March 8, 2019
Welcome to our new Regents: Chair Dina Chacón-Reitzel, Vice Chair Ammu Devasthali, and Secretary/Treasurer Student Regent Luke Sanchez! They were sworn in this morning by Doña Ana County Clerk and former Student Regent Amanda López-Askin and elected to their new roles at today’s Board meeting. We look forward to working with you! Thank you, too, to our outgoing Regents, and to Regents Debra Hicks and Jerean Hutchinson for your continued leadership.
In February, The Chronicle of Higher Education announced its assessment of 659 colleges and universities that excelled in enrolling and graduating women in computer science and engineering programs. NMSU ranked 22nd among four-year public institutions! I am very happy to highlight this effort, especially today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day.
This ranking is the result of hard work that began over a decade ago. Professor Enrico Pontelli, now Dean Pontelli, had a simple vision: to reach equity in undergraduate enrollment between women and men in computer science. In 2006, Professor Pontelli received a supplement to a National Science Foundation grant as part of its Broadening Participation in Computing program. Over the next decade, he collaborated with other faculty, wrote more grants, and created Young Women in Computing (YWiC), a pathway program that starts in elementary school and leads directly to the Computer Science Department at NMSU.
Recruiting has always been an emphasis for YWiC. Activities such as STEM day, after school sessions, and summer programs take place on campus. Participants come to know NMSU as a welcoming place because they work with NMSU students, faculty, and staff. Dean Pontelli believes that one of the strengths of the program is its reliance on undergraduate computer science students — they serve as program leaders, starting as freshmen and growing into confident leaders capable of presenting their work to peers at conferences.
As Dean, Dr. Pontelli has continued his involvement with YWiC, and he is now focusing on understanding what makes the difference between simple engagement in computing and more meaningful retention of women in computing. He continues to seek funding for future efforts even as he acknowledges that this can be difficult.
As we move to realize a new vision for NMSU, YWiC serves as an example of how a program can be systematically and thoughtfully created to serve our land-grant mission. Dean Pontelli summarized his two-part strategy: set your goals and find resources to achieve them.
News from the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board (NMERB). There are several updates regarding NMERB, but the most important message is this: all NMSU faculty and staff who are members of NMERB need to verify their benefit information at NMERB (https://www.nmerb.org/). If you have no beneficiary or dependent listed, please follow the online instructions to update this information if you have not already done so. In related items:
- NMSU Human Resources Services (HRS) received names of employees with incomplete beneficiary information with NMERB. They will start contacting these employees soon.
- HRS is using certified mail to send forms to NMERB’s office so we can verify their receipt. HRS and NMSU administration continue to work with NMERB on further outreach for our employees.
- Yesterday, Senate Bill 664, which allows a surviving spouse or domestic partner to receive pension benefits, passed the New Mexico Senate unanimously. It should be scheduled for a vote in the House soon.
We continue to hear from faculty and staff regarding NMERB, and we understand that few things are more important than knowing that loved ones will benefit from your service at NMSU. We continue working on this issue, and you will hear from us as we learn more.
One final note: I look forward to hearing from many more of you at an upcoming session on NMSU LEADS 2025. This week, ASNMSU, the Faculty Senate, the Honors College, and the Library provided us with excellent feedback. We are still finalizing the schedule, and we will distribute a complete list next week.