UNM President Robert Frank meeting with the Student Publications Board
UNM President Robert Frank meeting with the Student Publications Board

UNM President Robert Frank marked 120 days in office on Monday, Oct. 15. After spending the last four months listening to ideas about ways the university should chart a course into the future, Frank sees some important themes emerging. One key point is advancing student success, which he believes means moving as quickly as possible to complete efforts to construct an Honors College.

Frank wants parents of top students in New Mexico to ask themselves, "Why should I send my child away when I could send him or her to UNM?"   He says if he could change one thing about UNM instantly, it would be to have an Honors College, complete with dorms in place today. He adds the he hears over and over again that UNM is unique. He feels that is the story which needs to be told more widely and consistently.

Frank is also being encouraged to move toward creation of a School for Public Health. And he is considering ways to more closely align UNM and the Health Sciences Center. He says he is also getting a strong message from the community, from business and from the national laboratories that UNM should be more actively engaged with economic development in the metro area and the state.  A report from the UNM Economic Development Summit should bring together suggestions from the various partners and give UNM guidance on how to proceed, he says.

To heighten the University's academic success, Frank has asked faculty and deans to work together to establish data points for degree programs.

"We want to be really clear about our points of excellence and we want to have hard data to back that up," he says. "I've asked the faculty to prepare information about the number of students they graduate, the amount of research money they bring in to the university, and the number of times their professional research papers are cited by other researchers in their individual fields."

Frank is asking the deans to make initial determinations about what their strong programs are and whether some should be changed or phased out. He wants those decisions made at the departmental, school and college levels, but is aware of the difficulties this course of action could bring.

"If the deans are not strong, and the pressure to support academically weaker programs is too great, the process will implode," he says. "This is a difficult course, but is necessary if UNM is to move on to the next level as an academic research institution."

The next year may be critical to UNM's long term future, Frank believes. He sees no limit to the progress UNM can make if faculty and university administrators are willing to hold themselves accountable.

As for his initial 120-day listening period Frank says, "It is just a punctuation mark in a sentence." He says most of the conversation so far has been with the community outside of UNM.  How he wants to focus on campus, by hearing specifically from faculty, staff and students. He also wants to encourage them to take part in planning the university's the long term future by going online at the UNM 2020 website.

"Let's keep the conversation going," Frank said.