Undergraduate programs critical
By Louis Caldera
In the months since beginning my work as president, I have spoken often of the need for a strong program of undergraduate education at the University of New Mexico. It is a personal passion, and there are powerful institutional reasons as well, for why thriving undergraduate programs are critical to the health of a major research university like UNM.
First and foremost, UNM is defined by its undergraduate population: more than 23,000, including those on our branch campuses, amounting to some 75 percent of our total enrollment. Undergraduate programs, along with their extracurricular corollaries like varsity athletics, music and arts performances, residence life activities, clubs, newspapers, and so forth, are the dominant images of the university for most New Mexicans. It is our performance in undergraduate education the legislature most closely watches. And it is the undergraduate program that leads many students to graduate and professional study at UNM. Our success in graduate education and research is inextricably linked to our success in undergraduate education!
For all those reasons, it is important for us to sustain excellence in our undergraduate programs and to attract the best of New Mexico’s high school graduates. Many parts of the university play a role in achieving that goal. Great academic programs will always be at the heart of the effort. What else?
Student recruitment starts with outreach: making UNM’s presence felt in high schools, and mobilizing our alumni across the state. Prestigious scholarships and financial aid packages will create compelling options for worthy students as they start to seriously consider their college options.
Once students arrive on campus, the satisfaction they experience will depend not only on their studies but on every other interaction they have with us. How we advise them, how we serve them in our offices and departments, how we maintain the physical facilities they use every day, how we model healthy interactions between people of different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds in our every day work, all influence their sense of the worth of their UNM experience.
Reams of educational research also reinforce what each of us instinctively knows – that everyone whose work touches a student in some way has an impact on her or his experience. Each of us has a vital role to play.
So on this President’s Day, in Abraham Lincoln’s famous words, “let us dedicate ourselves to the great task remaining before us.” Let us show people that UNM really is a great place to live, work and study. If we do that, I am confident that more great people – students, faculty and staff – will want to join us.