For Gene Henley, the road to success is not a straight line.

“How many ways can I go from Albuquerque to Santa Fe?” he said. “I could drive, take a plane, ride a hot air balloon. I could even ride a pogo stick backwards and be the first man to do so.”

Henley, who officially became the president of UNM’s Staff Council last month, said he did not have a definite career plan in his life. But he said that after holding a variety of jobs not related to being president of the Staff Council, he is happy with where he’s heading.

“Most people would say this doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “But I’ve got lots of different choices, and any one of them would be fine. And when it isn’t fun anymore, there is another one.”

Henley owned a consulting company in the ‘80s, and was deputy superintendent of the state’s regulation and licensing department in the ‘90s. He was also deputy director of the National Hispanic Center for five years. And he is currently the associate director of UNM’s School of Public Administration.

Henley, 55, said despite his newly hectic schedule, he enjoys his presidential duties.

“There’s never a dull moment,” he said. “The first month has been nothing but meetings — usually somewhere around four to five meetings a week at least. And they’re telling me that this is the slow time of the year.”

Henley first entered UNM in 1975 to major in political science.

After acquiring both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in finance and management, he returned to UNM in 2007 to pursue a second master’s in public administration.

As the new president of the Staff Council, Henley said he aims to work more closely with the rest of the University community to improve student success. He said he plans to establish more academic training and advisement programs in the future.

“There’s a lot of talent in this campus, and that talent exists in students, staff and faculty,” he said. “I’d like to help bring to the fore those kinds of resources for the benefit of the whole University community.”

He said he would also work toward giving staff members the recognition they deserve.

“If staff really does their job well, they’re not really noticed,” he said. “You kind of get forgotten sometimes.”

Henley said he is optimistic that he can balance his two positions at UNM efficiently with the help of his colleagues in both departments.

In his free time, Henley said he likes “building things with his hands.” At the moment, he is working on his backyard patio, he said. He also said he works on finishing his doctorate in organizational learning and instructional technology whenever he can.

“My free time at the moment is finishing my Ph.D.,” he said. “I love it.”

Henley advises students not to worry too much about their future career paths. He said that instead, students should “follow their hearts.”

“If you’re 18, you have about 50 years of work life,” he said. “So the idea that you know what you’re going to do 20 or 40 years from now doesn’t make sense. Find the passions you’re interested in and develop those, because other things will change.”