Focus on Faces
5/18/2006 1:47:59 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. Lance Caviness, Director of Student Services at NMJC, will be showcased in the August issue of College Services magazine, a publication of the National Association of College Auxiliary Services. Much of the following article will appear in that issue. While Lance is legendary for attending to all the needs of NMJC students, he insists his big push nowadays is “to fill our new campus apartments!” If you are interested in visiting with Lance about NMJC’s beautiful, new, fully furnished, private student apartments which will be available for Fall 2006, please contact him at (505) 492-2581 or via e-mail at email@example.com. Or stop by the campus at 5317 Lovington Highway, Hobbs, New Mexico for a personal tour of NMJC’s newest facility. You’ll be glad you did!
Lance Caviness, a West Texan who happily juggles two states and two time zones in his daily commute to New Mexico Junior College, insists that he is well rewarded for his investment of time.
Caviness, who began his career at NMJC in 1998 and has served as Director of Student Life since 2000, maintains that his job is one of the most gratifying around. “Because I enjoy working with students, it’s extremely satisfying to be able to find positive ways to enhance their overall experience here,” he said. “NMJC makes my job easy because the administration sincerely listens to students’ needs and strives to give them the best educational experience possible. By listening, we not only help students, but we also help ourselves. For instance, the idea for e-Cashier, the new online payment program we recently implemented, came from students voicing their desire to have more payment options. NMJC listens, and I know that isn’t the case everywhere.”
Listening to students is something that Caviness himself has done quite a lot of during the last few years. He served as one of the key people responsible for the concept and design of the new $6.9 million Ben Alexander Student Learning Center, completed last fall, which was designed to offer a convenient “one-stop shopping” experience for students by providing registration, counseling, and financial aid services, as well as a bookstore, classrooms, and labs. The previously existing area was remodeled to provide additional student space, including an Internet café, theater, game room, and outdoor seating.
Caviness and others based the facility’s student-centered concept on studies, surveys, and personal tours of other campuses across the nation and even pulled from his own experience as a student at Clarendon College (A.S., ’86) and Texas A & M University (B.S., ’88). “I remember how frustrating and time-consuming it was to be traipsing around from one building to the next to get enrolled. Here at NMJC, everything is now together under one roof, and our students tell me they’re thrilled with the convenience of it all. To be a part of this is a blessing for me as well as for the students who have the privilege of utilizing this space and these services.”
For Caviness, next on the list of student needs to be addressed is the challenge of additional student housing. Of the approximately 3,200 students who attend NMJC, there is currently on-campus housing for only 200, with a waiting list each fall. In an effort to meet this need is a new 96-bed student apartment complex currently under construction. Scheduled for completion by late July, the handsome, new, private student apartments will be fully furnished, utilize state-of-the-art security, offer the convenience of Internet access, cable TV, local phone service, and laundry facilities, and will come with all bills paid. “At $425 per month, we know they’re an outstanding value,” said Caviness. “And considering that New Mexico Junior College is one of the most affordable two-year colleges in the nation with high quality academic programs, it provides an amazing educational opportunity for freshmen and sophomores. The fact that we also offer several nationally ranked athletic programs on top of all that creates a student environment that is unique to 2-year colleges.”
Caviness refers to the Thunderbird baseball team, led by Coach Ray Birmingham, which won the 2005 NJCAA World Series Championship. Thanks to Birmingham’s impressive record, he was also named National Coach of the Year. “Students are always amazed at the number of NMJC baseball players who’ve gone on to play in the major leagues,” Caviness said. “We’re proud of all our students and extremely happy for them when they can go on to achieve their dreams.”
Another national ranking for NMJC is currently held by the Lady T-bird track team, which placed 7th at the NJCAA Indoor Track and Field National Championship in March. There, one NMJC student, Melesia Mafileo of the Tonga Islands, was named national champion in the triple jump.
Highly regarded programs in rodeo, basketball, golf, sports training, and cheerleading round out NMJC’s athletic offerings for students. Intramural sports and an impressive schedule of student life activities, including nationally known comedy troupes, hypnotists, concerts, and other entertainment and enrichment opportunities also highlight each semester. “There’s no doubt that NMJC knows how to take good care of students,” said Caviness. “The students are very pleased with the enhanced student life activities, which are great retention tools. I think the sheer number of activities offered has made a big difference, as well as the quality. It’s a lot tougher to be homesick when you’re laughing and enjoying yourself with friends.”
According to Caviness, his family doesn’t mind sharing him with NMJC, even though, technically, he’s a state away. Mendy, his college sweetheart who later became his wife, and his three children, Crystal, 16, Mason, 14, and Miles, 12, are accustomed to his “other family,” those students who look to him for help in making their college experience a good one. “Sometimes students will call me at home in Seminole (Texas) if they’re really having a problem, but my family’s great about it. They understand that it can be tough being away from home without the support of family. I know how fortunate I am to have the support of mine.”
Caviness takes very seriously the role that a junior college plays in preparing students for the “next phase” of their lives—whether that includes teaching them skills for entering the workforce or for continuing their education at a 4-year college or university. For many a student, however, a personal and social life on campus is just as important as their classroom experience. “It’s a fact that students generally don’t do well in their academic life if they’re not happy in their campus life. They simply wind up leaving out of boredom or frustration,” said Caviness.
In addition to the personal satisfaction that Caviness derives from helping students become happy, successful, and productive in their academic careers, he also takes professional pride in recognizing his area’s significant impact on the college’s entire economic engine. The college’s primary auxiliary services—campus housing, bookstore services, campus vending, and food services—all contribute to enhancing the student experience while generating funding streams that provide opportunities campuswide.
In typically modest fashion, Caviness takes little credit for the many accomplishments on his watch. “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by great people doing their jobs well. DeMond Thomas, Coordinator of Intramurals and Student Activities, does a super job, and Sandy Hardin, our department secretary, gets to serve as surrogate mom for most of the students on campus at one time or another. They love to come by and visit with her. Those two are a big part of any success we might have,” he said.
“No matter what department you look at, we have the best faculty and staff at NMJC and have had for a long time. In fact, I’m honored to drink from the well that’s been dug by those who came before me,” said Caviness. “I’m blessed to be here at this time in the college’s development, and I see things just getting better and better. It’s a great place to be.”