Town Hall: Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce

Town Hall: Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce

Dates: 10-Apr-2018-11-Apr-2018

Time: 8:30 AM-5:00 PM

Location: Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid, 5151 San Francisco Rd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109


Watch the Higher Education, Workforce Town Hall Live-streamed Video!

New Mexico First hosted a statewide town hall on higher education and workforce development in spring 2018. Our state is rich in education and career opportunities but also faces challenges.

New Mexico has ample opportunities, but must overcome barriers. Jobs in healthcare, education, energy, agriculture and STEM-related fields are abundant, but positions remain vacant. State tuition costs are some of the lowest in the nation, yet enrollment has fallen, and student loan default rates remain high. Higher educational institutions grapple with how to efficiently produce the graduates needed to fill industry demand despite considerable workforce pipeline barriers. These barriers include our state’s low high school graduation rates, poverty, a shrinking working-age population drawn to other states, and other barriers to entering and remaining in college and New Mexico’s workforce.

The town hall started with data-driven analyses and informed resident deliberations. It resulted in consensus-supported direction and actionable policy recommendations for education, community, business and policy leaders seeking optimal alignment of education and the workforce, as well as statewide economic prosperity. When education and workforce align, New Mexico communities and families will thrive.


Town hall participants focused on key issues surrounding higher education in New Mexico:

  • Student success and completion
    • Community college
    • Four-year university and beyond
  • Leadership, governance, and finance of the higher education system
  • Workforce integration and alignment
  • Healthcare workforce
  • Energy workforce

Who Attended?

  • Community members
  • Business leaders
  • Educators
  • Tribal representatives
  • Government professionals
  • Energy professionals
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Students
  • Elected officials

What Happened at the Town Hall?

Our town halls are not typical conferences with a series of presentations. There was a roundtable discussion and speakers at the beginning of the event to help set context, but the bulk of the town hall was comprised of small group discussions among participants who care about the future of the state and want to create practical recommendations that will lead to progress.

Prior to the town hall, participants received a background report that outlined the key issues and served as a basis for the discussions held during the town hall.  

What Happened after the Town Hall?

Immediately after the town hall, the New Mexico First implementation team will develop a plan to advance the town hall’s platform with policymakers.



Day 1: April 10*

When What
8:30 Check-in, Breakfast and Networking
9:00 Welcome and Overview
9:30 Roundtable Discussion
10:45 Town Hall Overview
11:15 Break
11:30 Small Group Overview
12:00 Keynote Presentation and Lunch
1:00 Small Group Discussion A
2:45 Break
3:00 Small Group Discussion B
4:45 Plenary Session: Group Recommendations
5:00 Adjourn


Day 2: April 11*

When What
8:30 Breakfast & Town Hall Overview
9:00 Small Group Discussion C
10:45 Break
11:15 Small Group Discussion D: Recommendation Amendments
1:30 Presentation and Lunch
2:30 Plenary Session
4:45 Closing
5:00 Adjourn




Roundtable Discussion
  • Barbara Damron, N.M. Higher Education Department, Cabinet Secretary
  • Angelo Gonzales, Mission Graduate
  • Lisa Hardison, URENCO, Manager, Communications & Public Relations
  • Celina Bussey, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, Cabinet Secretary
  • Fabiola Perez, UNM College of Pharmacy, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate, 2019

Keynote Speaker

  • Amy Loyd, Building Educational Pathways for Youth, Associate Vice President

Luncheon Speaker

  • C.J. Bacino, LANL, Director of Diversity and Strategic Staffing

Town Hall Leadership

  • Heather Balas, President and Plenary Co-Chair, New Mexico First
  • Valerie Romero-Leggott, Chair, New Mexico First Board of Directors
  • Johnny Montoya, Chair-elect, New Mexico First Board of Directors

Implementation Leadership

  • Adelmo "Del" Archuleta, Molzen-Corbin & Associates, President
  • Randy Grissom, Santa Fe Community College, Retired President



Background Report: A New Mexico First background report was produced for town hall participants.

Online Version

Print Version (PDF)

Final Report: The recommendations report was developed by nearly 200 New Mexicans on solutions to the state’s higher education and workforce development systems.

Online Version

Print Version (PDF)


We gratefully acknowledge the following sponsors who generously supported this town hall.

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The town hall recommendations will be advocated to federal, tribal, state, and local policymakers, as well as private-sector leaders by an implementation team comprised of volunteers. The team will be led by co-chairs Del Archuleta, CEO of Molzen Corbin and a former president of the New Mexico State University Board of Regents, and Randy Grissom, the principal architect of the state Small Business Development Center and the former president of Santa Fe Community College.

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