A much needed step in the right direction – merit selection of Regents for New Mexico’sHigher Education Institutions.By Garrey Carruthers, Roberta Ramo, and Carlos Romero, Chairs of the Regents Screening Teams.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s transition team for higher education noted that a “regent shouldbe an individual with distinguished accomplishments, a positive view of the role of higher education, and a commitment to establishing positive relationships with stakeholders both insideand outside the higher education institution.” On top of that, the governor wanted to see criteriafor selection of regents and a process for evaluating applicants using these criteria that she couldembrace. We’re excited to share our ideas about the process that led to selections.

The criteria adopted by the governor included a record of public and/or community service; experience in complex organizations; a record of commitment to education; collaborative leadership ability; commitment to impartial decision making; availability for constructive engagement; a record of integrity and civic value; and a willingness to seek out resources. The governor also believes boards of regents should, by composition and qualities, demonstrate to the university system and the public a commitment to diversity and, with respect to skills andcompetencies, the kind of experiences and expertise that will enhance the board’s decision- making.

As of mid-January, more than 285 interested New Mexicans had applied for 18 open positions on the boards of eight institutions. The presidents of each institution were asked for recommendations with respect to their governance needs. The process involved an initial screening of all applicants, using the criteria above, and then interviews with 62 by one of three screening teams – a New Mexico State University/New Mexico Tech team chaired by Garrey Carruthers, a UNM team chaired by Roberta Ramo, and a Comprehensives/New Mexico Military Institute team chaired by Carlos Romero. The teams recommended two or more candidates for each position to the governor.

Neither the high points nor the needs of higher education have recently received the attention they deserve; one reason, we believe, is the drama, the distractions, associated with some regents. Also, there has not been an emphasis on tailored qualifications for each institution in some recent appointments. By moving to a merit-selection process and paying attention to the needs of each institution, Gov. Lujan Grisham is communicating the importance of higher education and higher education governance to the people of New Mexico. This will both set her administration apart from others in the past and set the stage for real advancement in the number of New Mexicans who complete certificate and degree programs. Further, we believe using thesecriteria will result in regent appointments that will allow each of New Mexico’s institutions ofhigher education to advance in their missions. Our higher education institutions provide a quality education we need to compete in economic development and to address the pressing needs of all New Mexicans.

It is all about leadership at the end of the day. Gov. Lujan Grisham has stepped up by recognizing higher education as the lynchpin to a more dynamic economy and a more equitable

society in our great state. We’re proud to have been part of the change New Mexico needs onthis important front.