Notes from the Feb. 5, 2002 Regents Meeting

by George Zamora

SANTA FE, N.M., February 11, 2002 -- The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents recently voted to adopt two new graduate degree programs at the state- funded research university--a master of science in electrical engineering and a master of science in engineering management.

Pending approval of the proposed graduate programs by both the New Mexico Board of Finance and the state's Commission on Higher Education, classes in the programs could be offered at New Mexico Tech as soon as this coming fall semester.

New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López told the university's governing board that implementing the new graduate degree programs will allow the school to actively recruit and retain more students--both undergraduates and graduates--as well as faculty in those areas of study.

"In addition, these new programs will create a unique niche for New Mexico Tech, especially with the electrical engineering degree's emphases on robotics and imbedded systems," López added.

"By its very nature, the new master's degree in engineering management will be interdisciplinary in scope and will draw on the strengths we already have in place in several academic departments at New Mexico Tech," said Peter Gerity, Tech's vice president for academic affairs.

Initially, New Mexico Tech will partner with New Mexico State University's Carlsbad branch to offer engineering management classes to southeastern New Mexico residents via distance education methods, enabling the courses to be delivered in a very cost-effective manner, Gerity said.

"I envision this new master's in engineering management program will become as successful as the master's in explosives engineering program that was established last year at Tech," the vice president for academic affairs added. "To date, that graduate program, which also is a distance education offering, has graduated 29 students and currently has 61 new enrollees."

At its February 5 meeting in Santa Fe, the board of regents also were briefed by Tech President López on the status of several legislative proposals currently being considered by the state legislature which directly affect New Mexico Tech, as well as the other state universities.

López informed the regents that several pending capital projects at Tech "are in line for funding approval at the state legislature," including a $4.4 million appropriation to begin construction of a new Student Services Building on campus.

New Mexico Tech could also stand to receive about $3.5 million more for infrastructure projects if state legislators approve a $90 million "critical infrastructure improvement" bill being proposed to help all the state's universities with their most-needed capital projects.

Senate and house versions of an appropriation bill providing $250,000 for establishing a Homeland Security Center at New Mexico Tech have been passed and await Governor Johnson's signature, López said, while a proposal to fund a Center for Water Quality at the university was not passed.

"It's mostly good news, given the economic circumstances," the Tech president said, "although the bad news is the proposed state budget does not allow for any salary increases for state employees, including university faculty and staff. . . . I wish we could have more reasonable support for salaries, but there just isn't any money."

In separate report to the regents, López informed the board that preliminary figures on new student applications and paid applicants for Fall Semester 2002 at New Mexico Tech show a significant increase in undergraduate enrollment projections when compared with enrollment statistics compiled during the same period last year.

"A fairly significant increase in graduate student applications also makes the next academic year look very positive in terms of overall enrollment," López said.

In other matters considered at its monthly meeting, the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents approved the following measures:

During its monthly board meeting, New Mexico Tech regents also were informed that sabbatical leaves recently were granted to Robert E. Bretz, associate professor of petroleum and chemical engineering; Kent C. Condie, professor of geochemistry; Lynn H. Deming, professor of English; and Kenneth R. Minschwaner, research physicist and associate professor of physics.

In addition, W. Dennis Peterson, Tech's vice president for finance and administration, told regents that after one-half of the current fiscal year had transpired, the university's overall budget "is generally in good financial condition, with no concerns to report."

An additional report to the regents, delivered by Steve Bobinsky, director of the New Mexico Tech Advancement Office, gave the board an extensive update on the status of Tech's "Commitment to Excellence" capital campaign and also on recent activities related to the Tech Alumni Association.

After conducting the meeting as the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents, the members reconvened as trustees of the New Mexico Tech Employee Benefit Trust, and in that capacity, passed a resolution to authorize a new check signer for benefit trust accounts, which was prompted by the recent retirement of Tech's human resources director.

As governing members of Tech's employee benefit trust, the trustees also were informed that insurance premiums paid by Tech employees and retirees enrolled in the university's health and dental insurance plan would be raised by 10 percent, effective March 1. The measure, which had been pre-approved at a previous meeting of the trustees, was driven by a need to increase operating revenues in order to ensure that the self-insured indemnity plan retains a prudent level of reserves.