When it comes to the exponential scale of policies, programs, and processes at The University of New Mexico, its advocacy centers and support systems can be overlooked by new or unaware students. Knowing how, when, and where to ask for help is a great first step.
Among the many resource centers scattered across UNM’s main campus is the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center. The center is astir with students and parents inquiring about support and assistance for students during difficult times. Its support takes the form of many strategic avenues of educational, financial, and preventative measures to best suit the college experience.
LoboRESPECT offers numerous services to students including a food pantry, advocacy services, support for people who have experienced sexual assault and more. The center can also be a good entry point for students in need of services or crisis support that they may not know where to find. While nearly all campus employees are mandatory reporters for cases of sexual harassment or assault, LoboRESPECT is one of four centers on campus that provides students a place to talk through their experiences with anonymity and confidentiality.
Director of LoboRESPECT, Lisa Lindquist, coins the center the “first stop” for students who are seeking problem-solving and learning support, self-advocacy skills or advocacy assistance, and campus navigation.
“We’re the ones who ask, ‘Did you think about your scholarship petition? Did you think about reaching out to your faculty about these specific options,” she explained.
The center works closely with faculty to communicate absences and help students struggling with trauma or mental health issues. By letting faculty know they sought the center's support, students may have more flexibility in their classes and open communication with professors.
For those finding it difficult to seek out office hours for support while adjusting to college, LoboRESPECT acts as a third party to facilitate dialogue between students and faculty and/or staff so students can make informed decisions.
LoboRESPECT is available for appointments, walk-ins, and phone consultations. Zoom calls are also an option. Some appointments are scheduled over email or phone.
Upon walking in, students are greeted by a front desk employee who asks for their name and Lobo I.D. number. They are then provided with the necessary support by any of the three professional staff members.
“We do a lot of listening, and then we move on to strategizing,” said Lindquist. “Maybe that means thirty minutes of discussing options!”
LoboRESPECT extends a variety of other assistive student services, such as a tuition refund appeal process for students with medical extenuating circumstances requiring withdrawal from school. It is a financially resourceful way for students who need help with tuition adjustment.
Conversations at the center are student-guided with staff assistance. While some students come in with specific needs and are quickly satisfied, others need more information about the center's services before making decisions. The center's goal is to support student success, which extends beyond school into future self-advocacy. Professors are generally helpful and willing to offer advice and recommendations for students who need help catching up on classwork.
“I don’t think we’ve ever encountered faculty who have said, ‘I’m not helping’.” Lindquist noted, “Nearly all of the time it is, ‘Here’s what I think the student could do’.”
Professors can outline a plan for a student to catch up on classwork, or offer some helpful words of encouragement.
“Some people think that the faculty say, ‘just let them fail’. That’s not actually an accurate statement for faculty that I’ve worked with.”
LoboRESPECT offers tuition refund appeals for students with extenuating medical circumstances and financial issues, as well as the Lobo Food Pantry.
“We've all been in a situation where we've had to face either paying for the cell phone bill, which may be their computer — our smartphones often are, or buying dinner. It's a pretty easy decision, usually, to pay for bills or rent,” she said.
When it comes time to pay bills at the end of the month, food costs are a huge stressor for students. Those who want a bite and don’t have quick cash can visit the food pantry — even just for a snack.
The center also provides mandatory sexual misconduct prevention education called the Grey Area: a 45-minute training for all incoming students characterizing a healthy relationship.
“We want students to be thinking about consent; how to get it and how to give it, and how to be a bystander.”
Additionally, LoboRESPECT hosts a month of awareness activities in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. They offer general and confidential advocacy services for crises as well.
LoboRESPECT is primarily student-focused, but if staff or faculty come looking for resources for sexual violence, the center can direct them to services. Anyone dealing with such violence isn’t required to divulge details of the abuse to the center beyond some simple follow-up questions if they don’t wish to.
“You don’t have to experience that violence on campus in order to seek help,” Lindquist added.
There is space for incoming students with long-term impact trauma, regardless if it took place ten years ago, she said. They have no threshold for what qualifies as a crisis.
“That’s not our role. Our role is to help strategize and move forward from that place of pain or trauma.” She said, “What brings me a lot of joy is when someone is courageous enough to come in on some of the worst times of their life.”
Students are empowered by their own problem-solving skills and courage. In doing so, they learn that they have a place to land at LoboRESPECT. Lindquist says the best part of her job is seeing them thrive no matter their circumstance.
“They got out of bed and made an effort every day that they could. To me, that’s thriving. That can be taken for granted.”
LoboRESPECT is open to the campus community from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The sooner an issue or potential issue is identified, the more options and strategies there are to utilize and move forward.
For those interested in getting in touch with an advocate, visit LoboRESPECT Services or its resource guide that provides an overview of counseling possibilities, domestic violence hotlines, shelters, and legal aid.