale or disposal of surplus property.
  • Accepted the monthly financial analysis for June 2009.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich