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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU opens Albuquerque distance education, multipurpose center

ALBUQUERQUE - Northern New Mexico residents who don't want to leave home to study now have a wider range of higher education options to choose from thanks to the January opening of New Mexico State University's new uptown Albuquerque Center.

000-square-foot center, located in the Compass Bank Building at 2444 Louisiana NE, across from the Coronado Mall, will house high-tech distance education classrooms for students in the metropolitan area. It will also serve as a multipurpose center for NMSU, where admissions, an alumni office and other university programs will be located, and where NMSU personnel from around the state can convene.

"We're a statewide university and we're trying to provide greater service to the people of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County," said President Mike Martin. "The new center will raise our visibility. It's part of keeping with our statewide mission."

NMSU constituents have repeatedly requested a formal university presence in Albuquerque, said Provost Bill Flores.

"It's the largest metropolitan area," Flores said. "About 50 percent of the state's residents are located in a 70-mile radius of the city. If NMSU's not there, it means we're ignoring half the population."

Indeed, having Albuquerque-based classrooms and meeting space is essential for NMSU given the rapid growth in distance education programs, said Carmen Gonzales, vice provost for distance education.

Student enrollment across the state grew nearly 300 percent in just 2 years, from 373 in fall 2002 to 1,428 this semester, Gonzales said.

The university offers 23 degree, certificate and licensure programs via distance education, including master's degrees in criminal justice, industrial engineering and social work at locations in Albuquerque and elsewhere, and through online courses and video conferencing.

"Even with the technology-based courses, students and professors need to meet face-to-face once or twice per semester, and that means students have to drive from extreme locations like Farmington all the way to Las Cruces, or vice versa," Gonzales said. "The Albuquerque center will now offer a mid-point for meetings and classes that will ease the burden on students and professors."

The College of Health and Social Sciences will teach its master of social work program directly at the Albuquerque center. The college launched MSW distance education classes in Albuquerque in spring 2002, using meeting space loaned by the University of New Mexico.

However, enrollment has grown from 15 students in 2002 to 60 now, with another 15 students expected to join in January, said Dean Jeffrey Brandon.

"The current arrangement has become unmanageable," Brandon said. "We're grateful for the space loaned to us, but UNM often schedules workshops and events when our classes are taking place, and we occasionally get bumped from the classrooms."

Next spring, NMSU's Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program will begin offering its first distance education classes through the Albuquerque center, said Janet Green, interim HRTM director. NMSU offers the only bachelor's degree in hospitality in New Mexico and West Texas.

"We want to make it more available to students in northern New Mexico, where much of the hospitality industry is concentrated," Green said. "Through distance education, people who already work in the industry, and students with associate degrees in the culinary arts, can work on a bachelor's degree without having to travel to Las Cruces."

The programs offered through the Albuquerque center will help fulfill educational needs that would otherwise go unmet, said President Martin.

"These degree programs are not available at other institutions, like UNM," Martin said. "We don't want to encroach on anybody's territory. We're simply adding more higher education choices for the state's biggest urban population."

About half a dozen NMSU offices that are now scattered around Albuquerque will relocate to the center, including the local admissions and recruiting office, some Cooperative Extension Service programs, and the College of Engineering's WERC: a Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development.