UNM West expansion plans may start in fall

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UNM West in Rio Rancho has presented its plans to become a health science education center to the city’s Governing Body. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
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Jamie Silva-Steele

The UNM West plan to become a health science education center could begin as soon as next fall, according to university officials.

UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center CEO Jamie Silva-Steele, UNM West CEO Wynn Goering and Leslie Morrison, vice chancellor for academic affairs for UNM Health Sciences Center, presented an update on UNM West’s new academic and expansion plans at a work session of the Rio Rancho Governing Body on Tuesday.

Councilors Jim Owen and Dave Bency were not present.

The university’s presentation is expected to be go before the UNM HSC Board of Regents and the main board of regents in December.

Morrison said the proposed academic model for UNM West would emphasize the Rio Rancho campus as an undergraduate hub for HSC programs, providing students with on-site four-year plans.

The new model would give HSC students a path to a pre-health bachelor’s degree and help prepare them for graduate programs at UNM’s main campus.

The HSC programs considered for UNM West are dental hygiene, nursing, medical lab sciences, emergency medical services and pharmacy.

“We really wanted to re-energize UNM West,” Morrison said. “We think it’s a great location and we’re excited about the students that are there, but we think it needs more of a focus and it needs to have more students there.”

Under the proposed model, students would be able to take 80 percent of their required courses on campus and 20 percent online, Morrison said. She said the program could attract students in Rio Rancho, as well as those in Cuba, Farmington and Santa Fe.

Morrison said that, if the model is approved, UNM West could begin phasing it in next fall.

Included with the model are UNM West’s plans to add an HSC health care education building, the campus’s second structure. Although university officials continue to search for ways to fund the building, Silva-Steele said it would include biology and chemistry labs, inpatient simulation labs, 12 classrooms, computer labs, gathering areas for students, and offices.

Silva-Steele said the proposed new building would be 34,000 net square feet and 50,000 gross square feet.

In August 2015, the UNM Board of Regents approved making the $20 million project a priority for the university and pushed for it to be on the general obligation bond measure during January’s legislative session.

In December, the governing body pledged $12 million toward the project from the city’s higher education gross receipts tax revenues.

The Legislature subsequently authorized $8 million for the project to be placed in the state general obligation bond package to be presented to voters statewide in the Nov. 8 general election. But Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the project, stating it hadn’t been properly vetted.

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