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NMSU President Couture visits Carlsbad campus as part of 'conversations' tour

CARLSBAD, N.M. - New Mexico State University President Barbara Couture vowed to continue to build strong relationships and partnerships with New Mexico communities in order to bring the best possible academic programs to community campuses during a visit to NMSU-Carlsbad April 28.

New Mexico State University President Barbara Couture talks with students, faculty and staff at the Carlsbad campus April 28 as part of "Campus Conversations." It is Couture's goal to visit all the college campuses to lay out her goals as the new president of NMSU as well as find out what issues are important to each individual community. (NMSU photo by Audry Olmsted)

"I've always looked at community colleges as the doorway to higher education for students, who for all sorts of other reasons, may not be able to go to a four-year school or who prefer the kinds of options that are available at a community college," Couture said.

Couture's trip was part of the "Campus Conversations" project. She talked with faculty, staff and students at NMSU-C and met with the community to become more familiar with what the Carlsbad campus has to offer and to discuss her immediate goals since taking the position of president at NMSU. She is inviting the public to share their thoughts via a Web site at http://www.nmsu.edu/president/community-conversations.html.

As part of her visit, Couture visited with Cooperative Extension Service agents from Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties where she learned about the "Strong Women, Strong Bones" exercise program, school and diabetes programs and the methamphetamine coalition.

Couture lunched with community leaders at the Stevens Inn before meeting with NMSU-C students, faculty and staff and outlining some of her immediate goals: work with legislators to get as much funding to the university and the community colleges as possible, build a strong relationship with the community campuses, improve the process researchers go through to get their programs funded, visit all the community campuses and assure success of obtaining $225 million by December as part of the university's campaign.

Couture said one of the strengths that drew her to NMSU is that the four community colleges work together as a system. With more and more students choosing to attend a community college, Couture said she wants to work to continue to build relationships among all the campuses in order to give students the full range of educational opportunities, whether they choose to obtain an associate's degree or continue on at the Las Cruces campus for a four-year degree.

Community leaders said they were grateful for the new Allied Health and University Transfer Center that provides more room for the nursing program. They encouraged Couture to listen to Russell Hardy, NMSU-C president, when he proposes new educational opportunities that benefit the community.

"What you are doing is taking a community college that's addressing the needs of its community and providing programs and opportunities to do that," said Janet Carbary, CEO of Carlsbad Medical Center.

"This branch campus had done an admirable job of keeping their enrollment up and doing all the kinds of things that they've been able to do," said State Rep. John Heaton.

Couture said she believed in offering students the educational programs they need in order to stay in their communities and help them grow and said she would continue to strengthen the community college campuses' programs in order to maintain excellence in educational opportunities.

"We want to continue to be an economic driving force in the state," she said. "We also want to be a strong supporter for the value of the community college here in Carlsbad."

Couture also toured the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research Center as part of her trip. The goals of the center, a division of the College of Engineering at NMSU, are to establish a permanent center of excellence to anticipate and respond to emerging health and environmental needs, and develop and implement an independent health and environmental monitoring program near the Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and make the results easily accessible to anyone interested.

Hardy said he was excited to have Couture visit the Carlsbad campus.

"One of the things that we as community college presidents were looking for when we helped with the search process for the new president was for someone who not only understood the research institution and the land-grant institute, but who also understood community colleges. We were so excited when we found Dr. Couture had taught English at a community college while she was pursuing a doctorate," Hardy said. "We were so glad the Board of Regents saw fit to choose her as the new president of NMSU."

Couture said visiting the Carlsbad campus and the other community colleges has helped her to understand how important they are to their respective communities.

"It's made a world of difference," she said. "I'm learning a lot from the four community presidents, all of whom are doing an outstanding job in different ways on their own campuses."

Couture has already visited the Grants and Alamogordo campuses.