The University of New Mexico Board of Regents Academic/Student Affairs & Research Committee unanimously voted to add three new degree programs to the UNM curriculum.
The new additions include a doctorate in geography, and an master’s and doctorate in Chicana and Chicano studies. The latter two degrees only recently passed through the faculty senate with a notable amount of support.
Irene Vasquez, the department chair for UNM Chicana and Chicano studies, spoke to the regents regarding the degrees. She noted that both the state of New Mexico and UNM are 48 percent of Hispanic/Latino descent and said, “There’s clearly a demographic need for these programs.”
Vasquez also discussed the fact that there are no Chicana and Chicano graduate degrees offered in the state of New Mexico, and that UNM is currently “behind very high research institutions.” Vasquez also explained that local colleges, such as Highlands University, are willing to suggest that students wanting to pursue graduate studies in Chicana and Chicano studies do so at UNM.
In addition to overwhelming community support, the degree options are being met with enthusiasm from faculty as well. Vasquez said that currently 41 faculty members are affiliated with the proposed programs.
“The faculty are committed to the idea. We are talking to faculty who are already doing this, who have been trained for this and are looking forward to this,” she said.
Included in these new degrees would also be a master’s degree certificate, which will be available online, an options that is “first in the nation” Vasquez said.
Maria Lane, the department chair for Geography & Environmental Studies at UNM, spoke regarding the new doctorate option in geography.
“The degree is rather unique, as it features a joint curriculum that takes place between UNM and New Mexico State University,” Lane said. Lane made sure to mention that “students would not have to reside in both cities in order to do this program.”
Discussions between the two participating universities have been taking place since 2014, and the NMSU BOR has also approved the degree option. Lane jokingly said they are now “waiting impatiently on us.”
Lane also spoke regarding the interest of participating faculty, saying, "There is substantial logistical complexity in a joint undertaking, but faculty are committed.”
She also said that the dean of Arts and Sciences has agreed to add one faculty member to the department for the purpose of this new degree — bringing their total to 14.
Pending the approval of the full Board of Regents and the Higher Education Department, the Chicana and Chicano graduate degrees are planned to begin in Fall 2019, while the geography doctoral degree will begin in 2020.
The vote on another degree offering, a Master of Science degree in global and national security, was postponed as discussion between participating parties continues.
The Academic/Student Affairs & Research Committee also approved a posthumous degree for Alexander Blue. Blue passed away in September 2017, but Lisa Lindquist, director of LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, said, “He was well loved by his peers, faculty and staff of the program.” Members of the board unanimously passed the vote.
Finally, Pamela Pyle, the UNM Faculty Senate president, announced the numbers of those graduating in Spring 2018. She said the numbers were still incoming and prone to change, but at the time the meeting took place, there were 363 doctoral degrees, 556 master’s degrees, 2,793 bachelor’s degrees and 319 associates degrees. All of which add up to 4,032 graduates in the Spring 2018 class.
Austin Tyra is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AustinATyra.