WNMU Adds Early Childhood Technology and Vocational Technology Facilities to Investment Project Priorities

During a special session Tuesday morning, the board of regents of the University of Western New Mexico updated the university’s plan for capital projects and infrastructure projects and d ‘fixed assets.

On Zoom, members of the WNMU Board of Trustees including Regent President Dr Mary Hotvedt, Vice President Janice Baca Argabright, Student Regent / Secretary / Treasurer Brenda Hernandez Gonzales, and Members Dr. Lyndon Haviland and Dr Daniel H. Lopez heard from WNMU President Dr Joseph Shepard and Vice President of Business Affairs Kelley Riddle who explained the background to the changes.

“When we decided on our priorities six months ago, we weren’t sure what kind of funding might be available,” Dr. Shepard said. “The state has great needs. One of them is early childhood.

Renowned as a model early childhood development center and teacher preparation institution with the integrated WNMU Family Counseling Center, being the cornerstone of the success of the WNMU Early Years Program, WNMU is well positioned to scale up services and improving access for future teachers and for rural families in need of affordable and quality preschool education.

Last month, Dr Shepard said, lawmakers and secretaries of state for higher education and early childhood education visited the campus to explore how WNMU could expand its services.

Under the proposed plan, WNMU is requesting $ 12 million in one-time capital expenditures for a new eight-acre WNMU Early Years Center of Excellence that the university has acquired for this purpose near the intersection of Mississippi Streets and Hill is just blocking the main Silver City campus.

The long-term vision for the facility includes the establishment of a developmental school serving infants and children up to grade 12 and the relocation of the entire WNMU Education School to this site. Additional concepts include further exploration of the possibilities of integrating Montessori training and creating bilingual offerings in partnership with other local public and private schools.

“Theoretically, we could be born with a master’s degree at this same institution. We have presented this to the legislative delegation and have received positive feedback, ”said Dr Shepard.

Dr Lopez said having quality childcare options helps when recruiting faculty and staff to a rural university. “You reduce absenteeism, efficiency increases,” he said. “If there are vacancies, you can open up to the community, and that creates community support. “

The second element added to the newly approved plan is a skills training center, which was designed in response to manpower needs identified by a New Mexico economic development agency. “I have had conversations with Freeport McMoRan, the largest employer in our area, and with Grant County. Imagine a public-private partnership that changes this region for the better, ”said Dr Shepard.

The $ 12 million proposal includes the construction of a 25,000 square foot WNMU vocational training center on 68 county-owned acres near the Freeport McMoRan Chino mine. The facility would be built and operated in conjunction with Freeport-McMoRan, who would provide the necessary training equipment. In addition to leasing or selling the land to WNMU, Grant County, as a partner, would provide operational and educational expertise.

The presence of the center would allow WNMU to offer more solid training in commercial and specialty welding, as well as electrical technology, diesel mechanics and commercial driver’s license programs. “All the things we need to stimulate our economy,” said Dr. Shepard. “This is a game-changer for our region. “

The third and final item adjusted in the plan related to the university’s carbon neutrality goals. “We would like to go down to zero if we could,” said Dr Shepard. “Currently, we have invested $ 8 million in our energy infrastructure. We have invested with PNM to obtain 50% of our electricity through solar energy. We are going to install solar panels directly on some of our car parks to add 10 or 15%.

WNMU is seeking an additional $ 12 million to move infrastructure underground, which opens up possibilities for electric vehicles, Dr Shepard said.

The Board of Directors also reviewed and approved the Fiscal 2021 Endowment Report, which is to be submitted to the State of New Mexico. Between the Endowed Faculty Development Program established in 2005, the Higher Education Endowment awarded in 2008, the Dorothy Blalock Endowed Chair in 2008, and the Expressive Arts Endowment Fund awarded in 2009, the amount of the stipend HED was $ 862,500, with varying percentages of institutional matches. The total closing endowment balance at the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year is nearly $ 2 million. “The results on the report are the results of all the years since the endowment was received – not just this year. Some have improved and are ready to be rewarded, ”said Riddle.

The WNMU Board of Directors will meet again on Thursday, December 9, 2021, the day before the start of fall ceremony.

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