On Thursday, Feb. 24, University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes delivered her annual State of the University address. Like last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was at the forefront of topics covered within the address.

“Over the last two years, we've found many new ways of doing things in the interest of keeping our community safe — different ways of communicating, learning, collaborating and even different ways of celebrating,” Stokes said. 

Despite the ongoing pandemic, she said the University has made strides to return to a somewhat normal college experience, citing both the recent in-person fall commencement ceremony and having students be able to come back fully to campus. She credited the ability to do this to the Vax the Pack initiative and the continued requirement of masks on campus. 

“What has been made clear to us over the last two years, however, is that online services are certainly appreciated, but when given the choice, our students clearly also want face-to-face,” Stokes said.

Stokes did not speak on UNM's current vaccination rates. The University mandated a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for the current semester, but only about half of enrolled students have a confirmed booster status. 

On enrollment, Stokes said while overall university enrollment decreased by 2%, the enrollment of incoming freshmen increased by 10% in fall 2021. 

In terms of development, UNM has partnered with the city of Albuquerque on several projects: Innovate ABQ, which is a plan to create an innovation district in downtown Albuquerque to promote economic development and job opportunities, and turning south campus into a tax increment development district, which would put gross receipts tax collected from the area back into the development of the area. 

“A public collaboration between UNM and the city of Albuquerque to enhance community services, create new jobs and stimulate economic activity, the TIDD will revitalize an underutilized, unsightly portion of the city but more importantly, we expect it to spur the creation of more than 4,000 new jobs with over 3 billion in wages,” Stokes said. 

Stokes talked about various construction projects around the campus, including the new addition to the UNM Hospital, which includes a parking garage, utility plant and a 96-bed hospital tower.

Among numerous accomplishments coming out of the University, Stokes noted that the cancer treatment and research facility was one of 51 centers in the nation to be awarded the comprehensive cancer center designation from the National Cancer Center Institute. Stokes also recognized that UNM senior Emma Hotz was awarded the Truman scholarship. 

Stokes spoke about the accomplishments of the branch campuses, including UNM-Taos receiving $500,000 from the New Mexico agriculture department to continue the work they are doing for local food and small-scale farming. 

“These campuses not only enrich us with their history and vibrancy but they embody our commitment to educational excellence in a more prosperous state,” Stokes said. 

On the sustainability front, the Physics & Astronomy and Interdisciplinary Science building and Clark Hall were awarded the “LEED gold-level green building standard” for high efficiency, environmentally friendly buildings. This brings UNM to a total of 18 gold-level buildings on campus. Stokes did not comment, though, on past calls from students involved with the UNM Leaders for Environmental Action and Foresight asking the University to divest from fossil fuels. 

Stokes talked about beginning bargaining on the University’s first contract with the United Academic union but did not mention the other unions on campus, including the United Graduate Workers union or the custodial union. 

Stokes also spoke on key positions that were filled this year, including UNM-Taos' chancellor Mary Gutierrez, vice president for research Ellen Fisher, dean of the honors college Eric Lau and others. 

“I'm incredibly grateful to have such a remarkable team of leaders whose energy, expertise and enthusiasm spark innovation, strengthen our university and enrich our entire community. Over the last year, we filled a number of critical positions with some outstanding new Lobo leaders,” Stokes said.

Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite