News Column

NMSU President Finalist Murano Shares Land-grant Experience

May 1, 2013

Lindsey Anderson

New Mexico State University presidential candidate Elsa Murano doesn't need to study the issues students face at the school; as a first-generation college student and Cuban immigrant, she lived them, she said.

Murano, 53, talked at length about her experience with land-grant universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and agriculture during a public forum and press conference Monday afternoon.

"(NMSU is) an institution that is serving my community," said Murano, the former president of Texas A&M University, a land-grant institution.

The lone Hispanic and female finalist -- "And the only one who's 5-feet tall," she said with a smile -- emphasized the need for universities that specifically serve low-income, Hispanic students.

These universities better understand the culture and issues of the student population and, thus, better serve them, Murano said.

"You don't have to be Hispanic to have an awareness and appreciation for it ... but it doesn't hurt, obviously," she said.

Murano has a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech University in food science and technology and spent 2001 to 2004 in Washington as the undersecretary for food security. She also lead Texas A&M's school of agriculture.

"There I was, dean of the "A' in "A&M,'" Murano told an audience of about 50 people, including her first boss -- a former Iowa State University department chair who hired her as a faculty member in 1990 and now lives in New Mexico.

During Murano's presidency, Texas A&M launched a campaign to recruit minority students from Texas high schools and hired many firsts in the administration: the first ever female dean of the veterinary school, the first ever Hispanic dean of architecture and more.

"I hope that one day we don't have to say the "first ever,'" Murano said.

She said she resigned the presidency after about 18 months when higher-ups pushed initiatives she disagreed with, including separating teaching from research.

"I did not want to be someone who would participate in implementing those initiatives that I thought would harm the university," said Murano, who now leads the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M.

Murano said she is seeking another presidency to continue her work.

"I really have this hunger to complete what I started," she said.

A finalist for the University of New Mexico presidency in 2011, Murano said the NMSU position is a better fit due to the school's land-grant status.

"I got very, very excited about it," she said.

Murano said she would not propose changes to NMSU's athletic conference alignment or division status without first looking at what issues were impeding progress in football, for example.

New coach Doug Martin needs a chance to improve the team, she said, which can happen with a good plan and metrics "before any kind of a Draconian measure is taken."

The regents are meeting in a closed session Thursday afternoon to select the next president after interviewing the final candidate, Daniel Howard.

A public meeting is scheduled for May 10 at 2 p.m. in the Regents Room of the Educational Services Center. The meeting agenda will be available at least 24 hours in advance.

The regents have said they will announce the next president by graduation May 11.

Up Next

Wednesday: Daniel Howard public forum, 4-5 p.m., Corbett Center auditorium

Thursday: Closed Board of Regents executive session to choose the president, noon-5 p.m., president's residence

May 10: Public regents meeting, 2 p.m., Regents Room of the Educational Services Center

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(c)2013 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

Visit the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) at www.lcsun-news.com

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Source: Copyright Las Cruces Sun-News (NM) 2013


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