College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Peceny took the helm of the university’s largest college just one year ago. A 20-year veteran in political science, Peceny said, “Our charge is to make the University of New Mexico a national leader by developing a flagship university educational model for the emerging American majority,” he said.
“We give more people the chance to succeed than other flagship universities. Our student body is ethnically diverse. They come to us with different levels of preparation for higher education. They come without the advantages most students have who attend a flagship institution,” Peceny said. “We give them a chance to graduate from a distinguished university.”
Peceny said that as the United States population further diversifies, UNM can be a national model for how higher education deals with societal inequities which result in different levels of preparation that students get.
UNM has, he said, a top notch faculty engaged in cutting edge research. “Our students have the opportunity to engage in research as undergraduates while also starting to see themselves as future graduate students,” he said.
“UNM has to figure out simultaneously how to teach Math 120 more effectively while also looking toward preparing students to participate in opportunities like the Biomedical Research Symposium,” he said. “If we figure that out, we will be a model for our students and the nation.”
Peceny points to the “Killer Class List” posted on his recycle bin. Math 120 is always on that list. “Eight out of the 10 killer classes are math. Math 120 is the gateway course to the core curriculum. Students take it over and over again without success. We have to get them through that and into the core curriculum,” he said.
Peceny looks to the new MaLL, or Math Learning Lab, to help students get the help they need to be successful math students. The dean and math faculty redesigned content delivery that replaces lectures with time in a learning lab where students use self-paced, computer-based resources to learn and be assessed. The project is an experiment that will attempt to improve the low pass rates for Math 120. The MaLL will be staffed with teachers, graduate students and select undergraduates who will assist students individually as they move through the material. The MaLL begins on a small scale this fall and will expand to cover all sections of Math 120 in the spring.
“Math 120 is only one small part of the tremendous service role that the Department of Math and Stats plays for students across the university, and over the next few years we hope to build faculty strength in pure math, applied math and statistics as well as specialists in teaching pre-calculus math,” he said.
The College of Arts and Sciences has “their hands in everything,” Peceny said, because it is the largest college with 20 departments, 10 interdisciplinary programs, 10 research centers and institutes and other entities that report through individual departments.
“We serve almost half of all undergraduate students and just under half of all graduate students on main campus,” he said. To address the needs of all those students, Arts and Sciences needs faculty. Lots of faculty.
“I inherited a hiring plan for eight faculty, plus perhaps a few more from the common pool from the provost’s office,” he said. Starting from scratch he worked with departments to develop hiring plans that moved the number of hires from eight to 33 to be funded internally. Eight more were to come from the provost. Part of the funding came from online courses through Extended University.
In a memo to Provost Chaouki Abdallah, Peceny explained that faculty and administrators have had concerns about online course delivery and the funding model for use of that revenue. “If faculty realize that E.U. is not a replacement for tenure track faculty, but a central engine of growth in the ranks of the tenure track faculty, they are more likely to accept it as an important part of our teaching mission. If central administrators realize we are investing our E.U. revenue in tenure track positions, they are less likely to challenge the financial model that makes this investment possible.”
The Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures is getting some help in addressing critical languages – those languages deemed critical by the federal government because of current international affairs. “We added tenure track faculty in Arabic and Chinese. We added lecturers in Chinese and Japanese, too,” Peceny said. He noted that the hires build the language programs and also provide instruction in culture and history of those regions. “Students need to understand the world. It is our role as a flagship university to see that they have that opportunity.”
Peceny said that in two years A&S has doubled the number of African Americans in tenure track positions in the college. They also increased the number of Hispanic and female faculty.
All together, A&S is adding 59 tenure track faculty and 12 new lecturers. An additional 12 lecturers were reassigned from other designations, particularly the professional staff in speech and hearing sciences, Peceny said, adding that every department gained either a tenure track faculty or lecturer.