Kimberly Blea knows firsthand how an education at New Mexico Highlands University can lift individuals out of poverty.
Blea, a Las Vegas, New Mexico native, is the new permanent dean of students at Highlands.
“Highlands provides access to education to all students, especially those who are first-generation, low income, and underprepared,” Blea said. “I’m an example of a low-income student who worked full time at the university while I attained my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.”
Blea, who completed a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of New Mexico in July 2017, has served as interim dean of students at Highlands since January 2016.
Highlands University President Sam Minner said Blea emerged from a very strong pool of applicants.
“Dr. Blea’s commitment to our mission, her dedication to our students, and her ability to get things done all served to advance her to this important position,” Minner said. “I am confident in her ability to design programs and services that result in very desirable outcomes. The national search yielded many fine applicants, but Dr. Blea stood out as truly superlative. I congratulate Kim and welcome her as a permanent member of the leadership team.”
As dean of students, Blea oversees the Division of Student Affairs, which includes Housing and Student Conduct, Campus Life, Career Services, Center for Advocacy, Resources, Education, and Support (HU CARES), Outdoor Recreation Center, Arts @ HU, Student Health Center, and food services.
She is the adviser for the student senate, serving as the primary liaison between students and Highlands University’s administration.
Blea said what she loves most about Highlands is that it is a small university that is like a family for its students.
“One of Highlands’ biggest strengths is that we care deeply about our students’ success, both while they’re in college and long term,” Blea said. “Creating a sense of possibility for our students is paramount to our university’s vision of transforming lives now and for generations to come.”
Blea said her top goal for Student Affairs is to streamline processes that enhance service to students.
Previously, Blea directed Highlands’ Center for Advocacy, Resources, Education and Support from 2010 to 2016.
“As the founding director for HU – CARES, I worked to establish a prevention and advocacy program, develop needed policies, and provide education and training for the campus community. I was blessed to work alongside very passionate and committed staff,” Blea said.
Blea said her doctoral studies helped her gain a greater understanding of education as a whole, from kindergarten through the college years.
“I also learned how to be a transformative and collaborative leader,” Blea said.
Blea serves on numerous committees at Highlands, ranging from the Diversity Council to the Retention Advisory Council and Student Behavior Intervention and Support Team.
“Each Highlands committee gives me an opportunity to serve the institution that has provided so much to me and my family,” Blea said.
Blea is an experienced grant manager for Highlands, including leading the grant that funds the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. She is the principal investigator and project director for the university’s grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
Locally, Blea is the vice chair of the San Miguel DWI Planning Council, former vice chair of the San Miguel County Family and Community Health Council, and is a board member for Cariño Family Services, to name a few entities she works with.
“Las Vegas is my community and I’m honored to contribute however I can. Building strong community partnerships is also one of our university’s strategic goals,” Blea said.
Blea is active in professional organizations such as the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
“Helping NASPA develop a 2018 leadership institute has ensured that small minority-serving public institutions like Highlands are represented in this national conversation,” Blea said.
Blea completed her M.A. in public affairs at Highlands with a concentration in applied sociology in 2009, earning a 4.0 GPA. She earned her B.A. in political science with an emphasis in law and a minor in sociology.
Photo and article courtesy of NMHU Office of University Relations