Barbara Couture selected as first female president to lead NMSU

November 19, 2009 by Author Name NMSU Round Up

Barbara Couture was selected by the Board of Regents at 10:20 a.m. today as president of New Mexico State University.

Barbara Couture was selected by the Board of Regents at 10:20 a.m. today as president of New Mexico State University.

Barbara Couture was selected by the Board of Regents at 10:20 a.m. today as president of New Mexico State University.

“This process has been inclusive and efficient,” said Blake Curtis, Board of Regents chairman. “All the stakeholders have been represented.”

Barbara Couture, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 2004, was the first of the two female finalists for the position of president to visit campus in November and said she would stay at NMSU a while.

“I’m not an institution hopper,” Couture said during her campus visit. “My intention is to stay and help build this university.”

Javier Gonzales, vice chairman of the Board of Regents said going through another failed search was not an option this time.

“I believe today marks a new day at NMSU,” Gonzales said, “a new day that brings promise and stability.”

Couture graciously accepted the position at the special Board of Regents meeting.

“I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be here,” Couture said. “I want this university to be absolutely the best it can be. I am honored to be your next president.”

Couture has held leadership roles and initiated diversity projects at three major research colleges, including starting the American Indian Studies Plateau Center at Washington State University, where she served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts for six years.

“Study hard, do your homework and I will do everything I can do to make you successful at NMSU,” Couture said when asked what message she would like to send to students.

An Outgoing Interim

Dr. Manuel Pacheco has been Interim-President of NMSU since June and said he looks forward to a smooth transition for Dr. Couture when she takes over in January.

“She is going to be here on January 1 and I will be available to her and the Board of Regents to help in any way they need,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco reflected on his time at NMSU, stating he knew that coming to campus would be a good experience but his time here has exceed all expectations.

“Students here are absolutely terrific, I have been impressed with how thoughtful, bright and appreciative the students and student leaders have been,” Pacheco said.

Unique Experience for Student Leaders

Associated Students of NMSU President Travis Dulany and Student Regent Chris Anaya had a rare opportunity to be involved in the process of selecting the universities next president.

“It was a great experience,” Anaya said. “You have an idea of what the process is going to be like going in. I have had the opportunity to learn about how higher education works and what everyone can bring to the table.”

Regent Anaya said Couture’s inclusiveness towards students made her an impressive choice.

“Couture is committed to making sure the decisions she will make are relayed back to the students,” Anaya said.

Travis Dulany said he is excited to help Couture acclimate her to campus and the students.

“I will do my best to orient her to campus, teach her the fight song and bring knowledge about the students,” Dulany said.

Couture on Coming to NMSU

“A new president should partner with the community,” Couture said. “To attract high-quality faculty and students [the new president] must have high-quality communication, stability, emphasis on excellence and good, transparent communication.”

Competing for Couture

Couture was selected as a presidential finalist at the University of Albany in New York in February, but was not selected. Couture was also a finalist at Southern Illinois University and visited the university. Overall, Couture said she enjoyed her visit to NMSU and was impressed with the growth of the campus and the community, including the construction of the new convention center, Center for the Arts and the Native American Cultural Center.

“[Las Cruces] is a city just bursting with potential,” Couture said. “The citizen growth [is proof] that lots of people want to come here.”

Couture said she is also dedicated to the land-grant mission of the university and would work to meet the expectations of the campus and the Las Cruces community.

“I think the community is looking for a collegial atmosphere; strong, stable leadership,” Couture said. “That’s what I hope to provide.”

The finalists

Couture was chosen out of five finalists, including Lisa Rossbacher, president of Southern Polytechnic University in Georgia; James Oblinger, former chancellor of North Carolina State University; Michael Ortiz, California State Polytechnic University Pomona; and Richard Herman, former chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, visited campus in November.

The withdrawals

Ortiz withdrew his name from consideration because of unfinished business at Cal Poly, according to an e-mail statement from Ortiz published in the Cal Poly Times student newspaper, and Herman withdrew from candidacy on Nov. 11, citing personal reasons.

Keep visiting for more updates on the presidency, and pick up our “Year in Review” print edition of The Round Up on Nov. 30.

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