by Ardee Napolitano
UNM President Robert Frank, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from UNM, is the first University alumnus to serve as president.
UNM welcomed Robert Frank at his inauguration ceremony on Sunday as the 21st president of UNM. Robert Frank took the position in June after he was selected over five other finalists from across the country in a yearlong search.
Robert Frank, who was provost at Kent State University before he became UNM president, said he was thrilled to finally return to his home state to serve as president of the University.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity to come home to the Land of Enchantment, to my alma mater,” he said. “We all carry a Lobo paw print in our hearts.”
Robert Frank’s wife, Janet Frank, said Robert Frank’s inauguration is surreal and that he has been working all his life to reach the position. She said his presidency is well-deserved.
“When we were first together, I asked him what his goals were. He said that he really wanted to be a president someday because, of course, UNM is his first love,” she said.
Janet Frank said her husband is strongly committed to improving UNM. She said she is optimistic that Robert Frank’s presidency will only bear positive results.
“He believes in this place very, very strongly,” she said. “I’ve always been told that he’s left wherever he’s been in a much better state than when he got there.”
Robert Frank said the University should focus on increasing graduation raates because higher education plays a large role in improving the economic state of the country.
He said UNM needs to focus more on public health to match out-of-state universities’ statuses in terms of offering public health education. He said that although the University is underfunded, it still provides many students in the state with an education.
“UNM produces nearly 50 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in our state,” he said. “We managed to do this even though our tuition rates are $10,000 less than our competitors in Arizona and Colorado.”
Frank said UNM needs to work on increasing its international-student population to create a more globalized community, which he said is useful in many fields today.
“To sell, our students must understand the global market,” he said. “We must be able to imagine opportunities around our planet.”
Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) President Marisa Silva said Robert Frank has considered the student voice in his decisions since he took office in June.
“He’s already at a good start in his listening campaign,” she said. “He has attended both of our ASUNM Senate and GPSA Council to hear directly from students what our concerns are for the future.”
Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM) President Caroline Muraida said she expects that Robert Frank will continue to be more accessible and listen to students more closely.
“I hope he continues to be a good listener, and I hope he continues this path to participatory progress,” she said.
After the inauguration, UNM’s Alumni Association debuted the new, 12-foot U-shaped statue in front of Hodgin Hall and lit it up at a post-inauguration reception.
Alumni Association President Duffy Swan said the statue symbolizes the unity of not only UNM students, but also unity of the University and even Albuquerque as a whole.
“The U is about you,” he said. “Whether you’re from here or not, this University brings value to this community, and we want everyone to be part of it.”
Swan said that because Robert Frank is a UNM alumnus, he will understand the Alumni Association’s goals more clearly and will work more closely with them. Swan said Robert Frank is working with the association to establish Lobo Living Rooms, a program that will recognize outstanding students and faculty members every month.
“The biggest plus that we see for us is that he’s an alum,” he said. “He is one of us. I would guess then that he will have a natural affinity to alumni activities, and we to him.”
Robert Frank said he aims to inspire students all across the state.
“If a boy from Las Cruces can go on to become a president, then surely a girl from Española can be a rocket scientist and walk on Mars,” he said.