Many UNM grad students have come to rely on the Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color. Now, after a significant budget cut, the student-led group supporting graduate students of color is fighting to keep its influence.
After a recommendation from the Student Fee and Review Board last semester, PNMGC funding was cut from $50,160 to $9,907 — a nearly 80 percent decrease.
From event programming to assistant salaries, funding pays for everything the group does.
The cuts came after an SFRB recommendation that PNMGC “functions more as a student organization and should be classified as such.”
The SFRB is a student committee made up of undergraduate and graduate students who determine how student fee revenue should be spent.
The committee suggested $40,000 in cuts, which was more than was suggested for any other student group.
In an effort to restore funding, several group leaders made public comments at the June 13 Board of Regents budget summit urging Regents to restore funding.
Regents and PNMGC leaders were assured by Interim President Chaouki Abdallah’s vow to use reserved funds to restore some level of funding.
As of this publication, no funding had been finalized, but a meeting between Abdallah and Dean of Graduate Studies Julie Coonrod is set for later this week, according to UNM Director of Media Relations Dianne Anderson.
PNMGC, founded in 2002, started with a mission to provide peer mentoring that would enhance academic success among socially and culturally diverse student communities.
Among nearly 100 other participants is Theresah Napetey, a PNMGC project assistant originally from Ghana, who came to UNM to pursue a master’s degree in public administration.
“PNMGC has been a home away from home,” Napetey said, adding that the organization provides unique opportunities for international graduate students.
Glenda Lewis, former president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, has also benefited from PNMGC.
“It’s given me that confidence going forward to advocate for myself,” she said.
PNMGC provides an uncommon space for students of minority communities, Lewis said. “What other spaces can we have together to allow us these resources?”
PNMGC’s peer mentoring program is the core resource the organization offers. Students are paired together based on their preferences and provide one another with academic, professional and emotional support as they navigate their graduate studies.
PNMGC’s peer mentoring organization has been highlighted in numerous scholarly articles as an effective way to assist graduate students. It’s also one of the few peer-to-peer mentoring services offered for minority graduate students.
Other opportunities include: academic workshops, leadership retreats and social mixers.
Along with opportunities for students, PNMGC has hosted the Faculty of Color Awards since 2006. The award was designed to recognize the outstanding mentoring, research, community and teaching skills of UNM faculty of color.
Last year budget cuts prevented the organization from hosting the awards.
Despite the cuts — and PNMGC’s uncertain fiscal future — the group has begun partnerships with UNM branch campuses, several graduate programs and the athletics department to enhance its reach.
For the leaders within the organization, PNMGC’s goal hasn’t changed even as money woes loom.
“(PNMGC) is a safe space, a second home where you can belong. It’s not about ethnicity or race or socioeconomic-status,” said Edith Sanchez-Saenz, lead project assistant for PNMGC. “It’s about having empathy and love for eachother.”
Brendon Gray is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.