Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

On December 11, the Southeast New Mexico College Board of Trustees honored its inaugural chair during his last meeting in that role.  Dr. Ned Elkins was elected in November 2021 and accepted the challenge of serving as the first chair of the Board of Trustees when SENMC was more of an idea than a reality.  In those early months, the Board met every other week.  They guided the formation of the college, including the selection of a college-wide enterprise software system separate from New Mexico State University.  They agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding with NMSU that governed the relationship between the two institutions as the efforts toward independence continued, and they led the search for a president that resulted in me taking the helm in January 2023.

What a difference a year makes.  What a difference the two-year term of our first chair makes.

Earlier this year I shared news about the Fall 2023 semester, our first independent of NMSU, as well as our approval to award federal and state financial aid as a new college.  During the fall, we were wrapping up the details to complete our separation from NMSU.  In this past month, all of it came to fruition.

The Higher Learning Commission, the accreditor for all the public colleges and universities in New Mexico, reaffirmed the continuation of our accreditation on December 11, 2023.  This was based on an updated Change of Control application that provided notice of the end of our Memorandum of Understanding with NMSU.  This agreement, signed by Dr. Elkins in March 2022, was officially ended with his signature of a release on December 18, 2023.  This severed the final tethers between the university and the college, with each charting its own path going forward.

These decisions were not a foregone conclusion.  They were validated by site visits to the SENMC campus this fall by two teams with more than a dozen members between them.  The New Mexico Higher Education Department visited in mid-September, while the Higher Learning Commission visited in late October.  These teams of outside experts provided feedback and guidance that we will use to improve, including trainings that the Higher Education Department committed to providing in the coming year.

Now no doubts remain about our independence.  We are on our own and in control of our destiny, thanks to so many community members and a number of influential leaders who were willing to fight for a college that would be responsive to local needs, not those of a university over three hours away.  To use a phrase currently in vogue, Chair Elkins and his fellow trustees, Tiffany Frintz, Sarah Bowman, Sheriff Mark Cage, and Bill Murrill, piloted the college to a “soft landing” that could have turned out much differently.  With foresight and commitment, they saw the journey through.  That cliché about building the plane as you fly it was quite applicable in this case.  We are safely on the tarmac and ready to take to the skies again thanks to their leadership.

While Dr. Elkins’ term as chair concludes at the end of 2023, he will continue to serve on the Board through 2025.  Tiffany Frintz, our current Board Secretary, will begin her two-year term in January.  It promises to be an exciting time for the college, with the Trades x Technologies Building (“T-squared”) in its design phase and new programs in Electrical, Oil and Gas, and Radiologic Control under development. 

We look forward to accomplishing even more in 2024—and wish you all a Happy New Year!

Kevin Beardmore may be reached at or 575.234.9211.

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