Former-Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Chaouki Abdallah transferred to Georgia Tech. Until the long search to fill the position is complete, an interim will have to fill the role.

On Aug. 20, President of the University of New Mexico Garnett Stokes announced over email her decision to name Richard Wood as interim provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.

“I am confident that he will capably manage Academic Affairs and will keep the academic mission moving forward,” Stokes wrote.

Wood, a professor in sociology and director of the Southwest Institute of Religion, Culture and Society, began his term last week on Sept. 1, while a UNM search committee headed by Dr. Barbara McCrady looks for a permanent EVP of Academic Affairs.

Wood said in a University wide email from the Office of the Provost on Aug. 30 that he is “confident in where we are as a university, our capacity to address the challenges and our energy to build on the opportunities in ways that move us forward.”

Wood told the Daily Lobo he will be working with all colleagues and departments as chief of academic affairs. He said he will share the responsibility of “teaching, service, community engagement, international work and personnel.”

He said there are different components to the University, but is enthusiastic to work in the clock-like structure that is UNM.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to serve our students and collaborate with faculty and staff to advance our academic mission,” Wood said.

Wood said he is not a stranger to the EVP of Academic Affairs, but said what surprised him the most about the job is “the sheer pace and volume of the work,” and finds it challenging and exciting.

Wood said he wants to advance “excellence and equity” throughout the campus in the coming years. He also said he hopes to achieve it through a two-hit combo: holding UNM staff and faculty members to professional standards and committing to forming the next generation of effective leaders from all backgrounds.

“If we can do that, we will get better at drawing on all the talent and insight available as New Mexico and the country strive to address our many challenges and opportunities — that’s a win for everybody,” Wood said, adding that the University should focus on what best serves students.

Wood said that within five years, he hopes UNM will have the “broadest and deepest profile across multiple terrains that matter for the state” ranging from architecture and law, to leading-edge technology and social sciences.

“A great research university helps students onto that track by operating right at the leading edge of knowledge,” he said.

Wood said that though he will be in the position for a year, he wants to help resolve challenges the University faces and explore the best opportunities.

While Wood said he keeps these goals in mind, he wants to keep true to the mission of the University and to those that make it up, such as professors, advisors, staff and students.

“If we do it badly, students and those departments across the university suffer as a result.”

Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.