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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU's College of Health and Social Services to mark 30 years of learning

Almost one third of a century has elapsed since the College of Health and Social Services (CHSS) at New Mexico State University began offering the programs to prepare the future health providers with the knowledge and skills to help others. Through ups and downs and overcoming the growing pains of meeting the needs of an growing community, the college is ready to sit back, take a breather and celebrate its 30th anniversary from 3-5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, south of the CHSS building by the International Mall.

The College of Health and Social Services began its history offering few degree programs but with the hopes of growing into a full-fledged college. Its limited programs started in the early '70s under the name of the Division of Continuing Education and then the School of Continuing Education. Warren Noland, who at the time was the associate dean of the emerging college, tells of an "evolutionary process" that occurred with its different names and programs. Lowery Davis was its first dean but has since passed on.

The programs were scattered throughout the community colleges and the Las Cruces campus; a nursing program here, a social services program there and classrooms in different campus buildings.

As the years passed, a debate ensued in 1979 to coalesce all the programs into one college, and after much deliberation, the Faculty Senate made the determination to combine the academic units of social work, nursing and health sciences to create one college with the name of the College of Human and Community Services. It was a positive move and one that would help the next dean lead the college through its "maturing years."

From 1988 to 2000 Virginia C. Higbie led the college and began establishing graduate degree programs in social work, nursing and community/public health. With the help of state representative J. Paul Taylor and others, $9 million were secured to start building a home for what was now called the College of Health and Social Services.

Jeffrey Brandon took the helm of CHSS in 2000. The college grew by annual percentages that were higher than other colleges for many years. Much of this was related to increased use of distance education to reach students who could not move to the main NMSU campus to take classes. A Master of Social Work was offered in Albuquerque, and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the Master of Science in Nursing and the Master of Public Health and Community Health Education were offered online. Later, a Ph.D. in nursing became a reality.

As work continued in reinforcing the college's programs and hiring the best professors to prepare its students, 2003 became an important year that saw construction crews breaking ground on a new building for CHSS. The building would be built where the old Aggie Memorial Stadium was located. But no cheering fans, scoreboards or bleachers remained, only a tower that appeared to be a lone sentinel waiting for a day when it would once again become a part of another great era.

Yes, the fledgling college had grown up and now had the funding and support to have its own home, which was completed in 2004. And in 2007-2008 the lone sentinel was given a facelift and stands proudly watching over those who would give their time and effort to help others during their time of need.

In July 2009, Tilahun Adera assumed leadership of CHSS. The new dean has a "vision that the College of Health and Social Services will become the major regional powerhouse for research and teaching excellence in the health and social services professions, bringing national and international recognitions to the college and the university."

He sees the 30th anniversary celebration of the college as an "opportunity to reflect on these past 30 years... It allows us to celebrate and honor those who have worked tirelessly in educating a generation of young people and making the college what it is now," he said.

For more information on the 30th anniversary celebration of CHSS, please call Connie Loyd at (575) 646-5985.