Contact: Dr. Peter White, 277-9302 or
Frank D. Martinez, 277-1811

Feb. 12, 2001

HIGHER EDUCATION CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON IMPROVING LEARNING THROUGHOUT NEW MEXICO

More than 400 higher education administrators, faculty and staff are expected to share ideas about improving learning at their schools, colleges and universities throughout the state when the New Mexico Higher Education Assessment and Retention (NMHEAR) Conference convenes at the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque Feb. 22-24.

"The emphasis of this year's conference is understanding the deficiencies that students might have when they enter post-secondary institutions, and what we can do to bring them up to speed and enable them to succeed," explains current NMHEAR President Larry Smith. Smith is the assessment coordinator and planning associate at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

"This conference will bring to New Mexico some of the very best expertise in the country," said Dr. Tom L. Root, Senior Research and Policy Analyst for the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education. "The conference will allow attendees to share the best practices in the field to help students succeed."

Root said the conference is, in part, a response to the recently publicized "Measuring Up 2000: The State-by-State Report Card for Higher Education" in which New Mexico's institutions of higher education received "grades" ranging from "B" in the category of affordability to "D-" in the area of preparation.

The conference will focus on two vital issues for future of New Mexico's institutions for higher learning:

· Developing meaningful measurements for student learning and interpreting those measures to improve the quality of education;

· And, understanding why students graduate or leave college, in an attempt to better serve the needs of both students and communities in the state.

"One of the great things about this conference it is directed at the people who work where the rubber meets the road, people who can see that improvements in learning actually happen at their institutions," said Smith.

Broad themes will include workshops and keynote addresses by Dr. James Nichols of University of Mississippi, regarding his work with institutional effectiveness, and Dr. Laura I. Rendon of California State University, regarding problems with and solutions to minority retention.

In addition, Dr. Clifford Adelman of the U.S. Department of Education will lead a session on "How K-12 and Higher Education Can Improve College Goal Attainment in the Southwest," and Dr. Barbara E. Walvoord, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and Professor of English, Notre Dame University, who will lead a session on "Improving Learning Through Classroom-Based Assessment."

Some 45 presenters from New Mexico will also speak on topics such as accreditation, building better distance learning experiences, and creating better program assessment.

"The focus on assessment in higher education is relatively new and our understanding of it is changing rapidly. You can't assume that what you learned at last year's conference is all there is. We're learning new things about assessment every year," Smith said. "Additionally, this is only the second year that the conference has specifically addressed issues regarding the retention and persistence of students. I'm sure many of this year's participants will be coming primarily for that part of the conference."

Dr. Peter White, dean of UNM's University College, said "program directors and advisors at UNM will make various presentations about the successes we have had in student retention and improvements in lower-division education. These have been issues of concern to UNM for some time now and we believe we're actually ahead of the game and in a position to suggest some real solutions and approaches," he said. UNM is a conference co-sponsor.

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The University of New Mexico
Public Affairs Department
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