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Luna Board of Trustees names six presidential finalists

The Luna Community College Board of Trustees named six finalists for the position of president in a special meeting on Thursday. They are (in alphabetical order) Dr. Javier Ayala, Dr. Rod Flanigan, Dr. Edward Martinez, Dr. Benjamin Moritz, Dr. Kenneth Patterson and Dr. Christopher Villa. The national search began in January and has been under the direction of Gold Hill Associates, a community college executive search firm.

Dr. Ayala has held positions such as campus dean with the State University of New York-Monroe, vice president of instruction with Umpqua Community College and dean of career and technical education at Grossmont College in California. At Grossmont College, he established career guidance pathways for cohorts to promote successful employment for students following graduation. In addition, he provided students with comprehensive information on wage expectation and what paths to follow for students to achieve their goals.

Dr. Flanigan has been involved at several levels of higher education, including serving on the board of directors for the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering, the accrediting body for the ITEC programs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and teaching, assessment curriculum development, program development, industry collaboration and research. He recently worked on a Prior Learning Assessment policy at Cochise College in Arizona that focused on student retention and student success. He is currently the dean of Business and Technology at Cochise College.

Dr. Martinez has served as vice president for strategic enrollment management at New Mexico Highlands University, where he addressed retention issues by developing long-term strategies through innovation, listening, inclusivity, collaboration, transparency and data analysis. He also is the founding director of ARMAS at Highlands, which is designed to engage and retain students through graduation in the STEM area. He has extensive experience in grant writing and has facilitated numerous partnerships with community organizations, other colleges and universities and federal and state agencies. He has also been a faculty member in the STEM area at Highlands.

Dr. Moritz is currently the deputy director and chief academic and student services officer of the Wyoming Community College Commission. His duties include managing budgets, contributing to the strategic planning, supervising staff, conducting curriculum reviews across seven regional campuses within the system and leading cross-college program initiatives to improve access as well as outcomes. He also has teaching experience as an associate professor and Mansfield University in Pennsylvania and five years of higher education administration experience as assistant department chair, honors director and associate to the provost for faculty development.

Dr. Patterson has been interim president at Luna Community College since June 2020. Prior to this, he was Luna’s vice president of instruction and student services. Over the last two decades, he has managed and evaluated full-time, part-time, adjunct and contract employees. His experience with retention program development and enrollment management extends to his work as a senior coordinator and facilitator in conjunction with the Institute of Higher Education Policy. He also has extensive experience in budget development and budget administration. He most recently led Luna Community College off probationary status from the Higher Learning Commission.

Dr. Villa recently served as president of Portland Community College Rock Creek in Portland, Ore., where he was responsible for the overall operation of the college, including the budget. At PCC, his duties included engaging with more than 35 full- and part-time faculty, staff, students and administrators in developing a strategic equity student success plan for the college. The plan was based on the need for continuous program improvement through ongoing measurement of outcomes in closing achievement gaps. He was appointed to the State of Oregon Higher Education Council Coalition with the objective to increase equity in postsecondary education.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, a public forum will be held via Zoom for each finalist. Luna students, employees and members of the community will be able to send questions to Luna prior to each forum. As part of the forum, each candidate will have up to 30 minutes to introduce themselves and one hour to answer questions. More details on the public forums will be available later.
“It was an extremely difficult decision because we had 53 quality applicants,” said Luna BOT Chair Dr. Phyllis Martinez. “We want to thank the search committee for helping us during this process.”
Luna Community College is the only community college in northeastern New Mexico. It is located in the lower slopes of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range overlooking the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Luna Community College enjoys an outstanding reputation for its caliber of facilities, teaching methods, curricula, and dedication to excellence.