New Mexico Highlands University, one of two core partners in SFIP’s affiliate the Center for Cultural Technology, will offer expanded opportunities thanks to a new degree program to be offered by the Department of Media Arts & Design. On November 17th, the New Mexico Board of Finance approved the MFA in media arts and cultural technology in a unanimous vote. According to Professor Miriam Langer, the new MFA program will build upon a strong 10-year partnership between Highlands and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs in the Center for Cultural Technology (CCT). The partnership places paid interns in museums and other cultural institutions throughout the state as part of the university’s one-of-a-kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology (ACT) program. Each MFA student will be required to complete a minimum of 600 hours of internship in a cultural setting. Highlands is now submitting the new MFA to the Higher Learning Commission, the university’s accrediting agency, for approval. The new program will begin fall semester 2017.

“With the addition of this MFA in media arts and cultural technology to our curricular portfolio, we join other top schools offering high-quality terminal degrees to students throughout the world,” said Highlands University President Sam Minner. The new MFA will be the first terminal degree in northern New Mexico. A terminal degree is the highest degree awarded in a particular field required for tenured faculty positions at four-year universities. In addition, MFA graduates will be well versed in the growing demand in  museums and other cultural institutions for such new technologies as digital imaging, 3D modeling and printing, digital archiving, interactive exhibits, mobile app and website design, and multimedia production.

Service learning is a core component of this MFA. A recent evaluation of the ACT program shows that AmeriCorps internships make it twice as likely that graduates will get jobs in the cultural and creative economy. “New Mexico has a rich cultural history that we have to preserve for future generations,” said New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron. “This new MFA program will not only expand opportunities for students at Highlands and throughout New Mexico, but give them the skills they need to be effective stewards of our state’s legacy.” According to Professor Langer, “Our MFA students will be doing original, cutting-edge research in all areas of employing emerging technologies to reach museum visitors. We expect Highlands and our MFA students to have a highly visible presence locally, nationally and worldwide for how technology is applied in gallery environments.”

“Highlands is the right choice for students seeking academic excellence, small class sizes, and affordable tuition,” according to Department Chair, Kerry Loewen. In addition a new state-of-the-art media arts facility in the historic Trolley Building on campus will open fall semester 2016. “With this new facility, we can offer our students an exceptional learning environment, and compete with any media arts school in the nation. It was designed with the MFA in mind, including dedicated graduate facilities.”. He said the successful MFA bid was a collaborative effort that spanned five years and involved media arts faculty, the university’s administration, the Las Vegas community, and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.