Foundation Board Undertakes $300,000 Campaign to Improve NM Education

The New Mexico Highlands University Foundation will undertake a two-year $300,000 campaign to provide seed money for a Center of Excellence that will assist middle schools in improving teaching of math and science.

Highlands Board of Regents President and former President of the Foundation Board Leveo V. Sanchez has pledged the initial $50,000 as a challenge grant.

Highlands School of Education dean, Michael Anderson, said the Center for Excellence’s focus on middle-school teaching of math and science addresses a critical need in New Mexico schools as well as across the nation.

“We know that we begin to see our students lose interest or capabilities in the math and science fields in the middle school years,” Anderson said. “By working with teachers in those areas to assist them in new methods, to refresh their skills, or provide a stronger foundation, we can improve the student outcomes in math and science. Frankly, this is critical for our state, which has one of the largest numbers of employment opportunities in the country due to our national labs.”

The Center for Excellence will also focus on professional development schools, which places university faculty on school sites with student teachers. Highlands University faculty will be integrated not only with the student teachers but also with the middle school campus faculty. This will give real-world preparation according to Dr. David Braun Harycki, associate dean of the School of Education.

“We will kick-off the fund-raising effort immediately,” said G. Doyle Daves, president of the Highlands Foundation. “We will seek help from all quarters to raise this money. This is one of the most important projects we have undertaken, and the impact of the success of this program will have long-term effects on our communities and our state. We are helping to support the development of a program that will someday have national implications for middle school education.”

The focus on the School of Education by the Foundation Board came at the recommendation of Dr. Jim Fries, president of New Mexico Highlands.

“Highlands started in 1893 as a normal school to train teachers and has a rich history of excellence in its School of Education,” Fries told the Foundation Board. “Today it is critical that educators at all levels work together to strengthen our schools, especially in math and science, and we need to refocus our efforts in the School of Education toward that goal. Far too many of our young people today are not finishing high school. We are going to focus initially on middle school education, which hasn’t received as much attention as the elementary and high school programs in an effort to stem that trend. I’m very pleased with the work our faculty is doing to improve learning opportunities for our students and enhance supportive interactions with area teachers in order to strengthen our school systems across the state.”