Garnett Stokes made history by becoming the first female president of the University of New Mexico — her historic role began Thursday, kicking off with a meet and greet in the Student Union Building.

The new president stood in the middle of the atrium, shaking hands and posing for pictures with the swarms of people that came out to see her. Every second it seemed a new group of people eagerly asked her for a photo and a quick conversation.

Red balloons and streamers covered nearly every inch of the building.



“Isn’t this wonderful?” Stokes said during the meet and greet. “What a warm welcome.”

Having been selected for the position last November, the long-anticipated day seemed to boil over into sheer excitement for those in attendance — including Stokes herself.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day since I found out I was coming here,” she said.

Stokes is replacing former president Chaouki Abdallah for the position.

Abdallah served as president in an interim role following the resignation of former president Bob Frank. Abdallah was recently confirmed as the official 22nd president of the University, despite starting off as interim president.

Abdallah will now return to his previous role as provost and executive vice president of Academic Affairs.

Stokes was selected by the UNM Board of Regents on Nov. 2, 2017. At that time, she was serving as provost for the University of Missouri. She previously served as provost for Florida State University from 2011 to 2015 and as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia.

She will have a lot on her plate going forward, with questions looming about the Lottery Scholarship, dwindling enrollment and the recent scandal facing the Athletics Department, specifically head football coach Bob Davie.

For now, Stokes’ primary goal is handling the many meetings that make up her extremely tight schedule.

“Really it’s going to be full court press, in terms of getting a chance to meet the various students, faculty, staff, alumni (and) others who really love this University,” she said.

Kyle Land is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.