The Highlands University Foundation met its goal to raise $250,000 in private money to increase high-impact practices that boost student success.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department will now provide a 2:1 match, creating a permanent $750,000 endowment.

“Highlands is known for actively engaging students in high-impact learning like undergraduate research and internships,” said said Highlands University President Sam Minner. “Our successful HIPs initiative will further enhance that reputation, and increase our students’ academic achievement.”

Other examples of high-impact practices include service learning, community-based projects, study abroad experiences, and first-year seminars and learning communities through linked courses like Highlands initiated for all freshman in fall 2015.

Minner said that often the most transformative learning happens outside the classroom and textbooks, when students’ knowledge is applied.

“When a student works side-by-side with a great professor in a research lab, a studio or some field setting, that experience is powerful and never forgotten. This endowment will help us provide the best possible faculty development opportunities which, in turn, will mean even more highly engaging learning opportunities for our students,” Minner said.

Vice President of Advancement Theresa Law said that the endowment is a permanent funding source, with Highlands receiving the interest earned each year on the $750,000 corpus, which is not touched.

“We’re very grateful to the Highlands Foundation for providing the lead donation to this match campaign,” Law said. “More than 100 donors participated in the campaign including alumni, faculty, staff, businesses, community groups and other friends of Highlands.”

Law said the without this broad-based support the fundraising goal would not have been met, and the rare state funding opportunity would have been lost.

“The university is extremely thankful for the donors’ generosity,” Law said.

Diana Marrs directs the new Center for Teaching Excellence at Highlands that was established fall semester 2015. She helped write the HU-HIPs proposal that was submitted to the New Mexico Higher Education Department for consideration.

“I am very excited that we will be able to increase best practices instruction at Highlands, and thereby make our students more successful,” Marrs said.

Marrs outlined some of the plans the Center for Teaching Excellence has for using the endowment for faculty development at Highlands:

  • Develop a faculty-to-faculty mentorship program where faculty experienced in conducting undergraduate research with their students share their knowledge with faculty who want to begin their own undergraduate research projects.
  • Provide professional development and support for professors teaching in the freshman learning communities and first-year seminars.
  • Work with the Department of English to increase writing assignments across all disciplines, which Marrs said helps students succeed in all their academic endeavors.
  • Bring in additional resources ranging from hiring outside consultants to purchasing books and webinars on high-impact practices, as well as send faculty to intensive HIPs trainings.
  • The university is looking for ways to expand study abroad and service opportunities for students. Faculty new to these efforts will receive training to learn how to lead these initiatives.

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