Home News Local News ENMU-Roswell forms community council to ensure diverse recruits

ENMU-Roswell forms community council to ensure diverse recruits

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Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell is taking several actions to ensure diversity among students, faculty and staff and to provide more support to students with financial needs beyond tuition and fees. (Daily Record File Photo)

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College also plans more support to help improve access, outcomes for students

Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell has created a community council to ensure that it recruits and supports a diverse group of students, faculty and staff.

“The Community College Board asked us at two separate meetings that our hiring and recruiting be reflective of the Roswell and Chaves County demographic populations,” said Shawn Powell, president of ENMU-Roswell.

The local college already has a fairly diverse student body in terms of ethnicities and is recognized by the Department of Education as an Hispanic-serving institution.

In fall 2019, 49% of its 2,256 students described themselves as Hispanic, Asian, Black, from indigenous Native backgrounds or multiracial, according to information available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems, a unit within the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences. Another 24% of students chose not to identify their race or ethnicity.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, the Chaves County population estimated at 64,615 included about 57.8% of people of Hispanic or Latino heritage and an additional 8.1% who were Asian, Black, from indigenous Native backgrounds or multiracial.

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The online IPEDS data did not include information about the ethnic diversity of faculty and staff, but faculty and staff previously formed their own Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to help ensure that the school’s policies and practices support students and personnel of all backgrounds.

Powell said several additional steps have been taken, including forming the Community Advisory Council.

The Community Advisory Council has five members right now and could expand in coming months.

“The purpose of it is to give guidance to the campus and especially the President’s Office, or to me, to make sure that whatever is going on in the community can be reflected on campus and if there are community concerns that we can be responsive to those,” Powell said.

The current members are Melissa Juarez of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp.; Jose Zavala of Bobby Villegas Insurance; Kyle Bullock, a partner in Bullock’s Jewelry, a community volunteer and a local theater director and actor, author and podcast creator; Andrea Moore, executive director of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce; and Hilda Pacheco-Peeples, the director of ENMU-R’s Adult Education Program who has announced her intention to retire this summer.

Besides forming the council, which is preparing for its second meeting soon, other actions have been taken. They include adopting a diversity plan in fall 2020; reviewing hiring practices; advertising open positions on the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities website; analyzing the results of a student needs survey; applying to participate in a program to improve support of and access for students; and providing financial support for students with needs outside of tuition and fees.

A Real College survey was conducted in fall 2020 among 202 universities and colleges in 42 states, with about 200,000 students responding. ENMU-Roswell was among the institutions participating, and Powell said it points to the fact that college can be inaccessible to students for reasons outside of academic performance or tuition and fee costs.

“The thing that was surprising to us when we got the results was that the national results of over 200,000 college students and the students we had respond to it were almost identical,” Powell said.

ENMU-Roswell sent email surveys to 1,180 students and received 104 responses. The results indicated that 66% of respondents had insecurity when it came to meeting basic needs such as food and housing. That included 39% who had food insecurity during the prior 30 days; 54% who had housing insecurity during the prior year; and 18% who had experienced homelessness during the previous year.

The local survey also found that significant percentages of respondents dealt with many challenges that made concentrating on course work or attending online or in-person classes more difficult. The challenges including the need to care for children or family members, dealing with COVID-19 themselves or among family or close friends; lack of reliable internet or computer access; and feelings of anxiety.

ENMU-Roswell used some of its federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to create the Cosmos CARES emergency fund for students. It helped cover the costs of housing, transportation, family care, instructional materials or internet or computer-related costs. Yet, similar to national results, a large percentage of students with need did not access available aid.

At ENMU-Roswell, 69% of people with need said they did not think they were eligible for assistance. A large percentage — 61% — said they were not aware that the assistance existed.

Powell said the college intends to make more emergency relief funding available in the coming semesters. He said funds will come from the additional federal relief monies expected to come to Hispanic-serving colleges and universities, as well as donated funds that can be used for such purposes.

ENMU-Roswell also has applied to the Institution Capacity-Building Cohort program of the Real College initiative. The Real College initiative has been around for five years and is intended to help higher education institutions meet the basic food, housing, family care, medical and mental health needs and other life needs of students. It is spearheaded by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, which is now part of Temple University in Pennsylvania.

If ENMU-Roswell participates, it will pair up with staff from other colleges and universities to share ideas on how campuses can work with community organizations to meet students’ basic needs and improve their academic outcomes.

“We could then bring those ideas back to our campus,” Powell said, “to try to implement those interventions.”

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.