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Statewide Listening Tour - Las Vegas, Raton, Tucumcari & Santa Rosa

The second-to-last leg of my statewide listening tour was to the northeast region of New Mexico and focused on making connections with other higher education institutions and learning hospitals in New Mexico.  We drove north past Santa Fe, through the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and arrived in Las Vegas to a packed house of community leaders and higher education professionals. I had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron, Luna Community College President Ricky Serna and our host, New Mexico Highlands University President Sam Minner. We had a very lively and productive discussion on how we can create and further collaborative efforts to improve education and train students in northern New Mexico for careers. Following the meeting, two students and President Minner graciously gave me a tour of their beautiful and historic campus.

Heading to Raton, we again experienced more stunning New Mexico landscapes and even encountered wildlife, in the form of antelope. I visited the Miners’ Colfax Medical Center (MCMC), and now have a better understanding of not only what these miners go through, but also the medical care and providers needed in rural communities. Bo Beames, CEO of MCMC, and his team do a tremendous job providing compassionate care for former miners with health issues brought on by their work. The long-term care facility is one-of-a-kind and a model for other facilities caring for special populations. 

After a stormy and chilly night in Raton, we hit the road early at 6 a.m. to visit the lovely community of Clayton. The change in landscape from mountains to plains was dramatic, but no less beautiful. Mock’s Crossroads Coffee Mill was charming and served delicious food. After breakfast, we took a brief step back in time at the Eklund Historic Hotel and Restaurant. If you have never been, I highly recommend visiting and experiencing what the wild west must have felt like.  

Heading south, we made a quick stop for gas in Roy, then arrived in Tucumcari, where I met with President John Groesbeck from Mesalands Community College and was able to observe the towering wind turbine of the North American Wind Research Training Center. This state-of-the-art facility trains students to work in one of the fastest growing industries in the world. I also toured the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and Natural Sciences Laboratory and learned about the many dinosaur fossils that are unique to this part of the world from the Mesozoic period. Mesalands is doing some tremendous work in tailoring programs to the desires and needs of its community, which is a hallmark of public higher education. 

My final stop was in Santa Rosa, where I visited the Guadalupe Regional Medical Center (GRMC), headed by CEO and proud Lobo Christina Campos. GRMC provides state-of-the-art care for patients and offers challenging learning opportunities for medical students. One of those students, Dr. Estevan Apodaca, is a graduate of the inaugural class of the UNM BA/MD program. He gave me personal insight on his time in the program and as a resident at GRMC. We had a great reception at the hospital with the school superintendent and other community leaders to discuss educational opportunities at UNM for students in such close proximity to Albuquerque. 

This leg of my tour in the Land of Enchantment provided me with a greater understanding and appreciation for what our educators and health providers deal with daily in the more rural areas of New Mexico in response to both industry and population needs.