Professor Robert DelCampo, of Anderson School of Management, attended UNM’s Board of Regents meeting Tuesday morning to discuss The Innovation Academy, a new school program of which he is the executive director.
The Innovation Academy launched in August 2015 with the intention to foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship among students.
With over 541 students signed up across 31 different majors since its conception, the program has blown past the goal set by former President Bob Frank of 15 students enlisted per year.
DelCampo highlighted that of these students enrolled in the Innovation Academy, the majority are women, people of color and first-generation college students.
“It’s a great group that we try and struggle to reach and provide programming for that this concept...very much resonates with, and we would like to continue to make that happen,” DelCampo said.
The program has made major steps in the past few months, including making UNM one of five U.S. colleges, including Harvard and Stanford, to work with The Darwin International Institute for the Study of Compassion.
As a partner with this institute, The Innovation Academy will be working toward the goal of offering four graduate students a full-ride scholarship, allowing them to focus their research in compassion studies.
The Innovation Academy is also opening a site on Broadway Boulevard and Central Avenue in August where they will launch their new program, Lobo-labs, a 6 credit sequence offered to students across all UNM schools taught by key members of New Mexico’s creative start-up industry.
DelCampo estimates that the true benefits of the Innovation Academy will be seen in their data collection at the end of spring 2017.
Low Morale for UNM Staff
Staff Council President Danelle Callan updated the board on current staff events, leading to the issue of a lack of staff member presence at President Abdallah’s town hall meeting on Monday.
Callan said she received input from staff members in regards to their absence from the forum, citing low staff morale, among other issues.
This low morale stems from various sources, including the hiring freeze, increased workloads, additional health care costs, and the fear of future layoffs and budget cuts, she said.
Callan also said that while staff members recognize that UNM is in a difficult budget situation, staff members feel that their voices are going unheard.
Callan finished by stating that staff “really believe in supporting the mission and the goals of UNM.”
“By including staff in our conversations and increasing transparency we can continue to keep this a wonderful and great place to work for staff,” she said.
Regent Thomas Clifford said he is concerned about this change in staff outlook, and recognized the need to create more transparency between staff members and the advocacy that is taking place on their behalf.
Clifford said that at the recent UNM Day at the state legislature, there was a good set of presentations made “in terms of advocating for the staff and the work that they’re doing.”
Regent President Robert Doughty also suggested that it would be beneficial for regent members to be present at staff meetings, to which Callan agreed.
Graduation Rates Show Positive Trend
The Student Success address presented by Greg Heileman, vice provost for teaching, contained a bright view on student graduation rates.
The Office of Academic Affairs began efforts in 2014 to lower the number of required courses for all undergraduate degrees, in an attempt to make it easier for students to obtain degrees.
From 2013 to present, almost 90 percent of UNM undergraduate programs have reduced the number of credit hours required to obtain a degree, while over 70 percent of all UNM programs now require only 120 credit hours for graduation.
The anticipated outcome of these changes can be directly seen in the graduation rates of the last few years, and Heileman said there has been a 14 percent increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees with a nearly 10 percent increase in all degrees awarded to students.
When looking at the specific metrics among graduating students, there has also been an increase in graduation rates among African-American, American-Indian and Hispanic students between the 2011-2012 and 2015-2016 graduation years.
Among all genders and ethnicities, graduation rates from 2011-2012 to 2015-2016 have increased from 15 to over 20 percent.
These increases are also a result of retention efforts made by programs like the Graduation Project and Graduation Success Committee, which have been particularly effective in recent years because of one major change.
“Previously a lot of our money was spent in graduation rate efforts towards the very end of the student’s career...we shifted a lot of that investment to earlier and earlier points in the student’s career,” Heileman said.
The Graduation Success Committee, recently reconstituted from the Graduation Express Committee, has turned their focus to students in their freshman and sophomore years to keep them on track from the start.
Based on the increases in graduating students, The Office of Academic Affairs estimates that by 2020, there will be a 60 percent rate of students graduating within six years.
Regent Bradley Hosmer reiterated the positivity of these results.
“The changes in the academic enterprise are paying off in two separate ways,” Hosmer said. “You see that students are coming forward and graduating sooner. We have also been graduating a higher proportion of all students coming in.”
Hannah Eisenberg is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo.