Connie Breding Interviews Campus President, Dr. Jimeno
Education has always been a priority for Dr. Cheri A. Jimeno, president of New Mexico State University at Alamogordo.
Although I have casually known Dr. Jimeno since her arrival on campus in May of 2007, I recently had the chance to visit with her and discover more about her personal and professional life.
Born in Hamilton, Montana, to Max and Gladys Jimeno, she is the youngest of five children (Anna, Gladys, Gerald, Carol and Cheri) who grew up on a farm, or as she describes it, “a large apple orchard that was purchased from a friend of my grandfather’s.”
Although Max and Gladys did not have the opportunity to attend college, they instilled in their children the desire to pursue their educational goals. “My parents greatly influenced me because they both had a strong belief in the value of education.” This is apparent in Dr. Jimeno’s academic achievements and career.
Dr. Jimeno holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from the University of Montana (Missoula), a Master of Science degree in Business Education from Montana State University (Bozeman), and a Ph.D. in Education and Business Information Systems from Utah State University (Logan). Additionally, she was awarded a Fulbright Lectureship to the College of the Bahamas, is listed in Who’s Who Among American Women, and was named a member of Montana Western Hall of Technology Fame.
Before moving into administrative posts at Montana State University—Northern in Havre, where she was Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, and at the University of Montana—Western in Dillon, where she served as the Dean of the School of Education, Business and Technology, Dr. Jimeno was a faculty member at UMW, where she taught courses in business information systems, systems analysis and design, and strategic management.
Although Jimeno enjoys the administrative side of education, she admits she misses the classroom. “The most difficult thing for me to do was to leave classroom teaching and to discontinue that relationship with students. At one time I would find a way to still teach a class, perhaps a graduate course on a weekend, but I discovered that was not in the best interest of the student or the university because there was such a difference in the role of administrator versus teacher.”
The role of a university president is very demanding, and this holds true for Jimeno. “One of the most challenging aspects of my job is trying to do what we need to do at the institution with limited resources, and making sure that we are working within the system when we need to make changes at the institution. We are not an autonomous unit. Realistically, we sometimes see things that are specific to this campus that might not be something that the rest of the system wants to do, and it sometimes takes us longer to make some changes than what we would like.”
Despite the challenges that abound in her position, Jimeno maintains a good sense of humor, is quick to laugh, and finds much job satisfaction. “What I like best is that we are able to improve the educational background of our students. Also, I like the idea of making sure that we move the institution forward in directions that match trends nationally in higher education.”
Jimeno, who embraces an open-door policy, is intensely interested in the success of the students who attend NMSU-A, and she offers half a dozen tidbits of advice she feels students should follow:
- Never miss a class.
- Study hard.
- Complete your degree.
- Examine what you want to do with your career, but just because you select a career today, it doesn’t mean that ten years from now that is going to be the career that you stay in.
- You’ve got to be a lifelong learner.
- Remember that your job is not everything—work hard and be productive– but you’ve got to have a personal life as well.
Although Jimeno’s career occupies much of her time and energy, she follows her own advice and makes sure she has a personal life. She is a voracious reader who uses a Kindle, and the most recent book she has read is John Grisham’s The Litigators.
It comes as no surprise that Jimeno, growing up in Montana, was once an avid skier as well as a ski instructor, and while she has not recently been on the slopes, she still likes attending athletic events.
When Jimeno was a high school student, she always participated in the fall and spring drama productions. “I loved acting, and for awhile, when I first went to college, I even thought about majoring in theatre.” In fact, acting in school plays remains one of her favorite childhood memories. Even now, Jimeno is still very culturally minded, attending both movies and local and university theatre. Although she regards Meryl Streep as a “phenomenal actress,” she readily admits the last film she saw was “The Muppets.”
When she has leisure time, she and her husband, Tom Yahraes, enjoy traveling. While they have visited many different and interesting places, the two locations she would return to would be Canada’s Maritime Provinces (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) and the Philippines. “I still have a lot of family in the Philippines.”
Jimeno is the mother of two adult children: Shawna, a physical therapist who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shayne, who recently received his law degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
Although Jimeno considers her children her greatest achievement in life, she reveals that now they are grown, she is careful not to meddle in their lives. “Throughout my life, and especially when I was a single mother, I always had a strong commitment to my children, and they were always my focus as they were growing up. But once they became adults, I believe that as parents, we have to let go. We’re only there when they need us, and if they want to visit with us about something, they will call us or write us. As a parent, I never give them advice unless I am asked. We provide them with their foundation as they grow up, and then we should let them go.”
When asked if she could change one thing about her life, Jimeno quickly answered, “I wouldn’t change anything, other than maybe win the Powerball. Here’s what I believe, everything that happens in your life is a learning experience, good or bad, and I have had a great life. I would do it all over again.”
I concluded our discussion by asking her to complete this sentence: The university of the future will … and Dr. Jimeno said, “The university of the future will be very technology driven and will prepare individuals not only for the work force, but also for being a productive member of society.”