The University held a series of public forums this week at the SUB Theater, allowing students, faculty and staff to meet interim provost candidates.
Candidates Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Chaouki Abdallah and James Linnell fielded questions about the interim provost’s relationship with the Board of Regents, improving retention and increasing communication.
Faculty Senate President Richard Wood said it was difficult to pare down the applicants to three.
“It has been a challenging process,” he said. “We thought we were going to have three months to pull this off, and we ended up having one month, so we have had to move expeditiously.”
The main role of the interim provost is to lay the groundwork from which the University hopes to proceed, Linnell said.
“It allows a stable, top-level of university to come in and be able to get to work quickly,” he said. “The University that they are going to come to has a unique character. And truly, one of the things that has been riling the University lately is a misalignment and misunderstanding of that culture.”
Improving individual departments through smart hiring practices will supplement the University’s prestige and foster a positive learning environment, Lopez said in her candidate statement.
“UNM presently has an opportunity to make critical hires to strengthen many of our departments, particularly in Arts and Sciences, by attracting high-caliber teachers and scholars,” she said. “If we can continue to appoint new faculty members while other universities freeze hiring, we will position ourselves for serious advancement.”
Student success is at the heart of the academic mission, Abdallah said, and he would focus on raising advising resources to be able to interact with students in smaller groups.
“The problems that I see is that many students come in unprepared, so the problem starts way before they get to us,” he said. “In the short term that I have, I think one of the issues could be when people get into these first ‘killer courses’ and they decide they want to drop out and you don’t have resources to advise or pay attention to such a large number of students.”
Linnell said students must be motivated to establish specific goals.
“I think it is a matter of getting students to commit to what they are studying so people can guide them towards a degree,” he said. “We all know we all succeeded eventually when we went to college because at some point when we were in that same place churning around, we had an experience that said, ‘I want to know more. I want to learn for its own sake.’”
Other universities face similar problems, Abdallah said, and have found solutions.
“These problems are not unique to UNM, but they may be exasperated here for whatever reason,” he said. “I am willing to find out what the best solution is out there and put whatever resources we can possibly put into it or try to raise resources.”
Lopez said it is crucial to align budgetary goals with the academic mission.
“The recent comprehensive budgetary input process provided a beginning point for a collaborative process of allocating University resources, and I will ensure that we take the next step,” she said.