Luna Community College reflects on a remarkable 2018

December 30, 2018

For many, this time of the year prompts much reflection on the reasons to be thankful — the challenges overcome throughout the last 12 months and goals we hope to accomplish in the new year. For Luna Community College, 2018 was far from typical. The year was marked with several challenges that called for a community to establish an institutional culture built on collaboration, transparency, assessment and quality outcomes.

Although the past year brought about difficult and uncertain times, we now look back and celebrate the changes that came from the most challenging time in the college’s history.

The year began with a sense of urgency to complete the college’s Show-Cause Report that was due to its accrediting agency on Feb. 1. Just months prior, the Higher Learning Commission placed the college on a Show-Cause Order. The order provided Luna with 90 days to make notable changes in its governance and administrative practices, all while drafting a comprehensive report that demonstrated the college’s compliance with all criterion for accreditation.

In response to the Show-Cause Order, college faculty, staff and administration came together to develop and adopt a shared governance policy that provides for a collaborative model of decision making that includes the board of trustees, the president, administration, faculty, staff and students. It is now the process by which institutional direction and policies are developed, modified and implemented.

Integral to shared governance was the establishment of the college’s first Staff Advisory Senate. The Senate serves as a source of input on issues and decisions that relate to regular full-time/part-time and non-faculty staff at the college. Within the past year, the Senate has conducted elections, drafted bylaws and marked its one-year anniversary by re-establishing the college’s years-of-service celebration for employees.

In May, the college completed construction of its media arts auditorium. The more than 18,000-square-foot auditorium is among the largest public venues in Northern New Mexico with a total capacity of 1,200. Just two weeks after its grand opening, the auditorium reached capacity when hundreds celebrated the spring 2018 commencement.

After a study, the board of trustees approved a $300,000 salary parity proposal aimed at raising employee compensation to a level consistent with sister institutions throughout the region. The proposal, which yielded salary increases for 70 percent of college personnel, raised the college’s minimum wage to above $10 per hour. Salary adjustments took effect prior to the end of the fiscal year to ensure the 2 percent state-mandated salary adjustment was applied to increased salaries.

In addition to addressing staff compensation, the college has grown by more than a dozen new positions that have been created to increase student services, completion and graduation rates. New positions include a director for institutional research, developmental education specialists, a total of seven faculty/advisers — one for each academic department, a director for student and career services and a veterans resource coordinator.

After a site visit and committee hearing in Chicago, the Higher Learning Commission board voted in July to remove the college from Show-Cause and place the institution on probation. This measure recognized the significant work and changes achieved by the institution over a short period.

Just a few months ago, the college went live with its brand-new website. The site, which is still located at Luna.edu, captures the increased levels of sophistication, professionalism and service that can be found throughout the campus.

All this, and so much more, has given Luna Community College reason to celebrate a wonderful 2018. It also sets the stage for a wonderful new year. In the past 12 months, we learned much about our ability to persevere under pressure. We learned much about the undivided support of the communities we serve. However, most importantly, we learned that we can never be successful if we don’t first face trials.

On behalf of the campus community and board of trustees, thank you for your support, honesty and for holding us accountable. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season and a very prosperous new year.

Ricky Serna is Luna Community College’s interim president.

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