Arlene and Shepard

Women of Western: Arlean Murillo

Santa Teresa, NM- Arlean Murillo has dedicated her life to helping those younger than her. Whether it’s her three children or fifteen ASWNMU members, Arlean has sought to provide guidance and support however she can. Arlean has also made great efforts to make the WNMU campus a safe place for all students, lobbying with student government to provide lights and security cameras in the parking lots of the university. Now, she prepares to serve the students in a new capacity, taking on the role of student regent on the WNMU Board of Regents, who are responsible for making decisions that shape every aspect of the university.

Arlean was born in El Paso, Texas but was raised in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, attending the schools there before starting high school in El Paso. She dropped out during her sophomore year, choosing to complete her GED at UTEP in 2004.

Arlean is also a mother of three. Her oldest, Maya, recently turned 15. Her middle child Javier is 11 and her youngest, Juan Pablo, is 5. Her husband, Javier Murillo Jr., serves as a border patrol agent, with his job taking him all around the state. A posting in the Grant County area in 2009 is what eventually led to Arlene take classes at WNMU.

The truth was, Arlean felt lonely and needed something to do. “When I moved to Silver City, I didn’t have any friends or family, and my husband working 12-15 hrs a day,” Arlean said. When she tried to enroll her middle child at the WNMU Child Development Center, she learned that she would need to be a student in order to use their services. This served as the catalyst for her to pursue higher education.

Arlean originally studied psychology with a minor in criminology, before falling in love with the development of her sons speech and how much he loved going to preschool. She was moved by the way the CDC teachers loved their students, so in 2011, Arlene switched her major to early childhood education with a minor in Spanish.

While attending WNMU, her children attended school in Silver City and participated in after-school activities. The coach for her daughter’s coach pitch happened to be then-ASWNMU President, Gabby Begay. Begay nominated Arlene for the open position of Government Affairs Coordinator, and upon her appointment, Arlene had her first position with Student Government. But it wouldn’t be her last.

The following year, Arlene ran alongside Lawrence Garcia for the ASWNMU President and Vice President positions, using the position to make many changes to the student government.

“I hated when students had no idea what we were or why we were there,” Arlene said. With Arlene being in her late-twenties at the time, and Lawrence in his early thirties, Arlene joked that they were often considered the “parents” of student government, being several years older than many of the members of ASWNMU.

Arlean only served as the Vice President for a single semester however, with her husband being relocated to another part of the state. During her time however, she helped in many initiatives that changed the university for the better, including many measures toward making the WNMU campus a much safer place.

“I wanted to try and help our campus become a safer place for students,” Arlean said. “I did some research and saw that we had nothing to protect our students.” Arlean began compiling research so that she could approach the situation head-on, realizing that there was a safety issue on campus and the university needed to act quickly. “Our plan was to have lighting, cameras, and swipe-in cards,” she explained.

The plan was originally meant to happen in three phases, with student government going to the capital each year to lobby for funds and give a progress report. The state leaders were reportedly enthusiastic about the idea.

“After that first session lobbying for the security system, we heard back from the cabinet, who asked more questions. We were setting an example for other universities and others started reaching out to us so that we could lobby together, but we never did.”

Rather than risk having state funding divided up among separate universities, with Western getting a smaller portion of what it’d originally asked for, Arlean and the student government hosted a symposium to exchange ideas, inviting representatives from all New Mexico universities, UTEP and local high schools. While only UTEP and Silver High attended the symposium, Arlene still found it to be a very rewarding experience, with many new ideas exchanged.

Arlean’s motivation for safety on campus is her maternal instincts. She explained that as a parent, she would want her children to be safe while they were away from home on their college campus, citing the vast amount out-of-state students that might have concerned parents.

After stepping down as Vice President, Arlean moved to Santa Teresa, NM, where she currently works as a district-wide substitute teacher while raising her kids and taking classes online. This isn’t the end, however.

After Gabby Begay stepped down from her position on the WNMU Board of Regents, Arlean learned that she had been nominated to replace her. After interviewing with a member of the cabinet, Arlean was soon selected to serve the WNMU community and represent as the newest member of the Board of Regents, one of the highest honors a student can receive. Arlean’s major goal while serving on the board is to interact with and connect with the assorted students of WNMU.

Arlean graduates with an A.A. in Early Childhood this May and hopes to go on to pursue a P.H.D. Her long term goal is to become an advocate for children. “I want to be their voice,” Arlean said. “They are our future.”

Arlean was finally been appointed to the WNMU Board of Regents at the end of March.

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Eric Lowe is the current Editor of the Mustang Newspaper. He has been writing professionally since August 2014.