Julie Coonrod, dean of Graduate Studies at The University of New Mexico, has been named chair-elect of the Board for the Council of Graduate Schools, starting January 1, 2021. The Council of Graduate Schools provides three main services to its institutional members: best practices; benchmarking, and public policy and advocacy.
In addition to presenting at annual meetings and workshops, Coonrod has been active with the Council since her appointment as dean in 2013. She chaired the CGS membership committee, was elected to the Board in 2018, and subsequently chaired the CGS Investment Committee. As chair-elect, Coonrod will continue service on the executive committee, and she will hold her term as chair for the 2022 calendar year.
Besides a summer workshop in July, CGS organizes an annual December meeting of graduate deans, associate deans, and graduate professionals, and this year’s remote meeting highlighted pressing issues of graduate education, including the need for kindness during hard times, the importance of being mindful of student mental health, and a call for graduate deans to support and facilitate antiracist initiatives on their campuses.
Jesse Alemán, associate dean of Graduate Studies and special assistant for Equity and Excellence, led a breakout discussion group on dismantling structural racism following the CGS plenary address on “An Anti-Racist Approach to Graduate Education.”
“The Council took the deliberate step to discuss the current climate of graduate education,” Coonrod said, “with the express intent of launching action items for addressing and changing ingrained academic cultures about race and equity.”
Coonrod’s new post comes on the heels of her serving as the president of the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS), a regional affiliate of the Council of Graduate Schools. In March 2020, just before the seriousness of the coronavirus was realized, UNM hosted the annual WAGS conference, with Coonrod and UNM Graduate Studies planning a meeting that featured the strengths of UNM’s students, faculty, and graduate research, including:
- Welcome to Albuquerque from inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, Hakim Belamy
- Keynotes from Political Science Professor Gabriel Sanchez (“The Impact of Politics and Policy on our Graduate Student Population:) and Dean of Students Nasha Torrez (“Beyond Millennials: Today’s Graduate Students”)
- Campus architectural tour led by UNM’s graduate students
- Plenary Panel at UNM on Critical Indigenous Changes to Campus Climate (organized by Associate Dean Jesse Alemán; introduced by Provost James Holloway; moderated by Pamela Agoyo; featured Dr. Jennifer Denetdate, Dr. Leola Tsinnajinnie, Dr. Tiffany Lee; and closed by Vice President Assata Zerai.
- Reception in Museum of Art with performance by UNM’s Mariachi class
- Performances by UNM Music and by the National Institute of Flamenco
- Regional 3MT Competition
“COVID has had a particularly profound impact on graduate students. They have not been able to complete their research and scholarship the way they envisioned,” said Coonrod. “Lab hours have been limited, childcare and education responsibilities have increased, faculty mentors have additional challenges, and the isolation of it all can be demoralizing. The social, racial, and political climate of our times make graduate student success right now even more precarious. Organizations like the Council of Graduate Schools and their related annual meetings allow UNM to learn from other universities to ensure that we provide resources to our students, faculty, and staff.”