Students, teachers, staff and local leaders gathered at the newly-christened Southeast New Mexico College on Monday afternoon to celebrate its reopening under the new name after being declared independent from New Mexico State University.
Formally known as NMSU Carlsbad, the college served as one of the university’s satellite locations for decades but leaders in Carlsbad recently sought to separate from the system so as to better respond to local needs for workforce training.
The college’s independence was codified into New Mexico state law during last year’s legislative session in Santa Fe, with the passage of House Bill 212, sponsored by local lawmakers Reps. Cathrynn Brown (R-55) of Carlsbad and Jim Townsend (R-54) of Artesia.
The bill passed the House 62 to 7, and the Senate unanimously and it was signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham following the session.
Monday’s event commemorated the brand switch, with new signs going up throughout the campus on the north end of Carlsbad.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway as he addressed the crowd gathered at the front entrance of the college, thanked the project’s supporters for an effort he said would help the city’s workforce for years to come.
He read a proclamation at the event, declaring April 11, 2022 as the college’s “Independence Day.”
“The independence of Southeast New Mexico College is a great victory for Carlsbad, but it is also a great victory for the democratic process,” he said. “It shows that you can make the world a better place if you want to. All you have to do is roll up your sleeves and fight for it.”
NMSU Carlsbad was first established in 1950, the earliest of what grew to become a five-campus system including colleges in Alamogordo in 1958, Grants in 1968 and Dona Ana County Community College in 1973 joining the main campus in Las Cruces that was established in 1888.
As Carlsbad began grow with recent expansions in local oil and gas development throughout southeast New Mexico’s Permian Basin region, local leaders aimed to collaborate with energy companies and other industries to develop targeted training that could be adjusted quicker based on local needs.
In separating from NMSU, the college became completely independent and elected its own Board of Trustees last year who took office in January.
“It is a very exciting time,” Brown said. “We’ve been working on it for a long time.”