LCSN: NMSU inaugurates first woman president

August 17, 2010. Retrieved online August 18, 2010 from Christine Rogel, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – It was a big day at New Mexico State University on Tuesday.

Hundreds turned out to witness the inauguration of Barbara Couture as the university’s 25th – and first woman – president in 122 years.

“Some people say that women are often more collaborative in their approach to leadership. I would like to think that that’s the way my leadership will be carried out,” Couture said.

“I want to make sure that we have an open dialogue among our constituency at the university so that we can get the best ideas and so that we can continue to make the university better.”

Couture, as she thanked her family members, including her deceased parents Chester Zawacki and Angela Markowicz Zawacki, was moved to tears. Almost 20 members of Couture’s family were present.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima, an NMSU alumnus, proclaimed Aug. 17, 2010, as President Barbara Couture Day in Las Cruces and Regents Chairman Ike Pino presented Couture with the presidential medallion.

NMSU freshman Kelby Erickson watched the inauguration online. He said he thinks Couture will bring change to the university based on her statements about improving graduation rates.

“I think that she’ll definitely try to make students more interested in school and so hopefully that will make New Mexico State a better school than it already is,” Erickson said.

Couture pledged to make graduation rates a top priority over the next five years by asking NMSU administrators to examine any “barriers we put in front of our students on their path to graduation.” That includes excessive pre-requisites, limited access to advisers and inadequate assistance with student loans or scholarships. In addition, Couture said she’ll support programs that help students choose majors earlier and select courses that help them graduate on time.

She also plans to implement a “mid-semester check program” with freshmen to ensure their plan of study is on track.

Travis Dulany, president of the Associated Students of NMSU, said he was encouraged by Couture’s goal to make graduation rates a priority.

“I think, through Dr. Couture’s leadership, and through her emphasis on partnership, (the diploma’s) value will be increased beyond our wildest dreams here at New Mexico State University,” Dulany said. “We’re so very happy to have her here and have her increasing the value of our diplomas.”

At the helm of one main campus and four branch campuses with more than 29,000 students and 4,000 faculty and staff and 295 degree programs, Couture recognizes one challenge she faces is managing a growing university with declining resources.

NMSU’s general budget was cut by $12.3 million and the university faces an additional budget shortfall in state funding this fall.

“We’ve been very well prepared for this; we asked our faculty staff and administrative units to prepare a 2 percent, 6 percent and 10 percent budget reduction last year and that prepared us to be able to look at our administrative house in a very serious way. We took some pretty goods administrative cuts that have given us a backlog to take care of problems that might come in the future,” Couture said. “But the bottom line is, we need state support.”

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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