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President Nancy “Rusty” Barceló’s vision for Northern New Mexico College is guided by both NNMC’s history and her own.
In 1909, the New Mexico Territorial Legislature created the institution as the Spanish American Normal School with a primary function of training teachers for the state’s Spanish-speaking population. It was one of 10 educational institutions named in the state’s 1912 constitution.
“It was established through a constitutional act that said that it would serve the Spanish-speaking populations of Northern New Mexico, which makes us historically the first Spanish-serving institution in the United States that was legally mandated to serve these populations,” Barceló said. “I think that’s a historical fact that is important to the State of New Mexico, and I’m trying to build upon that.”
The fact that 82 percent of the student population is Hispanic and 12 percent are American Indian is especially significant to Barceló.
“So I say to myself, what does that mean to us educationally? We should probably be in the vanguard of how to do multi-cultural education because of these populations.”
Barceló created an Office of Equity and Diversity to accomplish that goal.
Barceló can personally relate to the challenges her students face. Barceló herself is of Hispanic heritage, hailing from Douglas, Ariz. She was the first in her family to go to college. Her mother gave her $80 when she left, all the family could afford.
“This work is about believing in our students, no matter their life circumstances, and creating communities that allow them to succeed in and out of the classroom.”
Barceló was recently awarded the Hispanic Roundtable’s Walking the Talk Award, with special recognition for being the first Latina president of a four-year institution in New Mexico’s history.
“All of this is to say that I was meant to be here,” Barceló said. “From the time of my birth, I have been preparing for this position.”