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NMSU president gives update on progress, employee honored with "A" Mountain award

New Mexico State University President Barbara Couture outlined the progress that has been made over the past year and charted a course for the future during her first annual State of the University address Wednesday morning on the Las Cruces campus.



NMSU President Barbara Couture, right, and Steve Loring, left, present Mark Milliorn with the "A" Mountain Staff Award at the close of the president's State of the University address on the NMSU main campus in Las Cruces. (photo by Darren Phillips)

"NMSU's reach is statewide and our influence is worldwide," Couture said. "I could not begin to touch in this address today the extent of our achievements from agriculture to space flight to research that addresses the most pressing social problems of our day, and artistic achievement that is renowned statewide and beyond. I can say, however, that there is no other university better equipped now to educate the leaders of tomorrow, who in turn will discover new ways to make us a more economically and socially prosperous state and nation, for the advancement of all."

The update followed the seven goals for success the president set in place last year during her inauguration. The address mapped the progress that has been made to date and announced several new initiatives to continue the progress at the university.

Among the priorities for the future are to position the university to succeed within the guidelines for the state's new funding formula by graduating more students with two- and four-year degrees, as well as master's degrees and Ph.D.s; demonstrating that more students complete certificates; achieving greater degree production in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines; and graduating more first-generation college students and those financially at risk.

Couture said the university also is taking steps to meet evolving federal expectations.

"Earlier this month, I attended meetings sponsored by the White House in Washington, D.C., and by a collaboration of governors and industry in Dallas, where state universities were challenged by national and international leaders to improve college-going rates and our standing worldwide as a nation that educates its people," Couture said. "We are being driven to: Actively engage with public schools to boost their quality, make state public education more affordable, help adults get a college degree, and increase degree holders in fields that prepare students for a changing job market."

Couture said the university is well positioned to meet those challenges.

"NMSU holds 'aces' in our deck of cards to address all of these needs," she said. "We prepare over 1,000 teachers in STEM fields annually; we are a state leader in graduating first-generation college students; we have among the lowest tuition rates when compared to peers; we have a community college system that gives a second chance to adult learners; we started the first Early College High School in New Mexico; and our employers tell us that students who graduate from NMSU, whatever their field, are prepared to solve problems and to work productively with others."

Couture recalled the tough financial times the university has weathered and stressed the importance of adequate funding for the NMSU budget by the New Mexico Legislature and the governor.

"We have strongly told our state legislature and governor that adequately funding the NMSU budget must take precedence over funding new initiatives when revenues fall short," Couture said. "And most importantly, we must fund our most valued resource, our excellent faculty and staff. That is why I have made funding for faculty and staff salaries our chief priority with our legislature this year. In fact, I had an opportunity to reiterate that goal in a personal conversation with Gov. Martinez last week, when she was here for the Tough Enough to Wear Pink luncheon."

As one way to help NMSU employees, Couture mentioned two new voluntary employee benefits: critical illness coverage with AFLAC and Discount Mall through SmartSavings.

"In addition, we will direct this year some one-time savings to a host of improvements to help us all do better," she said. "Among the enhancements we are considering are: a one-time salary payment to recognize employee service, increased faculty start-up funds, increased funding for student scholarships, and classroom and equipment upgrades across NMSU. These one-time funds are available because we cut more than we needed last year on the Las Cruces campus in anticipation of this year's permanent additional reduction in state appropriations."

After the address, the university's Employee Council honored Language Learning Center Coordinator Mark Milliorn with the "A" Mountain Staff Award, which recognizes one individual a year whose excellent work inspires others. It was just the second time the annual award has been made. Milliorn, who works in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, was recognized for his vast expertise in the fast-changing area of educational technology; his willingness to meet and beat deadlines; his willingness to assist and nurture others; and his cooperative nature.

Milliorn has taken the initiative of implementing programs in the center's computer lab that allows the department to offer online placement tests; track data regarding the online Spanish master's program; and poll students on important issues.