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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
September 20, 2004
Volume 40, Number 2

College contemplates SW study
UNM strength is focus of fall 2004 semester


By Laurie Mellas Ramirez

Jesse Aleman, assistant professor of English and project organizer.A strategic planning discussion in the English Department three years ago was impetus for the College of Arts and Sciences’ “Fall 2004 Southwest Semester.”

With colleagues David Jones, David Dunaway and Elizabeth Archuleta in support, Assistant Professor of English Jesse Alemán and his assistant Michelle Baca launched a fact-finding mission and discovered UNM was poised to become a center for Southwest studies in undergraduate and graduate education.

When Alemán learned the UNM Art Museum was planning a fall 2004 exhibit, “Art, Culture, Place: Visual Traditions of the Southwest,” he decided it made sense to integrate and promote a series of courses and events.

“It’s a nice synergy. As with all things academic, the project rapidly became big,” Alemán said.
        
Some 65 courses cutting across schools and colleges campus wide were offered this semester. Festivals, colloquium and a lecture series – all devoted to the study and appreciation of the region – were also scheduled.

With the exception of Alemán’s course, “Southwest Literature and Film,” all the courses offered this semester were already on the books.

“Before the Southwest Semester we had this perception that we were big in Southwest Studies, but there is no one clearinghouse or center or degree program or even a strategic vision that encompasses all the work people are doing in Southwest studies,” Alemán said.

More than 50 students from degree programs in English, Media Arts, American Studies, Native American Studies, Chicano Studies and others are enrolled in Alemán’s new course.

“The student interest is amazing and it’s two-fold. We have students who come here from other parts of the country or world to learn about the Southwest through subject areas like literature and film and other students who are from the region and deeply invested in Southwest studies and want to develop their interest,” he said.

UNM’s generous description of the Southwest includes the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.

Texas State University at San Marcos has a Southwest Studies Program and UNM should, too, “especially when we have course offerings in fields like geology, biology, architecture and medicine,” Alemán said.

Other aspects of the Southwest Semester include the Robert Rodriquez Film Festival at the SW Film Center with three screenings – El Mariachi, Oct. 11; Desperado, Oct. 12; and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Oct. 25.

In November, the Writing the Southwest lecture series will feature readings by Rudolfo Anaya, Tony Hillerman, John Nichols and Luci Tapahonso. The regional authors donated their time. Funds raised will help establish an endowment to benefit the study of literature at UNM.

A colloquium was held in early September and the UNM Art Museum exhibit runs throughout the semester.
For more information on Southwest Semester, visit http://swsemester.unm.edu/.