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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Regents mull dry Lobo Village

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By Adria Malcolm / New Mexico Daily Lobo

The UNM administration will implement a new program to improve the freshman experience on campus. At a Sept. 5 Regents Academic/Student Affairs meeting, Associate Provost for Curriculum Greg Heileman said the Foundations of Excellence Program will allow the administration to understand what changes need to be made to improve the freshman experience.

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Plans to make Lobo Village a safer place for students might include making the off-campus community alcohol-free.

At a Sept. 5 Regents Academic/Student Affairs Committee meeting, Vice President of Student Affairs Eliseo Torres said the administration will consider prohibiting alcohol at Lobo Village in an effort to prevent alcohol-related incidents.*

But a survey sent to Lobo Village residents showed 60 percent of survey takers said they were not interested in the community becoming alcohol-free, while 15 percent of survey takers said they are uninterested in the issue regardless of the outcome.

Although alcohol is currently permitted at Lobo Village, Torres said the administration will continue to discuss prohibiting alcohol in the future.

Improving the freshman experience

At the meeting, Associate Provost of Curriculum Greg Heileman said a new task force was created to implement the Foundations of Excellence (FoE), a “comprehensive, externally guided self-study and improvement process for the first year of college.” The program, which was created by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, aims to engage students and the administration in conversation about how to improve the freshman experience on campus.

The task force will include UNM faculty members, administration, student affairs members, staff, research officers and students.

Heileman said the University chose to use the FoE program in an effort to improve freshmen retention rates. In 2010, the University retained about 74 percent of freshmen. He said the self-study portion of the program will be completed by April 2012 and that the administration will put together a written plan that will define necessary changes to improve the freshman experience on campus.

According to a study from the institute, freshmen retention rates at universities that fully implemented the FoE program increased by about 6 percent over four years. The same study showed that universities that didn’t fully implement the program continued to experience decreases in freshmen retention rates.

“At the training session, they beat it into our head that if we’re going to do this, we have to implement it to make it work,” Heileman said.

Admission and GPA requirements

In an effort to improve student success, admissions requirements at UNM will continue to change.

By fall 2013, UNM’s admissions requirements for first-time freshmen will include a 2.5 grade-point average. The GPA requirement has increased by one-tenth of a point every year since fall 2010, when the requirement for incoming freshmen was a 2.2 GPA.

Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Terry Babbitt said that along with an increase in GPA requirements, the University has added additional course requirements every year. He said that in fall 2011, admissions requirements included an additional social sciences course and that in fall 2012, requirements included an additional lab science course.

Babbitt said fall 2013 admissions requirements will raise the number of math courses required by one, for a total of four.

“It’s continued to move up a level,” he said. “What we did was with the gradual increase, we made it so that anyone can achieve it.”

But Babbitt said the admissions requirements take into consideration whether students have access to courses that will allow them to complete admissions requirements. He said the requirements can be met by most incoming freshmen but that some students, such as students on reservations, won’t have to meet the same requirements.

“If you’ve had a challenging background, you’re going to get admitted to the University regardless of what the requirements say,” he said.

*Correction: The University will make only one of Lobo Village’s 17 buildings alcohol-free beginning fall 2013.