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Getting to Know Tracy Hartzler - A Q&A With CNM’s Next President

Getting to Know Tracy Hartzler - A Q&A With CNM’s Next President

Dec 12, 2019

On Nov. 12, the CNM Governing Board voted unanimously to select Tracy Hartzler as the next president of CNM, the largest institution of higher education in the state in terms of undergraduate enrollment. She will bring a dynamic breadth of experience, knowledge and passion when she officially begins her presidency on Jan. 1.

Her experience ranges from being an executive director of an organization in Washington, D.C., that mentored low-income students on how to succeed in college and the workforce; to serving as counsel on national issues affecting Native Americans for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; to providing expert budget and policy recommendations that affected all New Mexico public colleges and universities during her time at the New Mexico Legislature; to her last four years at CNM, including the last two years serving as vice president of Finance & Operations.

The Marketing and Communications Office recently sat down with Ms. Hartzler to help the CNM community get a little more familiar with our next president.

What was the experience like when you listened to the Governing Board unanimously choose you to become the next president of CNM?

The closest feeling I've had to that moment was learning I passed my first bar exam - relief, thankfulness, exhaustion, excitement, pride, happiness... But it was more than that experience. I felt incredible support and love from those in the room - love for the college, and support for its next leader. I felt humbled, and in awe, of the responsibility the Governing Board bestowed upon me.

What inspired you to want to become the CNM president?

photo of Kathie Winograd and Tracy Hartzler
I have always sought opportunities to serve where my skills can be best put to use and where I can work hard, and do so in ways that are consistent with my values. CNM is one of those places - where my head and heart align. It's a place where I have worked with committed and talented colleagues and faculty to provide opportunities to students and to strengthen the community. I also knew I could become what I've experienced throughout my career - one of many women who led ethically, with creativity and compassion, to find solutions to challenging and urgent issues. I was drawn to the College because of Kathie Winograd's leadership and her team members - I just didn't know how I could best serve when I started here four-plus years ago.

What do you want faculty and staff to know about how you will lead the College?

My record at the College demonstrates how I will continue to lead. I approach situations or issues with our Strategic Directions and our Values in mind - Be Caring, Be Connected, Be Courageous, Be Ethical, Be Exceptional, and Be Inspiring - and then ask questions. I learn by asking a lot of questions of people with different experiences, backgrounds, and expertise than mine. I try to be inclusive, transparent and clear in the way we make and communicate decisions that affect students, faculty, and staff. I always have one foot in the present and the other in the future - so I'm very mindful that decisions today shape our future. My job is to maintain this balance. Lastly, I'm not perfect, so I expect faculty and staff to tell me when something is wrong and, when possible, help me address the matter more appropriately.

What do you want students to know about you?

That I worked hard to be here - waiting tables; cleaning rental houses; caring for elderly neighbors; and advocating for under-represented individuals, tribes and tribal members. That many, many people helped me along the way - encouraging me to go to school, get my master's degree, and become a lawyer. That I was rejected for many jobs that I thought were perfect for me, but - had I gotten them - my journey would have been different and I wouldn't be here, at CNM. My path wasn't a straight line, and that's the case for most people. I benefited from valuing the journey, the people along the way, and being curious about what could be next.

The CNM Governing Board recently approved the framework of CNM's Strategic Direction Plan that will guide our efforts from 2020-2024. Our Mission, Vision, Values and three overarching Strategic Directions - Student Success, Community Success, and Organizational Excellence and Innovation - all remain the same. But we have seven new Objectives, and the strategies for achieving those Objectives will soon be developed. With the Strategic Direction Plan ultimately serving as our playbook for the future, what are a few milestones you're looking forward to CNM achieving on behalf of our students and community?

Our success - the College's, our students', the community's, and mine - will be achieved by increasing student achievement and quality post-college employment for all students, as well as closing achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups. We will also be successful when CNM is considered the first choice by all public and private employers as the go-to partner to address workforce needs and community challenges; and when CNM is recognized internally and externally as a model for using our resources (people, facilities, technology, data) efficiently and ethically, in service to others.

You spent five years working as a Special Assistant Attorney General at the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, helping local, tribal, state and federal leaders, as well as community advocates, solve complex problems. How did your work in these roles impact the trajectory and aspirations for your career?

I developed a few basic rules - work with and learn from brilliant people, and recognize each party's priorities and values. The issues are personal, so I try to identify windows for compromise and unrelated opportunities to move forward on issues. And that may take place by eating together or car-pooling together, even with the most challenging individuals. By working to resolve issues that were often decades in the making, I learned to combine patience with a sense of urgency. Together, we couldn’t right every wrong done to every party, but we could address some issues that improved people’s quality of life or secured rights for generations of families. I learned to balance and assess immediate opportunities with long-term goals. So much of what I learned during that time influences my work today.

You spent four years working for the New Mexico Legislature's Finance Committee, including two years as its Principal Analyst. The committee is very influential and makes recommendations on how state funds are distributed. How did your work in this role prepare you as a CNM leader?

photo of Tracy Hartzler
I had worked for the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, a highly political and partisan position in some ways. But, because of his close relationship with the Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign, I worked on many bipartisan matters and I worked closely with Republican leaders on water issues. Working for the Legislative Finance Committee is similar - a nonpartisan committee, staffing both Democrats and Republicans that work on policy and funding for a complex group of institutions. I served as a policy and appropriations expert during the legislative session, serving both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate committees, and I worked in a bipartisan manner with House and Senate leadership as well. I also worked closely with executive agency leaders, including the New Mexico Higher Education Department and the Public Education Department, to refine, support, or defeat measures based on legislators' guidance. I could provide solid recommendations and options for moving bipartisan efforts forward because I knew legislators; I knew the processes - appropriations, legislative, floor procedures; and I knew the college and university presidents, leaders and association representatives. All of this experience now helps me represent CNM's interests, understand the interests of other parties, and identify solutions where possible. Having a reputation as a thoughtful, solutions-oriented, ethical legislative staff person has served me well in my current role and in the one I'm about to assume.

You began working on issues related to New Mexico in 2006 with the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, then you moved to New Mexico in 2009 to work for the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and you've been here since. Why did you decide to make New Mexico your home and what do you love about New Mexico?

My former husband and I had a number of professional and personal connections in New Mexico. I became a member of the State Bar of New Mexico (professional organization of licensed attorneys) in 2005. The decision to leave Washington, D.C., after about 16 years and live here was easy. I had an opportunity to return to D.C. before starting at CNM - and I decided to stay here. New Mexico is my spiritual home, though I was born in the Midwest. I appreciate the multiple cultures, coexisting; the landscapes - especially in rural areas of the state; and the people and friends I've made here over the years.

People who know you say that you have a great sense of humor. What are some of your go-to sources for a good laugh?

My friend's young children are pretty funny - a 5-year-old stumps me frequently. Some other friends keep me grounded and are great storytellers - I have to meet them for lunch or a beer regularly. Dating myself, some of my favorite television shows are "Seinfeld" (and "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee"), "Cheers," re-runs of "Newhart" (and all related shows with Bob Newhart), and currently "The Good Life." Podcasts of National Public Radio's "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" and Mo Rocca's "Mobituaries" can be funny too.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I play competitive tennis and I enjoy all levels of tennis. I binge-watch British mysteries and dramas. I listen to jazz. I hang out with friends and we try to solve the world's problems - or at least our respective family's problems. Occasionally, I like to host dinner parties.

Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?

Too many to count. But currently, the quote from Sally Ride (former astronaut and first American woman in space), "You can't be what you can't see," strikes me as relevant when I think about the College's conversations on equity, diversity and inclusion. There are many others on gratitude that resonate with me. And Fr. Richard Rohr's daily meditations keep me thinking about big ideas.