Institutional Profile Workbook

AQIP Strategy Forum

February 8-10, 2001

Phoenix, Arizona

Western New Mexico University

Institutional team attending the Strategy Forum:

Kathie S. Gilbert, Special Assistant to the President for Assessment and Institutional
Effectiveness:   gilbertk@iron.wnmu.edu
John E. Counts, President:   countsj@silver.wnmu.edu
Faye Vowell, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs:  vowellf@wnmu.edu
Chris Casey, Vice President for Business Affairs:  caseyc@iron.wnmu.edu
Phillip "Chris" Farren, Vice President for Student Affairs:  farrenp@wnmu.edu
Jerry Harmon, Dean of the School of Education:  harmonj@silver.wnmu.edu
Gwen Cassel, President of Faculty Senate:  casselg@silver.wnmu.edu
Curtis Hayes, Vice President of Faculty Senate:  hayesc@silver.wnmu.edu
Peggy Lankford, President of Staff Senate:  lankfordp@iron.wnmu.edu

This workbook was completed by the above institutional team members through two avenues:  in-person meetings (one two hour session and one 4.5 hour session) and through email communication.  While the team leader was responsible for the final submission, this was a team effort; however, it has not yet - given the extended holiday period - been reviewed by the faculty and staff on campus. 

1. Institutional Overview. Provide a basic description of your institution

Nature of Educational Services, Size, Location: Located in the sparsely populated southwestern corner of New Mexico, Western New Mexico University was first established in 1893 as a normal school to train teachers to educate the children of mining families who came to the region to work in the silver mines. Today, with an enrollment of 2500 headcount on campus, 500 off campus (1500 FTE), the University offers associate degrees in Administration of Justice, Computer and Network Technology, Drafting and Design Technology, Nursing, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Early Childhood Education and Family Support, Office Administration, and a number of technical programs.  Bachelors degree programs are offered in the Arts and Sciences, Business, Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Education, Bilingual Education, Social Work, and Administration of Justice.  Master’s programs are offered in Business, several areas of Education, Counseling, and Interdisciplinary Studies.  Over forty-two percent of the 1999 graduates received degrees in some field of education.  Off-campus sites include Deming, Truth or Consequences (TorC), and Gallup, NM.

WNMU provides pre-university adult education services (GED, ESL, Citizenship Training, etc.) to over 1,000 students, and education/training for over 1,000 welfare recipients under the "WNMU Works" program sponsored by the NM Department of Labor.  One of NM’s sixteen Small Business Development Centers is located on campus, and the University houses the local economic development agency as part of its commitment to local, regional, and statewide economic development efforts.  It also sponsors an accredited national economic development institute each year, one of eighteen offered in the U.S.

The institution holds specialized accreditation from the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs, National League for Nursing, Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Council on Social Work Education, American Economic Development Council, and the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs.  The institution has consecutively received recognition at the Pinón, entry level, for two years and Roadrunner, middle level, for five years from the NM Quality program. Efforts to build academic quality have enhanced WNMU’s reputation in the state and region, although this may not be universally recognized on the campus.

Mission:  An essential part of the University’s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality higher education.  This open-admissions policy means that many students are academically under-prepared compared to national norms.  Based on COMPASS placement test scores, more than 85% of entering WNMU students require remedial course work in reading, writing, or mathematics. Serving academically under-prepared students creates distinct challenges to the institution.  Resources for academic and other student support services must remain a priority for the institution.  Tuition and fees at WNMU are consistently at the very low end of the spectrum for publicly supported comprehensive higher education institutions in New Mexico and the United States.

WNMU prides itself on excellence in teaching.  It seeks to use technology and telecommunications to increase access and create opportunities for its students and other customers.  WNMU sees strength in the multilingual, multicultural population it serves and seeks to support the unique opportunities afforded by its natural diversity.  To this end, it works collaboratively with the Universidad de Regional del Norte in the city of Chihuahua, Mexico.  Joint projects are quite diverse to include providing student teaching sites for education majors, sponsorship of the annual NAFTA Institute, and ESL training.

Faculty and Staff: WNMU has more than 250 full-time employees (92 are faculty) and over 250 part-time staff, adjunct faculty, work study students, and graduate students.  Over 90 percent of the full-time faculty have terminal degrees in their field of expertise and all are tenure-track.  There are no bargaining units. WNMU seeks to provide continual opportunities for learning by its faculty and staff.  Faculty and staff have an initial orientation program and professional development support for travel to conferences. Monthly opportunities to enrich professional skills for both faculty and staff are offered through faculty development activities.  Other opportunities include software and diversity training and free tuition at WNMU for up to twelve semester hours per year. Many staff members use the latter to obtain a degree. Formulas exist for faculty and staff compensation.  Compensation remains well below the average at similar institutions and for many of the staff is increasingly below local averages. 

The Executive Council, the University’s leadership team, consists of the President, the Provost/VP for Academic Affairs, the VP for Student Affairs/Dean of Enrollment Management, and the VP for Business Affairs.  Academic units include the School of Education and eleven departments, the library, adult education services, and the external university unit.  A number of task forces or Process Management Teams (PMTs) provide analysis of strategic concerns and recommend policy or program changes as part of WNMU’s continuous quality improvement efforts. 

Infrastructure, Capital and Technology: In the past seven years, over $20 million has either been obtained or invested in new construction, renovation, and improvement to facilities on WNMU’s 80 acre main campus.  Although progress has been made in wiring the campus for data transmission, extensive work remains before the campus is totally connected. All aspects of information technology require serious improvement and WNMU’s Information Technology Strategic Plan addresses over $7 million in short- to medium-term needs.  Considerable progress in upgrading computers, telecommunications and the Management Information System (MIS) must be supplemented by making the MIS responsive to the data needs of the institution.  Major projects currently funded include the Center for Information Technology, completion of athletic facilities, and the renovation and expansion of the Child Development Center. The Gallup Graduate Studies Center (GGSC) is also being enlarged to accommodate additional students and programs.

Higher Education Environment: Twenty-five public higher education institutions exist in the state -- 6 universities and 19 community or technical colleges.  The three comprehensive regional universities offer programs leading to the master’s degree; WNMU is the smallest of the three. WNMU also serves its region via educational centers in TorC and Deming where vocational and general education courses are the primary focus and Gallup where primarily graduate education is offered.  The New Mexico Commission on Higher Education (CHE) coordinates, supports, and gathers pertinent information from the state’s higher education institutions.  Each institution has its own governing board which is responsible for setting overall policy and management oversight. The state auditor approves an annual external audit of the institution, the results of which have been exemplary in recent years.  Demands for accountability have grown over the past few years both from the legislature and the CHE although at this time,  limited accountability standards are enforced. WNMU is unique as the only comprehensive institution to offer a full range of programs from adult basic education and certificate programs through the master’s degree. This situation exists because the closest community college is over one hundred miles from Silver City.

WNMU Vision: WNMU has given considerable thought to its future and firmly believes that it is ideally positioned to achieve a leadership role among its peer institutions.  WNMU’s potential is extraordinary, and its leadership is committed to the concerted effort necessary to realize this potential. WNMU’s vision statement indicates that WNMU will be a leader in higher education known throughout the southwest as the University of Choice for our students, faculty, and staff because we

Core values that support the mission and vision of the institution include preeminence of teaching and learning, constant respect for people, uncompromising integrity, and dedication to continuous improvement in higher education.

Strategic planning and quality principles have played a significant role in WNMU’s recent history.  Initially participation in Quality New Mexico was viewed with a great deal of skepticism.  Many on campus, through their participation in process management teams (PMTs) or other quality efforts accepted it as part of the on-going activities of the institution.  Others, primarily faculty, remain somewhat wary although off campus recognition of these efforts has occurred.  WNMU participates annually in Quality New Mexico activities and recognition programs and through that annual feedback has identified a number of potential areas for improvement.

2. The Strategic Context for your institution's future.

Most of WNMU’s principal customers (students)  were born and raised in southwestern New Mexico or southeastern Arizona to families who work in farming, ranching, or mining.  The typical freshman does not enter Western directly from high school.  The average age of new on-campus freshman is 21. Off campus this rises to 35.  A typical WNMU undergraduate student is likely to be classified as "non-traditional" and "first generation" and is likely to work, be on financial aid, or be on welfare. Women form the majority of all student classifications.  Many are single parents.  A significant proportion of degree-bound students attends on a part-time basis, frequently stopping out for one or more semesters. WNMU’s major markets are local and regional. Over 82 percent of WNMU’s students are New Mexico residents and the vast majority (over 66%) come from Grant County, the home of the University’s main campus in Silver City, and the four surrounding counties. McKinley County in the northwest accounts for 5% of the student body, most of which are enrolled in graduate education and business classes at the Gallup Center. Out-of-state students, mostly from Arizona and Texas, account for 17% of the student body.  The ethnic breakdown of on-campus undergraduate students is 49% Caucasian, 43% Hispanic, 2.5% African American, 1.8% Native American, 0.5% Asian, and 2.5% non-resident alien.  A large proportion of the student body is bilingual, with Spanish frequently used in formal and casual conversation.  One-third of the Gallup student body is Native American.  The regional nature of the University, the large Chicano/Hispanic population in WNMU’s traditional service area, the close proximity to Mexico, and WNMU’s status as a Hispanic Serving Institution create incentives and pressure to focus special attention to the region’s cultural heritage.

WNMU provides graduate programs at work sites of major employers in the area, including Phelps-Dodge Mining Corporation and K-12 school districts. It also provides work force training for STREAM, a new technology support call center (900 employees), and works closely with government and community leaders in Deming and TorC where federal funds enabled the purchase or building of childcare and post-secondary educational facilities. Strong, on-going relationships in those communities should enable WNMU to play an integral role in providing additional educational services. However, it will also increase the likelihood of competition from other institutions. WNMU is also actively involved in the CHE efforts to develop a statewide virtual university and creative teacher certification programs. Grant funding will enable some efforts to reach out electronically to rural K-12 school districts in remote areas currently without access to higher education opportunities. WNMU’s main competition comes from NM State University and Dona Ana CC (part of NMSU), both located in Las Cruces, 100 miles from Silver City. Distance education programs of many sorts present a major source of competition to the institution.

Tuition reciprocity agreements with Arizona and Colorado allow in-state tuition for a select number of students from those states. In-state tuition is also available for many students from El Paso TX and out-of-state athletes. Lottery tuition scholarships, which are available to all recent high school graduates who maintain a 2.5, are a double-edged sword – they help needy students attend post-secondary institutions, but often are the margin of difference in choosing a research institution over a regional one. Also, there is some question whether sufficient funds will be raised to continue the Lottery Scholarships as currently defined.

Limited financial support for technology purchases and related operating expenses in the funding formula and other funding sources have created significant challenges for the institution.  As distance education opportunities allow new ways of doing things and new ways of providing access to students from all walks of life, Western has not been able to be as aggressive as many of its competitors. While grant funding has supplemented state funding in this area, more aggressive efforts will be necessary.  The state funding formula is being studied for possible revision; however, declining enrollments do not bode well for future funding.  In addition, enrollment in graduate and upper-division courses on the main campus has fallen.  Both graduate and upper division receive greater funding support than lower division courses do. Expanded enrollments and funding support are evident at the off-campus centers.

Shortages of teachers in the state have greatly increased the demand for traditional and non-traditional teacher education programs.  Shortages of nurses and social workers are also prevalent.  The School of Education, viewed as a leader in the state, has strong support for new initiatives. Maintaining appropriate programs to support work-force training needs in today’s rapidly changing world is another challenge, especially as the industrial/business base of the area changes from mining and ranching. Significant rethinking of the role and scope of two-year and certificate programs is essential.