Higher education secretary in running for UNM presidency

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

The head of the state’s Higher Education Department is interested in leading the state’s largest university.

N.M. Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron
N.M. Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron

New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron said she has submitted her curriculum vitae and cover letter to Isaacson, Miller, the search firm the University of New Mexico has hired to help find its 22nd president.

Damron said she had not originally considered the opening or visited the search website to submit an application.

But she told the Journal this week that Isaacson, Miller contacted her to say others had nominated her. When the firm asked her to submit a CV, she did. When the firm later requested a cover letter, she provided that, too.

“I wasn’t looking for that,” said Damron, who has been part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s Cabinet for two years. “I really like what I’m doing now, but I love UNM. I can see where UNM can be. I can see all that UNM can be.”

Damron has experience at UNM. An oncology nurse, she is on leave without pay from her position as an associate professor at UNM’s College of Nursing.

She has also had several roles at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center, including director of the Office of Community Partnerships & Cancer Health Disparities and director of the oncology nursing research program.

Damron has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and a doctorate in social/personality/developmental psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.

UNM’s quest for a new president is a confidential process, and the presidential search advisory committee chairman declined to comment specifically on Damron’s candidacy.

“I am not able to confirm any candidate at this time,” Rob Doughty, UNM Board of Regents president and search committee chairman, told the Journal in a text message. “The final candidates will be revealed once the committee has determined the finalists.”

The search to fill the president’s job, vacated last year by Bob Frank, involves both Isaacson, Miller – which UNM is paying $111,000 in fees and expenses – and the committee chaired by Doughty, which includes about 20 people from within and outside the university.

The committee will recommend at least eight semifinalists to the regents, who will select and publicly name five finalists and ultimately pick the president.

The committee intended to announce a hire by this spring, but Doughty recently said the search will extend into the fall semester.

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