As he begins his ninth month as chief executive of New Mexico State University, the complexity of the job is “what has impacted me the most,” said new Chancellor Dr. Dan Arvizu.
There have been some rough spots since he took the helm last June 1, Arvizu said, but “I’ve quit asking myself, ‘What were you thinking?’”
Serving as chancellor requires “a number of different skills,” he said, including being a people manager, relationship builder, politician, diplomat and technical expert. The position “has so much ability to impact in so many ways,” he said, and “to touch and influence” the lives and futures of the students it serves.
“I’m beginning to get a feel for what it takes,” Arvizu said. “I’m still very pleased to be here at the end of the day. I feel very good about it.”
“The challenges are great,” Arvizu said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
NMSU has a strong leadership team in place that is “headed in the right direction,” the chancellor said. “I’m more confident as time goes on that good things will happen.”
Arvizu said he and new NMSU President John Floros “spend a great deal of time together – more than with our wives. I value his leadership style.” All his expectations about Floros “have been met and exceeded in many cases,” Arvizu said.
The two will divide their time between Las Cruces and Santa Fe during the legislative session that began Jan. 15 and continues through March 16. It will be Arvizu’s first experience at the New Mexico legislature, he said, but his long career in “advanced energy research and development, materials and process sciences and technology commercialization” included government relations during more than two decades with Sandia National Labs. And, he worked extensively with members of Congress during his 12 years on the National Science Board, as director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado and in other roles.
The good news about the 2019 session is that the state will have a budget surplus, Arvizu said. NMSU and the New Mexico’s other colleges and universities have similar interests and “more than a few central needs,” Arvizu said, and it’s “important that we have a voice. Higher education has a significant role to play in what the state does.”
Arvizu said new Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priorities are “very much in line” with NMSU’s goals for education, energy and economic development and are “consistent with the strategies we are developing” to build enrollment and increase student retention.
All institutions of higher education in New Mexico face the same challenges, Arvizu said. “We are re-inventing ourselves.” Because New Mexico is a poor state economically, state government has “a huge role to play” in the success of universities, he said, providing almost 40 percent of NMSU’s budget. In Colorado, where he worked for Emerson Collective, Arvizu said the state provides only about eight percent of higher ed funding.
Part of his and Floros’ role in Santa Fe, Arvizu said, is to express to legislators “that we will be good stewards of those resources when they come our way.”
A high priority, he said, will be to “re-fix cuts” made to higher education funding in recent years. “We’ve cut bone,” he said. But even as major funding priorities are met universities will be “doing more with less,” Arvizu said. “The state’s economy depends on judicious investment.” He and other university leaders are “collectively sharing a united front” to legislators, the chancellor said. “Decisionmakers in Santa Fe appreciate that.”
Arvizu said NMSU leaders must remember that the decisions they make impact their students’ lives today and as they become the “decision makers of the future.” Keeping in mind that students “live in an increasingly complicated world” that is more interconnected, complex and challenging than ever before, he said, “Let’s give them the tools and the opportunity.”
Arvizu and his wife, Sheryl, recently bought a home in Las Cruces, where they have moved from Lakewood, Colorado. “It feels good to be here,” he said, even though “the garage is full of boxes.”
Dr. Arvizu is the second alumnus and first Hispanic to be hired as the NMSU system chancellor and chief executive.
According to his biography:
“He started his career in 1973 at Bell Labs, and after four years transferred to Sandia National Labs, where he spent the next 21 years, 14 years in executive roles. In 1998 he joined CH2M Hill Companies, Ltd for six years, his last two years as a CTO. In January of 2005 he was appointed the eighth director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, and became the first Hispanic lab director in the history of any of the 17 U.S. DOE’s national labs. He retired in December 2015 and is presently director emeritus.
“Dr. Arvizu serves on a number of boards, panels and advisory committees including the State Farm Mutual Insurance board of directors, the Singapore International Advisory Panel on Energy and the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy Advisory Council.
“In 2004 he was appointed by President George W. Bush, and subsequently in 2010 reappointed by President Barack Obama (twice confirmed by the full Senate), to serve six-year terms on the National Science Board (NSB), the governing body of the $7.5 billion National Science Foundation. He was twice elected NSB chairman by his peers and served in that role for four years (2012-16) where he testified annually on NSF’s budget before Congress. He was the first Hispanic chair of NSB, founded in 1950.
“Dr. Arvizu has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from NMSU and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.”
Mike Cook may be contacted at email@example.com.