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A first – UNM Board of Regents hold meeting in Gallup

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A historic meeting of the UNM Board of Regents was hosted at the UNM Gallup Branch June 12.

The BOR hosted its regular meeting in an open and closed session at the Student Services Technical Center, and Regent President Rob Doughty thanked the Gallup community for its hospitality.

“It’s a real honor to be out here today, I speak on behalf of the board. I just learned this morning that this is the first time in 50 years that Board of Regents has been here,” he said.

Doughty added, “It truly is an honor and I just wish to say thank you to the folks here in Gallup for all of your hard work.”

Dr. Garnett Stokes, UNM president, provided her administrative report and said her tour of the state branch campuses was complete.

June 9 was her 100-day mark as president and Stokes said she has received plenty of input from the communities of New Mexico.

“We had town halls, we met with many groups and visited four branch campuses,” she said. “I have four more trips to make to cover all 33 counties of the state.”

Throughout her visits a recurring theme emerged, the need for improving communication and transparency.

To this end, the university will become a military/veteran friendly campus utilizing community policing while remaining focused as a research university, she said.

In addition, the assessing athletics programs for economic austerity will also be implemented.

“It’s a defining time for UNM athletics and we’re going to have some difficult decisions up ahead,” she said.

Strategic planning is also going to be executed, as the current plan is set to expire in 2020.

“We will begin our strategic planning in the fall,” she said.

Regent Tom Clifford asked about the safety initiative.

“One of the big concerns is, not just the safety of the campus itself, but the neighboring community to the campus. Maybe that’s an area where our police may reach out (to Albuquerque Police Department) and provide additional safety,” he said.

“I hear the same thing. We do have a lot of students who are living right off campus. Certainly there is a lot of activity in several neighborhoods around the campus,” Stokes replied.

Stokes said UNM is challenged by the fact that it is located in an urban area with its own challenges. Working with the city leadership to tackle some of the causes of the crimes that exist right off the campus is an opportunity to consider, she added.

The regents covered the monthly financial reports before Dr. James Malm, UNM-Gallup CEO, provided his administrative report.

Ralph Richards, UNM-Gallup Local Board chairman, joined Malm for the administrative report to the regents.

“This is a historic moment for Gallup. We’re turning 50 years old on July 1. The economists describe us as a distressed community,” Malm said.

He said the Economic Innovation Group ranked Gallup in the bottom percentile of 26,000 zip codes in the U.S.

“We are a part of a group of cities and counties across the country that have essentially lost jobs in the economic recovery. I believe we have lost one in eight jobs,” he said.

When contrasted against prosperous communities that added 6.5 million jobs in the same period, the challenges facing Gallup are obvious.

“Essentially, we have been managing the decline,” he said. “The way forward for our distressed communities is linking ourselves with prosperous communities and growing our economies.”

UNM-Gallup brings hope to the community, Malm said, adding that he is proud to serve the local region.

Other issues such as a $500,000 mid-year deficit, the loss of two senior managers and reaching the bottom of a seven-year double-digit enrollment decline has challenged the branch campus.

Through a program prioritization process that included budget data for 73 index managers, review of spending patterns and allotments over the past five years, including enrollments and subject codes over the same timeframe has produced results.

“We asked them to write about their efficiency in spending the dollars and their effectiveness in meeting the university mission. We charted these 73 on an axis matrix,” Malm said.

The results of the study determined that most of the programs were mission effective, but most of the programs were below the line when it came to financial efficiency.

Using the information, the branch campus executed reduction in force, attrition and retirement for their workforce to a balanced budget with no tuition increase and no use of reserves.

“During this time, we also suffered a line item veto from Gov. (Susana) Martinez for our career technology building. We failed a national search for a dean of instruction and we struggled to work with a public charter school on our campus,” he said.

However, UNM-Gallup is on the upswing.

The summer semester enrollment from last Monday is up 18 percent from the same time last year and hasn’t been this high in five years. Additionally, fall enrollment is currently up 9 percent from the same time last year.

“We are maintaining our 94 percent minority percentage,” Malm said.

Middle College High School is bringing in students from the nine rural high schools to study in the freshman cohort programs.

In addition, UNM-Gallup is set to select a new dean of instruction by week’s end.

“As we get this firm footing for Fiscal Year 2019, we are undertaking four major projects,” Malm said. “We have a unique operating environment here, we have a unique mission. We’re so glad to be a part of the UNM community.”

By Rick Abasta

Sun Correspondent