Western New Mexico University president defends spending as regents encourage more work abroad

Jan 19, 2024, 7:01 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Regents at Western New Mexico University threw their support behind President Joseph Shepard on Friday as he faces scrutiny over spending on overseas trips and his wife’s use of a university credit card.

At a regular meeting of regents held on campus in Silver City, faculty members and foreign students also packed the audience to show their support for Shepard, who is starting his 13th year at the helm of the school.

Speaking to the gathering, Shepard said he welcomes a financial review by the state auditor and his staff has been working on a review of university policies and procedures in the wake of questions being raised about spending over the last five years.

He reiterated to regents that trips to Zambia and elsewhere have helped put Western New Mexico on the map and attract more foreign students. Other members of his leadership team ticked off statistics on enrollment, graduation rates among foreign students and fundraising that has boosted university programs.

“What happens is when you go to these places and start to interact with other cultures and other ideologies and so forth, you yourself gain tremendous knowledge and you yourself begin to do research,” Shepard said.

Participation in international conferences by WNMU faculty projects the school as “a real player” and creates opportunities for networking, he added.

Regents approved a motion Friday backing up that position, affirming the importance of WNMU’s international partnerships and pointing to existing agreements and new negotiations with academic institutions from elsewhere in the Southwestern U.S. to Mexico and Brazil.

Regents declined to stop international travel, in a direct response to a recommendation by the state Higher Education Department calling for the university to suspend it pending the completion of a cost-benefit analysis.

In a letter to WNMU in early January, the department expressed concerns about such spending and asked whether it was necessary for regents to attend some of the international trips.

The letter also referenced spending by Shepard’s wife, former CIA operative and activist Valerie Plame. It said non-state employees should not be issued or authorized to use state procurement cards.

New Mexico lawmakers also have been asking questions about Shepard’s expenditures, noting that tuition around the state has been increasing and that they have a duty to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently.

Regents agreed Friday to conduct a broad review that will include their handbook, travel policies and other procedures in the coming months. They also agreed to a proposal by Shepard to create an ad hoc committee that can work on updating policies.

Shepard acknowledged at the gathering that it can be difficult to quantify the benefits of building relationships with institutions overseas, as some of those benefits are tangential.

“How do you quantify it?” he asked. “It’s a system. It’s bigger than just simply saying, ‘Well, we got X amount of dollars from this particular student who came from that particular place.’ It’s bigger than that.”

The university known today as WNMU has a history that dates back to its founding in the 1890s, before New Mexico became a state.

United States News

Associated Press

The UN condemns increasing gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti that is undermining peace

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms” the increasing gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti that is undermining peace, stability and security in the country and the region. Friday’s resolution expresses grave concern at illegal arms and ammunition flowing into Haiti and their link […]

6 hours ago

Actor Alec Baldwin reacts during his trial for involuntary manslaughter for the 2021 fatal shooting...

Associated Press

Inside the courtroom as case dismissed against Alec Baldwin in fatal shooting of cinematographer

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A nearly three-year legal saga for Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer ended Friday without a verdict but with tears of relief for the actor and a small coterie of family who had settled into a somber daily routine on wooden benches inside a windowless New Mexico […]

6 hours ago

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens to a speech during the opening of the High-L...

Associated Press

UN chief urges funds for Palestinians, saying Israel is forcing Gazans ‘to move like human pinballs’

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief appealed for funding Friday for the beleaguered U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East, accusing Israel of issuing evacuation orders that force Palestinians “to move like human pinballs across a landscape of destruction and death.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a donor’s […]

7 hours ago

Meals on Wheels employees take advantage of an assembly line to prepare bags of food for clients, F...

Associated Press

Houston community groups strain to keep feeding and cooling a city battered by repeat storms

HOUSTON (AP) — The deafening hum of a generator was a welcome noise Thursday evening at a Houston independent living center where several dozen seniors had lost power in the wake of Hurricane Beryl. Joe and Terri Hackl, who had pulled up with the backup electricity source after delivering hundreds of meals all day, estimate […]

8 hours ago

Twin sisters Jo and Joy Banner pose for a photograph in front of their business, Fee-Fo-Lay Café, ...

Associated Press

Historically Black Cancer Alley town splits over a planned grain terminal in Louisiana

WALLACE, La. (AP) — Sisters Jo and Dr. Joy Banner live just miles from where their ancestors were enslaved more than 200 years ago in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Their tidy Creole cottage cafe in the small, river-front town of Wallace lies yards away from property their great-grandparents bought more than a century […]

8 hours ago

Jake Schneider talks about the Republican National Convention coming to Milwaukee next to the bronz...

Associated Press

Deeply Democratic Milwaukee wrestles with hosting Trump, Republican National Convention

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee loves its Miller Beer, Brewers baseball and “ Bronze Fonz ” statue. The deepest blue city in swing state Wisconsin, Milwaukee also loves Democrats. So it can be hard for some to swallow that Milwaukee is playing host to former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention next week while […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Western New Mexico University president defends spending as regents encourage more work abroad