Tech Awarded Third Multi-Million Dollar Education Grant


SOCORRO, N.M. September 27, 2011 – New Mexico Tech has landed a multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the third straight year. President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez announced at the September 23 meeting of the Board of Regents that Tech was awarded a $4.3 million, five-year grant to implement initiatives aimed at improving graduation rates and student retention – or persistence.

All three grants are from the Title V program, which the Department of Education issues to universities that serve minorities. Each grant has a different purpose  Tech has been classified as a Hispanic-Serving Institution since 2008. The latest grant is an HSI-STEM grant, designed for Hispanic-Serving Institutions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM.

Tech will use the $4.3 million to add summer math programs, develop articulation agreements with three New Mexico two-year colleges and install more Smart Classrooms. Tech already has converted three teaching areas to serve as high-tech, interactive, multimedia classrooms. In all, the three grants will allow the university to create 22 such instructional areas.

The main focus of the new grant is to create new opportunities for New Mexico students – particularly minorities and low-income students – to enter STEM fields, Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Peter Gerity said.

The partner institutions are New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs and New Mexico State University’s branch campus in Grants.

“For many students, it’s advantageous for them to start on their home turf – their home institution – then move to Tech to finish,” Gerity said. “Especially for low-income students, this will facilitate their achievement of a degree.”

Gerity credited interdepartmental campus teams that have put together three successive grant proposals. The combination of all three grants are creating new synergy on campus, allowing programs to piggyback each other and creating new opportunities for students at every level, faculty programs and technological advancements.

“For us, these resources are vital when other sources of funding are drying up,” Gerity said.

In other news from the Regents meeting:

  • Lopez and Dr. Van Romero, vice president of research, updated the Board about funding activity in Washington, D.C. Lopez said that Tech changed its approach several years ago, devoting efforts toward developing relationships with agency personnel and diminishing dependence on earmarks. For instance, the First Responder Training programs at EMRTC are now included in the budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Magdalena Ridge Observatory, on the other hand, was largely dependent on federal earmarks – which have dried up. Romero said he and his staff are looking for other funding avenues to finish construction of the MRO-Interferometer.  The MRO-I has ordered its first telescope and needs additional funding to order subsequent telescopes.
“While agency people are willing to fund these programs, they’re waiting to see their budget,” Romero said.
  • Lopez presented an update on the New Mexico Legislature’s special session. He said higher education was not a main topic of discussion during the short session, but that Tech would be seeking state funds from severance tax revenues and/or General Obligation Bonds to construct a new building for the N.M. Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources during the regular session that begins in January.
  • Lopez also recapped the President’s Golf Tournament, which raises scholarship money. He said the two-day event raised about $200,000, which includes in-kind contributions. He said about a dozen students are awarded scholarships each year from the fund.
  • The Board approved two construction contracts. White Sands Construction submitted the low bid for installation of new refrigerated air conditioning system in Macey Center. Tech received eight bids. White Sands bid $1,058,230, about $10,000 lower than the next lowest bid. The Board also approved spending $894,554 to replace the roof of Workman Center, which was damaged in the 2004 hail storm. Insurance did not cover that roof, so Tech patched the damaged areas. Now, repairs are proving more costly than replacement, Lopez said.
  • The Board also learned about two large purchases made with restricted funds (which do not require Board approval). The Petroleum Recovery Research Center paid $191,000 to Harvard Petroleum in Roswell for a test project to test new methods of recovering petroleum from mature oil fields. Also, EMRTC paid $1.27 million to Physical Security Inc. to build a “curtain wall.” The U.S. State Department is funding explosives tests of protective walls used in U.S. embassies around the world.
  • Meeting as the Board of the Employee Benefit Trust, the Regents heard that the Trust, which administers the university’s health insurance plan, continues to lose money. Vice President of Finance Lonnie Marquez said he’s working with a faculty committee to gather input and determine how to address the financial imbalance of the benefit program. The university will solicit proposals in coming months for new benefit plans, Marquez said.
  • The Board was notified of August degree conferrals; one master’s degree was awarded.
  • Marquez presented the Board with the financial analysis for August, showing Tech is within budget and fiscally sound. The Board approved one budget adjustment request. The Board also approved the annual list of research and public service projects.
  • The Board changed the dates for the next two meetings. The Board will meet Monday, Oct. 17, in Socorro and Monday, Nov. 21, in Albuquerque.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech