CONTACT: Daniel Howard, 575-646-2127, dahoward
All around campus, staff at New Mexico State University work continuously to promote the values of diversity and inclusion for everyone. But this is a special charge for the offices of Chicano Programs, Black Programs, American Indian Programs, LGBT+ Programs, Military & Veterans Programs and Student Accessibility Services.
These programs are overseen by the university’s provost, who believes NMSU is continuing on the right track to being a university that values diversity and inclusion.
“I think we have good directors for the diversity programs, and our programs are strong. The directors work well together, and everyone does a great job of expressing the common goal of inclusiveness,” said NMSU Provost Dan Howard. “We want this to be a university where everyone in our community feels welcomed and included.”
Laura Gutiérrez-Spencer, director of Chicano Programs, said diversity programs are crucial during the traditional college years because students are exploring their identities.
“These diversity programs are helpful to have. Students need a cultural place where they can feel at home and understood and where they don’t have to explain themselves,” said Gutiérrez-Spencer.
NMSU’s Chicano Programs is a service that aims to support students who may have questions or concerns about various things that they may not be familiar with, like financial aid, scholarships or classroom etiquette. Chicano Programs also offers leadership development workshops, scholarships and internship opportunities and will also provide crucial information to DACA students.
Festus Addo-Yobo, director of Black Programs, agreed with Gutiérrez-Spencer and added that the diversity programs help to bring awareness to the campus community and create global citizens.
“We need to be aware that it is important that we create a culture of understanding. If you look at what is happening nationally and internationally, we want to create students who are global citizens. We want to create intellectual development and personal growth that is full of confidence and that is what these programs do,” said Addo-Yobo.
NMSU’s Black Programs is set up to increase the awareness and appreciation of Black history through educational, cultural, social and academic programs. Black Programs offers a support network to help students explore the academic fields and succeed in completing their degree program.
Also located in Garcia Annex alongside the Black Programs and Chicano Programs is the LGBT+ Programs, which has seen their numbers double in the last year to a thousand students. LGBT+ Programs was recognized nationally for the establishment of Preferred Name and Gender Inclusive Housing. Zooey Pook, director of the LGBT+ Programs, hopes to increase admissions options, create a broader training program for NMSU campuses and establish gender neutral spaces at the aquatic and activity centers.
NMSU’s American Indian Program prides itself on being a community away from community for the indigenous students on campus. AIP is also a resource where students can learn more about Native American culture and dispel stereotypes and preconceived notions.
Michael Ray, director of AIP, said the program is planning to do more than bring tribal communities and leaders to campus. They also encourage more of the campus community to visit the tribal areas to get a better understanding of their diversity and to earn experiential knowledge and become better community members no matter where they go around the world.
NMSU’s Military and Veterans Programs helps to provide and promote lifelong learning and professional development for veterans, active-duty military and their families. Hector Sanchez, director of MVP, said they assist with guiding students through the process of applying for educational benefits and foster fellowship as well as offer space where like-minded students can gather and share their experiences.
Recently added to the university’s diversity and inclusion programs is Student Accessibility Services. Trudy Luken, director of Student Accessibility Services, said that including SAS with these other programs frames disability not as an impairment, but rather as an important dimension of diversity and identity among the campus community.
Student Accessibility Services provides help to about 600 students each year with resources, education and direct services that can include extended time for testing, note-taking assistance, alternate texts, sign language interpreters, assistive technology and housing accommodations.
Looking to the future for the diversity and inclusion programs, Howard would like to see a chief diversity officer put in place and working closely with others at the university to start an ethnic studies program.
“I would like for diversity directors to report directly to a chief diversity officer. I think we would better be able to send the message that we celebrate diversity and inclusion if we had one,” Howard said. “We are also in the process of putting together an ethnic studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences. We will have courses that will help students appreciate and understand not only Black history and culture, but also Hispanic and Native American history and culture, among others.”