A reception honoring current University of New Mexico President Chaouki Abdallah was held Monday afternoon — just two days before incoming President Garnett S. Stokes is set to take office.
Abdallah was named interim president in January 2017 and was officially named as the 22nd president by the Board of Regents on Feb. 13, 2018.
A large crowd filled Popejoy Hall Monday, surrounding Abdallah, saying their goodbyes and honoring the work he achieved at the University.
“I think President Abdallah has been an extraordinary leader in really difficult times, with his combination of commitment to students and making sure the University is really serving students well,” Interim Senior Vice Provost Richard L. Wood said.
President Aballah discussed his accomplishments and challenges at UNM including the budget deficit and campus safety.
Abdallah said he did not expect to handle the athletic department misconduct serving as president, but he said he handled it according to the procedures and hopes he made the right decision.
Throughout Abdallah’s time as head of the University he faced many challenges but tried to keep people moving forward.
“The most successful leaders are the ones who solve the problems,” Abdallah said at the reception.
Abdallah said that with the new president, the same issues will remain and members of the University need to work together to keep the focus on the academic mission and also face the budget challenges.
He said he hopes to see the University head in the right direction to solve its financial problems, including budget cuts to programs.
When asked to describe his accomplishments, Abdallah said the three-month job turned into 14 months and he focused on creating a momentum to keep people moving forward and prioritized the academic mission.
“There were a lot of issues that came up that I wasn’t planning on, or that I did not expect, but otherwise, it’s been a great experience, and I’m happy to be going back to my provost job,” he said.
Abdallah also spoke on scholarships and graduation rates.
He said he hopes the Lottery Scholarship will remain for students who need it and who would potentially not be able to attend the University without it. Students with the Lottery Scholarship have a graduation rate of 70 percent, and if they lose it, the graduation rate drops to 20 percent.
Felipe Mendoza, a UNM student who attended Abdallah’s reception, said creating new scholarships that consider students who do not qualify for the Lottery Scholarship should be the incoming president’s primary focus.
Associated Students of UNM President Noah Brooks expressed his confidence in the new president.
“I believe President Stokes is going to focus a lot (on) helping students that need scholarships,” he said.
Brooks said he is hopeful Stokes is going to follow through on a lot of President Abdallah’s ideas — he said Abdallah set a “very solid” groundwork for her.
There will be a meet and greet Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Student Union Building Atrium to introduce Stokes to the community on her first day in office.
Ludella Awad is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @LudellaAwad.