Good afternoon and thank you for taking time out of your day and busy schedules to celebrate Northern New Mexico University Day at the 2015 Legislature.
It’s truly a pleasure and honor to stand before you today to celebrate an institution with more than 100 years of history. Since the beginning of New Mexico’s statehood, this building has been the stage for the evolution of our unique institution.
Northern New Mexico University and its mission have always played an integral role in the State of New Mexico’s goal to provide educational opportunities for its residents.
In the early 1900s, the New Mexico Territorial Legislature determined that a facility was needed as a “normal school” with a primary function of training teachers for the State’s Spanish-speaking population. The Spanish American Normal School at El Rito opened its doors in September 1909.
When the New Mexico Territory applied for statehood in 1912, the State Constitution identified the Spanish American Normal School as one of ten educational institutions which would be supported by the state. The Spanish American School provided both secondary and post-secondary educational programs. As a result of its Constitutional Charter and mission, Northern is recognized as the first Hispanic-Serving Institution in the nation.
In 1953, the State Legislature changed the name of the institution to Northern New Mexico State School. Six years later, the Board of Regents renamed the school Northern New Mexico College. The College continued to teach grades 7-12 along with the new college curriculum.
By 1961, the College was offering two-year programs in business education, general studies and selected vocational programs. Technical-vocational programs proved popular and enrollment increased due to a school-operated transportation system which allowed the population from the surrounding rural villages to attend the school.
In 1969 the high school curriculum was transferred to a newly created public school district and the curriculum at the College was limited to technical-vocational course offerings. One year later, the Board of Regents again renamed the school to New Mexico Technical-Vocational School.
Operating under its new name, the Technical-Vocational School expanded its curriculum and faculty, and developed a campus in Española. The school assumed the Practical Nurse program from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe.
As educational needs in northern New Mexico evolved, educators and legislators identified a need for a more comprehensive delivery of educational services. In 1976 a task force was created whose membership included representatives from the New Mexico Technical-Vocational School and local school boards and citizens to assess the feasibility of establishing a community college. In 1977, the Legislature accepted a recommendation of the task force and Northern became New Mexico’s first ever community college.
The programs offered by the new institution included associate degrees in various academic and occupational disciplines, certificate-granting programs in occupational studies, and other courses offered for no credit.
In 2004, legislative approval and accreditation was extended to Northern, permitting it to be the first community college in New Mexico to offer a four year degree, a BA in Elementary Education.
In 2005, legislation was enacted which permitted the college to offer four-year degrees in any programs deemed necessary and appropriate. Northern New Mexico Community College was renamed Northern New Mexico College.
Recently, the New Mexico legislature played a role in allowing Northern to join its postsecondary counterparts in allowing for a Student Regent among our Board of Regents.
This year, with the help of Senators Cisneros and Martinez, we anticipate legislators to approve SB603, an amendment to state statute that will complete the change from Northern New Mexico College to Northern New Mexico University.
Northern New Mexico University provides students with expansive educational opportunities including GED preparation, bachelor’s degrees, more than 50 associates degrees and over 20 certificates.
Northern is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has earned specialized accreditations for our Bachelor’s in Information Engineering
Technology, associate-level Business programs and our RN to BSN Program. Additionally, our Barbering, Cosmetology, Massage Therapy, and Nursing programs are approved by their respective state licensing boards.
In addition to our degree-granting programs, Northern offers heritage arts programs that sustain the rich traditions of Spanish and Native-American arts. These programs include:
- Rio Grande Style Weaving
- Southwest Heritage Arts
- Spanish Colonial Woodcarving
- Bultos & Retablos and
- Micaceous Pottery
Another important part of Northern’s history began in 2007 when the College was accepted in to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). In 2014 our Men’s Basketball team won the NAIA Regional Tournament and went on to compete in the National NAIA tournament. This year, I am pleased to invite you the 2015 AII Conference Tournament which is taking place on the Northern campus on February 27th and 28th. This past weekend, the Eagles beat top-ranked Cal. State San Marcos. Northern currently has six athletic programs including basketball, golf, cross country and dance and cheer.
Northern has something for everyone and I invite you to be part of an institution with a rich history and healthy future. Our commitment to accessibility is underscored in our recognition as the most affordable four-year institution in the southwestern United States. I want to thank the many legislators who have supported Northern through over the years. A special note of appreciation goes out to the staff, faculty and students who continue to make Northern their point of destination.