Two regents appointed at Northern New Mexico College

March 2, 2019

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday announced two appointments to the Northern New Mexico College Board of Regents. Erica Rita Velarde and Porter Swentzell were both nominated for six-year terms that end Dec. 31, 2024.

Former Gov. Susana Martinez had made appointments to fill the two positions, but the seats remained empty because her appointees never had a state Senate confirmation hearing.

The vacant board seats were among a slew of problems the Española school has faced in recent years, including a series of whistleblower lawsuits alleging misuse of funds, poor financial audits from the state and an embezzlement case.

Northern New Mexico College President Rick Bailey said he’s looking forward to working with the new appointees, both Northern graduates. Velarde earned an associate degree there, and Swentzell earned a bachelor’s degree.

“They both graduated from here and know this campus well,” Bailey said.

“Any change to a governance board is going to be met with a combination of anxiety and excitement,” he added, “but from what I know of these two individuals, I am genuinely excited and optimistic about their futures here.”

Velarde, who also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico, is an energy engineer in the Risk Management Division of the state General Services Department. She also has worked as an engineer and program manager at the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and the Department of Transportation.

She was named the 2017 Energy Engineer of the Year by the New Mexico Association of Energy Engineers.

“I met [Velarde] when she was at the EMNRD,” Bailey said. “I was a skeptic before she guided me through the plans for renewable energy infrastructure on our campus. I am excited for her to bring that knowledge and passion here.”

Swentzell, who earned a master’s degree from Western New Mexico University and a doctorate in philosophy from Arizona State University, has been an assistant professor of indigenous liberal studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts since 2013. He also has worked as adjunct faculty at Northern New Mexico College and as an instructor at UNM-Los Alamos.

He was named Faculty of the Year at IAIA in 2018 and is chairman of the school’s Indigenous Liberal Arts Department.

“Dr. Swentzell will help us look towards improvements in the way we conduct student services and in the way we institute structural mechanisms to provide students with pathways towards academic and career goals,” Bailey said.

Lujan Grisham announced six other board of regents appointments Thursday at colleges and universities across the state: Curry County Manager Lance Pyle to the Eastern New Mexico University board; student Joseph William Gergel III to the ENMU board; former Economic Development Secretary William Garcia to the New Mexico Highlands University board; former UNM-Los Alamos Executive Director Cedric Daniel Page to the New Mexico Military Institute board; Small Business Administration District Director John Garcia to the NMMI board; and family therapist and adjunct professor Mary Hotvedt to the Western New Mexico University board.