Ben Lujan Leadership and Public Policy Institute

Ponderosa pines (image courtesy of Amy Engle)


The Ben Lujan Leadership and Public Policy Institute (BLI) at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) has been funded since 2009 by the New Mexico Legislature to prepare leaders for service in a multicultural society. 

In collaboration with the Center for the Education and Study of Diverse Populations (CESDP) and NMHU, the BLI is committed to preparing a new generation of culturally and linguistically responsive school leaders who can cultivate change that informs, influences, and transforms public policy at local, regional, and statewide levels. 

BLI Fellows pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership or other specializations, but always with an emphasis on leadership, culturally sustaining practices, systems thinking, and community partnering in ways that value the unique assets of New Mexico’s communities.

To date, over 100 teacher leaders have completed their master’s degrees at NMHU as BLI Fellows. Current NMHU/BLI Fellows alumni are active in various educational leadership positions including as instructional coaches, school principals, district directors, educational administrators within the New Mexico Public Education Department, and higher education staff and faculty. 

While serving the state of New Mexico and its diverse communities, Ben Lujan Institute Fellows advocate for and participate in public discourse around social and educational policy initiatives. BLI initiatives include:

  1. Participation in policy institutes under the auspices of partnering universities to address state, national, and international concerns.
  2. Creating opportunities for public policy discussions that include the voices of high school and college students together with leaders in business, education, healthcare, and the environment.
  3. Supporting NMHU graduate level students from various disciplines including education, social work, counseling, and business to complete a master’s program with an emphasis on leadership.
  4. Fostering mentorship opportunities between college and high school students that focus on public service and the development of our next generation of leaders.
  5. Collaborations between BLI Fellows and community leaders that focus on promoting and influencing policies that impact higher education in New Mexico and the nation.

Bilingual/Multicultural Education Student Leadership Institutes

  • BLI Fellows volunteer facilitation and mentorship at Student Leadership Institutes as part of the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (NMABE) and La Cosecha conferences. New Mexico’s culturally and linguistically diverse student from grades 6-12 participate in these leadership development opportunities.

50th Anniversary of the Bilingual Multicultural Education Act

  • In support of the 50th Anniversary of the Bilingual Multicultural Education Listening Tour Report, current and former BLI fellows supported in the gathering of youth and parent perspective on bilingual education services in New Mexico.

Summer Internships

  • NMHU students and ENLACE high school students can apply for support to participate in meaningful summer internship projects that contribute to communities and assist students in developing professional experience. NM high school students have worked as paid interns at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, the US Forest Service, and Las Clinicas del Norte.

Legislative Internships and Policy Making

  • NMHU students and ENLACE high school students can apply to intern in the New Mexico Legislature. Every year, ten ENLACE students from high schools across NM serve as youth interns during one week of the NM Legislature Session. These youth have the opportunity to meet with legislators and committee members, as well as observe hearings and participate in other activities.
  • BLI Fellows recently began supporting high school students’ interests, passions, and assets in identifying community needs; then, working with Las Vegas and Española youth leaders, community leaders, and organizations to collaborate on policy projects that will be presented in late April/early May. The goal is for students to develop their advocacy, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills while positively impacting the greater community through viable change.

Environmental Issues

  • The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), with BLI and/or Acequia and Land Grant Education Project (ALGE) sponsorship have convened at the Annual Congreso de las Acequias since 2015. The BLI has gathered regional delegates from across the state to pass resolutions and guide policies to protect New Mexico’s land and water resources. 
  • Most recently, BLI Fellows partnered with CESDP and NMAA to support the Acequia and Land Grant Education Project by facilitating curriculum writing and translate lesson plans to Spanish. 
BLI Graduates
I would like you to share this with the Ben Lujan Fellowship Board. Thank you for the opportunity to receive my degree in Educational Leadership from New Mexico Highlands University. It was a great blessing to be able to complete my degree. I would not have been able to do it without this fellowship.
Mabelle Roybal
Agriculture Educator