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September 7, 2012

For More Information:
Jaylene McIntosh
Director of Development & Public Relations

DACC Advisory Board Supports Leadership, Nursing Program

During a special meeting on Wednesday, September 5, 2012, the Doña Ana Community College Advisory Board announced its full support for DACC, its nursing program and leadership of President Dr. Margie Huerta after hearing public testimony in support of DACC and an update on the nursing program from Huerta, DACC leadership and those involved with the nursing program.

“Speaking on behalf of the board, I have all the confidence in the world in Dr. Huerta,” said Craig Ford, vice president of the advisory board and Gadsden School Board member.

DACC is governed by the New Mexico State University Board of Regents through an operating agreement between the university and the three school districts in Doña Ana County. The Advisory Board, comprised of representatives of the three school boards, approves the annual operating budget, initiates mill levy and bond issue elections and advises the college on program needs. 

Huerta detailed the progress being made with the students affected by the loss of the nursing program’s accreditation as well as the efforts for re-accreditation including nursing faculty recruitment and retention. 

“Students continue to be our priority,” said Huerta. “We’ve been exploring all available options in the best interest of our students.” She said the college is meeting the needs of its nursing students by offering individualized attention through a Student Nursing Advisory Team comprised of academic and financial aid advisors to assist nursing students as they navigate their chosen career path. Current nursing students who choose to remain in DACC’s nursing program and maintain a 3.0 GPA are receiving tuition assistance through scholarships. 

Twenty-two students are currently in the DACC nursing program, and of those who have chosen to remain, many are fourth and first level students. Huerta said, “The doors to our nursing program remain open.” Evelyn Hobbs, Division Dean for Health and Public Services and Tracy Lopez, nursing program director, confirmed that potential nursing students continue to inquire about entrance into the program. “Even though students know, for now, the program is not accredited, there is still interest,” said Huerta. DACC plans on admitting students into the program for the January 2013 semester.

Advisory board member Paul Dulin from the Hatch School District said, “We believe in this program.” He commented on the Hatch community’s support for the new Hatch Center and said 11.5% of all Hatch Valley High School graduates are students in the Certified Nurses Aid (CNA) program. 

Upon learning of the nursing program’s accreditation loss, Huerta initiated a DACC committee to oversee and assist with accreditation efforts. “We are working expeditiously to regain accreditation,” she said. “We believe our students, the program and our community will be stronger as a result.”  

Of the six standards the National League for Nursing Accrediting Committee, Inc. (NLNAC) requires, the DACC nursing program was cited for not fully meeting two standards: standard two, faculty and staff, and standard six, outcomes. DACC lacked a sufficient number of master’s level faculty and provided three full years of program data rather than four, which was the minimum desired by the NLNAC. 

“Our faculty and staff have been consistent for the past three years, our program continues to be recognized for its strong curriculum, available student resources, high pass rates and high employer placement rates,” said Huerta. “Through Tracy’s leadership and the support of our students, faculty, staff and community, we anticipate seeing improvement upon the standards for which we were cited,” said Huerta. 

DACC is focusing its faculty recruiting efforts regionally through newspaper and online advertisements on Web sites such as Monster and Career Builder. “We selected key, largely populated cities in our region that have quality nursing programs to try and attract qualified applicants,” said Hobbs. Over the past several years, the Associates Degree in Nursing program at DACC has faced difficulty filling and retaining faculty with a Master’s Degree in Nursing. As part of the steps toward re-accreditation DACC has evaluated current compensation to ensure a package that is competitive in the marketplace, which will include a sign-on and/or retention bonus. 

Huerta, the DACC leadership team, Hobbs and Lopez shared a detailed timeline for re-accreditation with the board. Huerta announced the completion of the first step toward accreditation. On August 27, 2012, Lopez submitted the Candidacy Information Form to the NLNAC. DACC is currently awaiting a response, and upon the acknowledgement of candidacy eligibility, the NLNAC will assign a mentor to DACC for the purposes of preparing for an upcoming site visit. By March 30, 2013, the DACC nursing program will submit a candidacy presentation to the NLNAC who will then respond within six to eight weeks. By August 1, 2013, DACC nursing program will submit its application for a site visit, which will be scheduled for Fall 2013. One month later, DACC will submit a self-study to the NLNAC in preparation for the site visit. DACC anticipates a site visit from the NLNAC by October or November 2013. 

The results of the site visit will be shared with the NLNAC during their regular voting cycle in March 2014, and should the NLNAC approve accreditation for the DACC nursing program, according to the NLNAC Accreditation Manual, “students who graduated during or after the accreditation cycle [January 1, 2013 through June 30, 2013] during which the site visit was performed will be recognized as graduates of an accredited nursing program.”  

Various faculty and staff attending the meeting spoke publicly in support of DACC and Huerta. Hilda Chappell, an instructor in the Business Information Systems Division, started her career at DACC as a work-study student, earned her associates degree at DACC and finished her bachelor’s and master’s degree at NMSU. “DACC provided me with significant opportunities for personal and professional growth,” Chappell said. “And now I am in a faculty position. Students who didn’t think they could make it, have done so because of the DACC.” Bill Glenn, executive director of DACC’s Workforce Development Center said, “During the time of Dr. Huerta’s Leadership, we’ve seen incredible growth with leadership being provided by the community college. Things here are going very well due to the leadership of Dr. Huerta and the executive team.” Dr. John Walker, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, as been at DACC for 29 years and stated,  “The current leadership team at DACC is the best I’ve seen. The community college has been doing everything it possibly can to work with these problems [in the nursing program]. The community college record speaks for itself. Our growth, facilities, leadership. I stand strongly behind the leadership team of DACC.” 

The meeting concluded with the board in full support of the efforts underway at DACC and they agreed to help with the re-accreditation process. “We are all in favor of this situation being resolved,” said Ford. “The loss of this community college would be hard for us to bear, especially if you [Huerta] weren’t here at the helm of this ship. The board is going to do everything we can to help.”