After a nearly 25-year career in the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University, having served as a faculty member, department head and associate dean, Sonya Cooper stepped into a new role in January, taking the helm of the College of Health and Social Services.
Cooper has been named interim dean of CHSS, an appointment that became effective Jan. 7. Cooper will lead the college as the university searches for a permanent dean to succeed Donna Wagner, who retired in December.
“A dean’s job is to provide an environment that will make faculty, staff and students flourish – and that’s what I’m here to do,” Cooper said. “With my administrative skills and problem-solving skills, and the faculty’s health and social service expertise, I think we can make a great team to move the college forward to prepare for the permanent leadership,” she added.
NMSU interim Provost April Mason announced Cooper’s appointment Jan. 4.
“Dr. Cooper brings deep administrative experience to this interim dean role. She works well with faculty, staff and students. I have confidence she will move the college forward collaboratively,” Mason said.
Cooper joined NMSU in 1994 as a faculty member in the College of Engineering. She has a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University, a master’s degree from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from NMSU. From 2005 to 2010, she served as the department head for Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering – a department that offer six majors, six minors and seven concentrations.
In 2011, Cooper was named associate dean of academics for the College of Engineering, a role she held until her appointment as CHSS interim dean. Cooper, a practicing civil engineer, also is involved in the historic preservation of significant landmarks in New Mexico and Texas.
As interim dean of CHSS, Cooper said she hopes to address “programmatic issues,” fill staffing vacancies and increase student access, among other priorities. She also wants to help the college maintain close ties with the community.
“This college has tremendous talent,” she said, commending its continuous work with community organizations outside NMSU. “The community really depends on this college. So, I want to get to understand those collaborations and make sure we are partnering the best way possible. I feel confident that I can obtain the knowledge and information necessary to shore up any of the programs that need it, or provide any resources required, so that the faculty can do what they’re most talented at.”
Cooper said she will remain co-adviser of the student organization Aggies Without Limits, a group that brings students, faculty and community members together to improve the lives of developing communities through sustainable infrastructure.