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NMSU President Barbara Couture commits to a new path of excellence

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The inauguration of Barbara Couture as the 25th president of New Mexico State University today was truly a community event. People came from around the state - and around the world - to help Couture usher in "A New Era of Excellence through Partnership."



The inauguration of Barbara Couture as the 25th president of New Mexico State University was held today, Aug. 17. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

"The response from the university community and the community in general was incredibly supportive," said Regent Chair Isaac Pino. "That so many took part in participating in the celebration is a great indication that President Couture has genuine and overwhelming support as we all usher in the new era of excellence. I am pleased and honored to have been a part of the inauguration of this new era and Dr. Couture in particular."

During the ceremony, Couture charted her path for how NMSU can create a new era of excellence through partnerships with the state, friends and alumni, businesses and industries, public schools and fellow colleges, cooperating departments and campuses, and students, faculty, and staff.

"The history of New Mexico State University is an especially proud one, bolstered by strong traditions of the peoples of this state and the defiant 'dare to be different' attitude that has distinguished this 'land of enchantment," Couture said. "We have never been afraid to take on new research challenges and create innovative academic programs in our pursuit of excellence. Yet we will be challenged to do so during this decade, like never before, by the constraints of shrinking resources and increasing demands on our creative and educational services."

She said she was proud of the diversity at NMSU and how it mirrors the multicultural population of New Mexico and made a commitment to strengthen the diversity of faculty, staff and students at the university to reinforce NMSU's commitment to access and tolerance.

The president also committed to making the No. 1 goal of the university graduation. She pledged that over the course of five years she would make graduation a top priority and ensure demonstrable increases in student persistence in degree and certificate programs.

"While graduating our students is an expectation, we need to have goals that go beyond expectations, which stretch this great university to increase our research, academic, and creative partnerships to create a better future, not only for the students who are in our care, but also for the state, the nation, and the world which has fast become accessible at our back door."

The president added that she wants to focus NMSU's international research to prepare students for a global society and expand the land-grant teaching and research missions.

A university that has a strong academic ecosystem, Couture said, works well together and is able to maximize the resources available to it. She challenged those present to be the catalyst, the spark to motivate others into taking action and to plan for big projects for the university's future.

She implored attendees to "get to work" and create a new era of excellence for NMSU and be the economic engine for the state through linking and strengthening the research and economic development partnerships.

Resources from the state will be tight in the coming years, Couture cautioned.

"Our goal over the next five years must be to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency in serving our communities and constituencies across our university system. And we can reach this goal by thinking differently about what we do, generating new resources, and using what we have to support our top priorities," the president said.

She also encouraged those present to be serious engaging with friends and alumni to increase the financial security of the university through endowments and alumni giving.

Couture said she also wanted to build a culture of pride in partnerships and achievements in the classrooms, studios and laboratories at the NMSU campuses.

"Today, I am humbled by the outpouring of our university community, alumni, friends, and supporters across the state of New Mexico and their enthusiasm for the future of this great place," she said.

During the ceremony, Ken Miyagishima, Las Cruces mayor, declared Aug. 17, 2010 as "President Barbara Couture Day" as said that as a former Aggie, he was very proud of the university.

Steven A. Chavira, president of the Alumni Association, said it was a good day at NMSU to be an Aggie and that he was looking forward to the university's future.

"The excellence through partnerships is something we are excited about because it's those partnerships that help the university grow, it's those partnerships that help the alumni association grow, and it's we as former students of New Mexico State University, (who) all agree that we want to do everything we can to give back to our university," he said.

Travis Dulaney, president of the Associated Students of NMSU, said he was encouraged by Couture's goal to make graduation the No. 1 priority of students.

"I think, through Dr. Couture's leadership, and through her emphasis on partnership, (the diploma's) value will be increased beyond our wildest dreams here at New Mexico State University," Dulaney said. "We're so very happy to have her here and have her increasing the value of our diplomas."

"I wish many things for Dr. Couture," Pino said "Mostly, I wish her success, happiness, good health and many personal blessings. For if she has all these, then they will translate into good things for the University. I pledge my continued support and that of the whole board."

Before being appointed as president of NMSU, Couture was the senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also served as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Washington State University in Pullman. Couture earned her bachelor's degree with high distinction from the University of Michigan where she also earned a master's and doctoral degree in English language and literature.

An online guestbook has been created for people to send their well wishes to the president. The guestbook can be accessed at http://www2.nmsu.edu/inauguration/guestbook/index.php.

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For details about the event, and to RSVP, visit http://inauguration.nmsu.edu/.