UNM President Stokes: My First 100 Days…

UNM President Garnett S. Stokes
UNM News:
Saturday, June 9, marked my 100th day as president of The University of New Mexico, a milestone worthy of reflection. If these few months have taught me anything, it’s that I am honored to be part of the UNM community. And that is largely thanks to all of you.
Making Connections
Outreach and public input will remain a hallmark of my administration. Since my first day, one of my most important goals has been to connect with the people whom we serve. Over my first 100 days I have had numerous opportunities to meet and interact with people who have a personal stake in the success of UNM.
I have actively sought opportunities to engage with our students at a variety of events across the campus. My husband, Jeff, and I were delighted by the huge turnout of students we invited to University House for a root beer float.
I continue to receive critical information about the campus by attending faculty and staff events and via listening sessions on both main and north campuses. These listening sessions have provided me with vital, diverse input. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Health Sciences Center staff, faculty, and students at both the doughnut day and the listening session. And my frequent morning walks have often given me a chance to meet members of our community around the North Golf Course and on main campus.
After spring commencement, I hit the road for a listening and learning tour, and to date, have visited each of our branch campuses and their surrounding communities. I have already gained an appreciation for how deeply people in the state care about their flagship university, and the opportunities that exist to advance The University for New Mexico. My travels will continue throughout the summer, and in early Fall I will charge working groups to study and develop solutions to issues I am learning about on these trips.
My key take-away from my interactions to date is that UNM needs to enhance our communication and transparency so that everyone understands the administration’s outcomes and ultimate decisions, as well as how those decisions were made and with what goal in mind.
I am committed to transparency and accountability, as well as improved communication and dialogue for all. To be The University for New Mexico, the people of this state need to know what we stand for, what we do, and how we do it.
Initial Critical Priorities
My first month at UNM introduced me to the budget process and I was greatly impressed by the level of detail, thought, and inclusivity that led to the adoption of a responsible and realistic budget that supports the UNM mission and those we serve. The resulting modest tuition increase proposed by the Budget Advisory Committee and accepted by the Board of Regents will provide critical funding for faculty retention as well as some raises for faculty and staff. Compensation and retention will continue to be areas of focus for me in the coming years.
I have identified some additional existing critical areas that will be priorities during my tenure at UNM:
  • Veteran-friendly Campus: We will be offering specialized training to faculty and staff this summer to better serve the behavioral health needs of our student Veterans. In the fall, we will offer Green Zone training for faculty and staff to better understand the experience of Veterans, service members, and their families. I am also funding a new position focused on Veteran advisement.
  • Campus Safety: During the budget process, we included significant resources to address campus safety issues. I also provided funding to support Campus Safety Week this coming fall. In addition, I will be supporting the UNM Police Department by purchasing new bicycles for campus officers as well as a mobile camera system to help expand surveillance coverage and make the best use of our valuable personnel.
  • Research: As a premiere research institution, supporting the research enterprise will be a substantial focus during my presidency. It is critical that we continue breaking down the barriers that discourage interdisciplinary research because society’s biggest problems, humanity’s most challenging health issues, and our planet’s most difficult environmental threats are best solved at the intersections of multiple disciplines. I will be working with campus leaders to explore ways to further highlight UNM research and its impact both locally and beyond our borders.
Additional priorities will be identified in the coming months as we start to develop our strategic plan for the University.
Organizing for Success
Changes in leadership bring both benefits and challenges. Several key positions within my senior administration will need to be filled in the coming months. Although it is always difficult to lose institutional knowledge and talent, it also allows for growth and reexamination of our administrative structures as we seek new leadership in those areas.
I have already been involved with the selection of the new UNMH CEO, and I recently launched a search for our Chief Legal Counsel. I will soon decide the structure of the Office for Finance and Administration and will launch the search process for its leadership in early-September. I will continue to assess our executive administration team to assure that we are functioning effectively and efficiently for the needs of UNM in the coming years.  
Re-thinking UNM Athletics
I believe that public flagship universities must have a national presence in athletics. Lobo Athletics is an important part of our culture and the student experience. I arrived as our Athletics Department was in the midst of several reviews related to operations, finances, and accountability.
This is a defining time in UNM Athletics, as we seek to right-size the department, while supporting our student-athletes and their coaches. This summer will be a difficult one for the Lobo community, as Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez has been charged with developing a plan that will inevitably involve the reduction and/or elimination of some varsity sports. Decisions will be informed by a comprehensive evaluation of our programs, which is currently underway. Our student-athletes are outstanding scholars and community leaders, and we must have a sound program that supports them at the level they deserve when competing in Division I.
The University for New Mexico
Public research universities were created to serve public interests, and my goal as president is to build on the foundation of UNM’s current successes, while also seeking innovative ways to educate our students and expand our research in a globally competitive and culturally diverse environment.
It was a very special moment for me to share the day I was officially installed as president of UNM with the graduating class of 2018. My message to them was that there is no end to how we can imagine ourselves, individually or as a university, if we act with intention to realize a positive and far-reaching impact. When we are aligned in purpose, and that purpose drives our actions, we can innovate, solve problems, and create opportunities.
Following the completion of this summer’s listening and learning tour, when all our students and faculty have fully returned to campus, we will assess our strategic direction and will work together to make decisions with impact for UNM.
I am excited about the future of UNM and honored to serve as your president.
Garnett S. Stokes
Feel free to reach out to me at presidentstokes@unm.edu.
Follow me on twitter @PresidentStokes