New president calls Luna Community College a ‘diamond in the rough’

October 13, 2018

Luna Community College’s new president is a career administrator known for helping schools right themselves.

The school’s board of trustees unanimously voted Wednesday to hire Bruce Moses, an assistant vice chancellor at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., for the job.

In a phone interview Thursday, Moses said he plans to start working at Luna in January.

“The [Luna] institution is a diamond in the rough,” Moses said. “I think it just needs some nurturing. And I think I can bring that to the institution.”

He plans to do much more than that for the Las Vegas, N.M.-based community college, which has undergone a series of financial, enrollment and accreditation problems over the past few years, Moses said, adding it will be his job to re-establish the community’s trust.

In an effort to increase Luna’s student enrollment, which dropped by some 20 percent in past year, Moses plans a number of new initiatives tied to job opportunities in New Mexico and the Southwest at large. For example, he said, upon hearing the news that Netflix plans to buy Albuquerque Studios and establish a production hub in the region, he wants to meet with Netflix leaders to discuss the possibility of creating a film technician program to help meet the demand for workers on New Mexico-based projects.

He also has to look beyond Northern New Mexico for job opportunities for Luna graduates, he said. “There are two new mines opening up in Southern Arizona, and they are looking for welders, machinists, diesel operators. Las Vegas does not have enough industry to support all our graduates.”

And, he said, the college must continue to draw more nontraditional students — working men and women, parents and older residents who want to “re-engineer themselves.”

“If folks say, ‘I can take two classes from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at night and another on Saturday morning,’ we’re going to have to design our programs to meet the needs of those students,” Moses said.

Moses was one of five finalists for the job. Daniel Romero, chairman of the board of trustees, said in an email Thursday that of all the finalists, “Dr. Moses was the strongest and best fit. … After meeting with Dr. Moses during his visit, students, faculty and staff also felt that he was a great fit. The unanimous approval of the board is yet another sign that we are prepared to work together for the betterment of the institution.”

Luna, which serves about 1,100 students, was at risk of losing its national accreditation following a 2016 audit by the New Mexico Higher Education Department that found a series of problems, including nepotism and favoritism in hiring; almost a quarter-million dollars in missing equipment; board meetings enveloped in “rancor, dissension and unprofessional behavior”; and a leader falsifying his résumé to land a job there.

A loss of accreditation could lead to the loss of federal tuition assistance for future college students and affect current students’ ability to transfer credits to other colleges and universities.

College leaders, under the gun to fix problems with its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits about 1,000 schools across the country, began initiating a series of steps to address the challenges. And over the summer, the commission decided to allow Luna to keep its accreditation on a probationary status for up to two years.

Moses will prioritize “getting the institution back on track to meet the quality standards expected by the HLC,” he said.

“Part of the challenge Luna faced is that they have been stagnant in areas where they should have been more active in evaluating themselves,” he added. “I plan to bring in a continual quality improvement plan … so the HLC does not have to.”

Moses was born in Memphis, Tenn., and was raised in Detroit. A first-generation college student, he earned a number of degrees in educational leadership and administrative management from Ferris State University and Eastern Michigan University.

He since has served in several institutional improvement positions in Michigan, Arkansas and Arizona, most recently at Pima, where he was hired in 2015 to ensure the college met accreditation standards set by the Higher Learning Commission. The commission honored him with an Outstanding Service Award in 2017 for his work at Pima.

Community colleges, Moses said, remain potential game changers for youth seeking to improve themselves and older adults wanting to reinvent themselves.

“Community colleges have open access to any and all,” he said. “Universities can be selective. We’ll take you if you have a GED or are 65 years old and have lost the job you held for 30 years and need to start over. If you are willing to roll up your sleeves and be a willing participant in education, we can help you better yourself.”

The Luna governing board will begin drafting the details of Moses’ contract soon, college spokesman Jesse Gallegos said.

Update hourly