In the late 1990s University College was composed of several interdisciplinary programs that reported to Associate Provost Holder. The Office of Undergraduate Studies was supervised by Associate Provost Jan Roebuck who also served as Dean of Undergraduate Studies. University College, as it is now configured under a fulltime dean, combines the Office of Undergraduate Studies (about 7,600 mainly first and second-year students) with the Interdisciplinary Programs formerly under Associate Provost Holder-University Honors, Native American Studies, Chicano Studies, Aging Studies, all the Freshman Learning Communities, and the Masters in Water Resources, and the undergraduate interdisciplinary degree program called the Bachelor of University Studies degree. An important aspect of this reorganization was the inclusion of the Dean of University College on the Deans' Council, one of the most important academic organizations on campus.
University College has changed its reputation from one of the weakest colleges at UNM to one marked by innovation and progress. It has earned the respect of both the faculty and the general public through the development of a freshman year experience, and it shows great promise as the home of other evolving interdisciplinary efforts and a strengthened Honors Program. Through inclusion on the Deans' Council, University College can protect the rights of previously disenfranchised lower-level undergraduates, can look out for the academic welfare of the most vulnerable students, can ask the other deans for contributions toward the strengthening of general education within the university, and can reach out to the public schools to enable smoother transitions for beginning students. In University College nearly 8000 students now have a voice in the administration of the university and can make a contribution to the community through a well-planned experiential and service learning program.
University College took the lead on the task force called the "Core Retention Committee" which drew about 60 people from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs together in a joint effort to analyze and correct the problem of attrition in the Freshman year of studies. Two important realizations came from this year-long committee work; students left UNM because they were failing a handful of Core Courses, particularly math and science courses but also general humanities and social science course, and second both Academic and Student Affairs must work more closely to teach and support students. Both retention and freshman enrollment have improved as has retention for all scholastic years through the senior year. The new and exciting Freshman Academic Choices significantly changed campus climate and public perceptions, and these efforts were led by University College. For the first time in many years, UNM displayed creativity and unity in the development of student-oriented programs, and these programs worked and produced tangible results, thus inspiring others on campus to look at innovation, team teaching, core course clusters, better use of technology, different reporting and compensating structures, and so forth. Change happened, and the result though sometimes painful was very positive.
With the hiring of Reed Dasenbrock as Dean of Arts and Sciences came further emphasis upon undergraduate education and more cooperative work with chairs, Associate Deans and faculty in Arts and Sciences to seek improvements in the un-funded Core Curriculum and those gateway courses which were identified as obstacles to student success. Now the deans of University College and Arts and Sciences are working on the development of a suite of integrated programs which will have a significant effect upon the nature of undergraduate education at UNM. University College will strengthen the Honors Program through cooperative efforts with the best research and teaching faculty in Arts and Sciences and across campus; will institute this January an experiential/service learning program in conjunction with APS and non-profit organizations in the community; will expand Freshman Learning Communities to more quickly enroll a large percentage of the Freshman class; and will compete for the Kaufman Foundation grant for entrepreneurial studies for lower-division students. Arts and Sciences is planning PROFOUND (a program of research opportunities for undergraduates); Pre-Professional Advisement; a National Science Foundation grant to extend the FLCs into the Science Curriculum; and a combined B.A.-M.D. program.
The long-term vision for University College is characterized by growth in interdisciplinary studies, expansion of the freshman Year Experience, strengthening of Honors, the foundation of Interdisciplinary research centers (like the new Rural Water Resources Center), and the eventual construction of a building to house these programs and the Freshman Experience Programs. University College must play a major role in articulating the needs of the lower-division students at UNM who were forgotten in our quest to become a research university. University College must be creative and flexible and must lead the effort raise the quality of incoming classes and the quality of instruction, of course in collaboration with the deans of other colleges. Finally, University College is the impact point for UNM's relationship with the urban community surrounding this campus. University College is the public face of UNM and must therefore work with the schools, the state, and the city of Albuquerque, among other institutions.