Dona Ana college president to retire in 2014

December 15, 2012 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Dona Ana Community College executive embroiled in controversy since the school’s nursing program lost accreditation will retire in early 2014.

President Margie Huerta became a lightning rod for criticism after the nursing program lost its National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission standing in July and students were notified weeks later. They had to scramble to transfer to other schools. Her planned retirement was announced Thursday and the subject of discussion at Friday’s New Mexico State University Board of Regent’s meeting.

The interim president at NMSU praised Huerta’s eight-year tenure for establishing the college as an important force in the region’s [auth] economic development. But Manuel Pacheco acknowledged to the Albuquerque Journal ( ) that he’d received calls to fire Huerta, while say he also heard from people who thought she should stay.

Pacheco said Huerta plans to oversee the community college’s efforts to regain the nursing program’s accreditation. Some faculty with ties to the nursing program objected to that plan Friday.

“Based on past history, I don’t think she’d be the appropriate person because of how she handled it the last time,” said Earl Nissen, an adjunct professor who teaches a pre-nursing course.

Asked if the nursing program’s troubles reflected poorly on Huerta’s leadership, Pacheco said: “The best way to answer a question like that is whoever the president is has ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in the institution, but there’s no one person who has total and exclusive responsibility for that. . Nobody knowingly or on purpose doesn’t meet the criteria that are needed (for accreditation).”

The accreditation loss threatened job prospects for 109 community college nursing students, since most hospitals require nurses to graduate from an accredited program. Eventually, about three-fourths of the students transferred into NMSU’s nursing program.

Since then, NMSU President Barbara Couture and executive vice president and provost Wendy Wilkins have resigned.

At the Regents meeting Friday, Brittany Barham, one of the nursing students who had to transfer, criticized Huerta’s delayed retirement, saying she and other students were “all plagued by the lack of accountability in our eyes.”

She said that none of the former Dona Ana nursing students had been interviewed about the accreditation loss by a university committee investigating the matter.

At the same meeting, seven current or former DACC faculty members praised Huerta’s leadership and support for staff. Huerta presided over the construction of satellite campuses in Gadsden, Chaparral, Hatch and on the east side of Las Cruces.

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