The New Mexico Association of Student Affairs Professionals (NMASAP) Statewide Symposium 2020 is a bi-annual conference provided to student affairs professionals and colleagues to connect and learn from different schools. The NMASAP was hosted at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque on February 20-21. Colleges and universities came from across the state to attend this event. Four students from WNMU attended with one of them serving as a panelist.
WNMU student government member Francisco Estrella was a panelist on the first panel named Elevating Student Voices. The panel was made up of current student leaders at universities to share their input, ideas, and experiences from their respective schools. The students were asked a series of questions, and they each took turns sharing insights. Thomasina Ortiz- Gallegos, from Santa Fe Community College, was the moderator for the panel.
Panel 1: Elevating Student Voices was discussed by five students from universities in New Mexico.
- Dayanara Beltran is a Student Government Secretary at the University of New Mexico located in Valencia.
- Holly Gallegos is (ASUNM) Deputy Director of Communication at the University of New Mexico- Main, which is located in Albuquerque.
- Gregory Romero is ASUNM Senator for the University of New Mexico- Main, which is located in Albuquerque.
- Catalina Arana- Mendoza is Co-Coordinator of the Office of Hispanic Affairs at Eastern New Mexico University.
- Francisco Estrella is District Ten Senator of Western New Mexico University located in Silver City.
The Mustang Staff was able to attend the panel and listen to the various topics discussed throughout the panel.
Question 1: What do you consider to be the top issues affecting college student’s success in 2020?
Estrella: Financial hardship was a top issue affecting our college students. Scholarships are very competitive at WNMU. Students struggle with saving money. The freshman has a hard time with understanding finalization or payment plans.
Arana- Mendoza: Our school lacks in cultural diversity. I want our school to be accepted by different cultures, languages, sex orientation and such.
Romero: Financial hardship is affecting students in having a whole college experience. Because students have up to two full-time jobs and families, they lack in participating in school events.
Question 2: Of non-academic student issues such as homelessness, financial aid hardship, access to mental health resources, food insecurity, etc., what issues do you think you think needs to be paid more attention to your campus? Why?
Gallegos: Financial hardship needs to be taken very seriously. We talk about the problems we have, but nothing is fixed.
Beltran: Food insecurity is the main problem on her campus. The resources to get food are about fifteen minutes away from our school. Some students have trouble getting food because they cannot eat at the cafeteria due to dietary issues. We have a shelf that is considered our food pantry. The shelf goes dry in a day. We rely on donations for the shelf, but they are hard to get.
Estrella: Hunger is a problem in our school because we lack food restaurants around close to the campus area. Western has a food pantry named “One Stop.” We rely on donations as well from our community and peers. We have a “Donate a Swipe” foundation, where students can donate swipes to feed other students who don’t have a meal plan or have run out.
Question 3: In what ways can professionals encourage students to get more involved in their campus community? How were you encouraged to get involved?
Romero: I was encouraged to do different things when I came to this university. I had the opportunity to meet new people. To get students involved, it needs to be a campus-wide effort. Students don’t know where to start when they are incoming freshmen.
Estrella: Get out there! The main issue, when it comes to getting students involved, is that students feel intimidated by professionals. Students don’t know that being involved will benefit their college experience. I had a recruiter who was motivated to bring in new students. This recruiter was professional; however, super relaxed and easy to talk to. I felt it was someone I could trust. This specific recruiter introduced me to who is now my mentor. My mentor motivates me to try new things and be more involved on campus. This is how I started getting involved in Western.
Question 4: How is student diversity represented at your campuses? In what ways is it encouraged to be expressed?
Gallegos: We have a resource center at our campus. They are in charge of putting out diversity events. We have over 450 student organizations.
Estrella: The Student Life Department is the one in charge of student diversity on campus. They are in charge of organizing events to make everyone feel welcome. We have conducted a religious day; we have had events for Hispanic Heritage Month, and we are currently celebrating Black History Month.
Romero: Go forward and encourage your group or club. We have an idea that we are one whole campus. We welcome everyone!
Question 5: How can student leaders interact and collaborate more with students on other campuses?
Estrella: We have to be part of events like this conference. I, now, have that experience of coming together with other universities and hear out what they accomplish in their university. I can later implement these ideas into our school or even pass them on to others. We get advice from one another. Another way we can interact with each other is by scheduling meetings and visits to your universities. Online zoom meetings are also an option, where we can express ideas and get more information from each other on what is currently happening in each university
Online zoom meetings are also an option, where we can express ideas and get more information from each other on what is currently happening in each university