Michael Voegerl has been the Director of Student Affairs and International Programs Coordinator at New Mexico Tech University. With students coming in for the fall semester, Voegerl and his staff are in the early stages of providing services that will aide in the success of incoming and returning young minds. El Defensor Chieftain visited his office at the Joseph A. Fidel Center to learn more.
Question: What are your duties here at Tech?
Answer: We handle things from career services, minority services, international students and study abroad programs for local attendees. We also help bring in students from more than 35 different countries around the world.
Q: How do day to day activities work both during the semester as well as over the summer?
A: The way that we have set ourselves up is that if students have a question they can pop in here anytime so we can help them. We’re a customer service arm for students and faculty as well. Last year particularly was big for us as we had somewhere around a 80 percent job rate for the students which really helps draw people in. When the kids leave for the summer is when we really get busy. Various programs and workshops are big for us in recruiting foreign students. We want them to get the true college experience on a smaller scale. American learners also get a ground floor look on the research side of Tech as they work with world class professors.
Q: Who else is on your staff?
A: I have Tristine Hayward who is the Assistant Director and Valerie Maez who is the Student Affairs Specialist. It’s the three of us and we are all on a friendly first name basis here. No titles please.
Q: How did you attain your position?
A: I won the job lottery. I was hired as an International Programs designer, promoted into this position, and found something that I truly love to do.
Q: Is there something that should be changed about New Mexico Tech?
A: We need to do a better job of promoting ourselves. That is on me and on all of us here. We need to interact with media in all different outlets. If there is for example an asteroid coming towards earth we need to be the place that news sources seek out more because we have the capability to do world class research. We are regionally famous but we need to be nationally famous.
Q: Are you born and raised in Socorro?
A: I was born and raised in Southern Indiana in a great big town of around 250 people called Saint Anthony, right in the middle of the area where it seems like mosquitos were created. My wife Theresa Kapple and I moved here in 2013.
Q: How did you and your wife meet?
A: We worked together at a restaurant what seems like 1,000 years ago. It was love at second or third site. Of course I was the persistent one. We were together in Indiana for about 18 years and both had midlife crises at the same time so we decided to do something different. We decided to sell off pretty much everything we owned and told our families we were moving to New Mexico. Theresa got a job here as a Disability Case Manager and it really worked for us.
Q: Did you live anywhere else in New Mexico or was it straight to Socorro?
A: We first moved to Lemitar for about a year then went to Belen where we currently reside. We are in the process of finding a place here in town so that we can be closer to work.
Q: What were your initial feelings coming from Indiana?
A: When I first flew in to Albuquerque I came over the West Mesa area and there is nothing out there. It’s just rolling desert which was a shock having left an area with trees and water everywhere. I miss being surrounded by big tall trees. But during our off time we can head north and find that or travel south for the rivers.
Q: How are people in Indiana different from those you have met here in New Mexico?
A: Having grown up in a small town there’s not a ton of difference. People are friendly, outgoing, welcoming to new visitors. The food is of course different but it is still a central part of the culture which speaks to my sentiment. It is what brings people together. I miss my fried chicken from back home which, I’m sorry, is not as good here. It’s so much more bad for you out there in all the right ways. But I also love my red chili here, even if my heartburn medication has to work over time.
Q: I’ve noticed that while you are dressed in standard business attire you have several different bracelets on. What do those represent?
A: A lot of it is from travel. I don’t make a ton of money but when I get the chance to travel I like to keep a token from the place I’ve visited. For example one is from Costa Rica which symbolizes ‘Por Vida’ meaning ‘For Life’. I also have one from a student from Ghana who found out I wore bracelets which is common in their country. One side is based on their culture and the other represents America. Everywhere I go in the world I like to purchase handmade jewelry for my self and my staff here as well.
Q: A few random questions, what is your favorite movie?
A: I’ll go with “The Usual Suspects”. The sense of change that travels through that movie. You know there is something going on and they keep hinting at it. But you never really know what it is until the very last scene when everything comes together. It keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: I’m an alternative rock guy but I also love the opposite like KC and the Sunshine Band. I’ve seen them live several times and there is no way you can walk out of there unhappy.
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: Probably “The Stand” by Stephen King. I’m not a huge King person but that novel is an epic look at good versus evil and what evil is ultimately trying to accomplish. Then you fall back on the good side and realize what is right.
Q: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
A: Olon, Ecuador. It’s a very small beach side town. If we have our way that is where we’ll retire. There’s maybe 500 residents but they are salt of the earth type people, similar to here on a smaller scale. No hotels or T.G.I. Friday’s.
Q: If you could change one thing about Socorro, what would it be?
A: A recycling program. We’ve had one in the past and we need to get another one. If you see the landfills in Socorro County there is so much stuff we are wasting. I know recycling is not cheap anymore and you do not make any money on it but it’s the right thing to do.
Whether you are a newcomer to town or the parent of a student locally considering options for your child’s education, Voegerl’s office is open. You can even pop in for a game of chess with a friend between classes.