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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Special Issue: July 29, 2002
The Gordon Presidency -
1998 - 2002

Garcia returns to Scholes Hall for top job

By Frank D. Martinez

F. Chris Garcia. Photo by Brian LuceroPolitical Science Professor F. Chris Garcia observes that his ascent to the UNM presidency has taken some unusual, but fortunate, twists and turns.

“I doubt very seriously if many people at universities have gone back and forth as many times as I have from administration to faculty. Most people usually choose one career or another. Certainly, once they are into administration, they continue,” he says. About half of his 32 years at UNM have been in administration, Garcia notes.

“But,” he quickly adds, “I’ve found it not only challenging, but extremely fulfilling to do both, because not many people get the opportunity to do both. I’ve always considered myself fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had here at the University. My feeling has always been that I am a professor serving in an administrative capacity. And so I carry that feeling with me going into the presidency for a year. But the main thing is I am very fortunate. I am a very fortunate person.”

Garcia agrees that the word “reluctant” is an “accurate characterization” of how he recently came to be selected as UNM’s president. He says he was only “settling back into my faculty role now, two years out of administration” and feeling “very comfortable….I enjoy the teaching very much, the research and writing and so I said I’m not going to seriously consider it” (becoming a candidate for president).

Key in helping him change his mind was a petition signed by nearly 100 UNM faculty members. “That was totally unexpected. But, to me, being asked by a significant number of my colleagues was not to be lightly dismissed. It touched me very much and I started to waiver,” he says.

Even then, Garcia says, he talked with his wife, thought about “family considerations” and how much he was enjoying life as a faculty member, and his resolve re-hardened. He said he told some of the key faculty “that I was very flattered, but at this time I thought it best that I remain a faculty member since that is my chosen profession and I was enjoying it very much. But they wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“Then, as I guess, the word spread and I began to get more encouragement and support from people on campus at first—including faculty, staff and students—and also, then, to receive encouragement and support from people off campus… (including) some very nice articles in the local newspapers, as well as columns, editorials and letters.”

Garcia, who was UNM’s first Hispanic dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, first Hispanic provost and now becomes UNM’s first Hispanic president, says “it’s a very good thing that people are just looking at individuals as individuals, which I like. On the other hand, the University is 113 years old and it’s a good thing that the Hispanic community is represented and I fully expect that I’ll be the first of many more to come in the future. It is a great honor to me in many ways, being a member of the Hispanic community as well as being the President of the University in my home state and in my home town.”

Garcia says his priorities for the next year will be based upon UNM’s Strategic Plan.

“I’m talking with President Gordon to see which areas need the most attention and those will be the priorities. At this time, I think we have some very well-established priorities through the strategic plan. Implementation is where many strategic plans get caught up on, so I think that will be part of the focus. That could be one of the highest priorities, to implement many of the recommendations, goals and objectives of the strategic plan,” he says.

Asked what his presidential style will be, Garcia says “I just will continue to do things as I have. I’m always open to suggestions. I’m always on the lookout for good ideas because I like to consult widely. I think all sectors of the University need to be involved with decision making. I want to maintain as much accessibility as possible.”

What advice or requests does he have for the campus community?

“I would just ask them to keep doing the good job that they’re doing,” he says. “Just keep, as they have been in the past, working hard, keeping the faith in the institution and the state and, when we have hard times, to bear with us. I know from my long-term perspective, that we’ll get through any difficult times.”

Members of the campus community, Garcia adds, need “to know that they are appreciated. And, I hope that I can show some of that appreciation, as President Gordon has, to the many good people on campus.

“I would really hope that we can maintain, and even enhance, our feeling of community with each other on campus and with the external community. I would very much like that. That will be a high priority for me.”