The Grand Challenges

By Chancellor Dan E. Arvizu | Published: July 20, 2018

TO: NMSU Faculty and Staff -

It has certainly been a busy week and a half. I attended the Great Minds in STEM summit in California last week. That was followed by a conference on creating an innovative ecosystem in utilities. I also met with the Council of University Presidents and had a chance to speak with the Albuquerque Journal. Then, to top it all off and the highlight of the past week, I had a chance to speak with a few hundred incoming freshmen and their parents at Corbett Center.

The Great Minds in STEM summit was an incredible event, with an important message about reaching under-represented communities. The pipeline for university STEM students is the nation’s K-12 education system. Unfortunately, New Mexico ranks near the bottom of the list when it comes to our performance in K-12. If you add up our current resources, it’s just not enough to provide the education we must deliver for our children. We need outside investment, including partnerships with corporations, philanthropy and government agencies. This is something we will work on going forward.

At the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference, I had an opportunity to speak as part of the opening keynote plenary panel. The focus there was on how to educate a new workforce for the challenges of our time, and how to create an ecosystem of innovation. There, I discussed how to encourage innovation while also ensuring all citizens obtain the benefits of new technologies.

Earlier this week, representing both President Floros and myself, I met with other university leaders from around the state at the Council of University Presidents meeting. Among the topics we discussed was a troubling issue – as many as 4 in 10 Americans don’t believe a college degree is worth the cost, despite a mountain of evidence that shows otherwise. Democratizing access to opportunities, especially for higher education, will benefit everyone in our state.

On Wednesday, I visited with the Albuquerque Journal and spoke to a few of these important topics. First, I told them we must improve our K-16 ecosystem with a focus on STEM. We must also modernize our critical infrastructure, including energy, water, food and IT. Additionally, we need to create healthy borders, addressing all aspects of socioeconomic and cultural issues as well as international trade and economic development, technology, investment and policy, especially at the U.S./Mexico border. You’ll notice these are difficult issues, without easy answers. While President Floros and I are still soliciting feedback on these themes from our campus community, it will be our goal to position NMSU as a university noted for working on the grand challenges of our time.

Finally, as we continue to develop and communicate our strategy, President Floros and I recognize that our land-grant Hispanic-Serving Institution mission is to educate, conduct research, and serve the people of a New Mexico. Our strategic intent is that we will be a student-centric university, known for excellence in scholarship and to be a catalyst for economic development and place-based innovation. We will also be dedicated to operational excellence and to working as a university system.

One last note, we have established a September 30 deadline to unveil our new strategic plan, along with our objectives, metrics and how we plan to hold ourselves accountable. Look for additional updates, and opportunities to provide feedback on this plan in the very near future.

Thanks and have a great weekend.