LCSN: Former Lobo makes case for NMSU presidential bid

November 10, 2009. Retrieved online November 10, 2009 from Amanda L. Husson, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – Michael Ortiz knows the New Mexico State University community may be wary of a presidential finalist who is a former Lobo, but he says his University of New Mexico background is nothing to worry about.

“I have more maroon in my closet than red,” Ortiz joked on Monday during his visit to NMSU.

The native of Carrizozo said he wasn’t looking for a new job – he’s happy as president of California State Polytechnic University in Pomona – but when Interim NMSU President Manuel Pacheco contacted him and suggested he look into the vacancy here, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to New Mexico and broaden his reach.

“Coming home to a position that will have a statewide impact through its land-grant mission,” is appealing, Ortiz said.

Ortiz noted that CSPU Pomona is neither a land-grant institution nor a Research I institution like NMSU, but pointed to similarities in the schools’ emphasis on agriculture, technology and engineering. He said CSPU also boasts a diverse student body, with 71 percent of students coming from racial and ethnic minorities – about 33 percent Latino, he said.

Coming from a small, predominantly Hispanic community, and being in the first generation of his family to attend college, Ortiz said he places great value on diversity and programs that support minority students. He’s fought, he said, to keep programs like cultural centers from becoming casualties of budget cuts at the school.

“I’ve fought those critics off,” Ortiz said of those who suggest that getting rid of the centers could save the university money. “Now they know it’s a priority, and they don’t go after them anymore.”

He touts his fundraising experience, noting that last year yielded the best fundraising totals ever at his university. Finding the money, he said is all about making connections.

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