After a lengthy process, The University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents recently adopted a new official seal, which will be implemented throughout 2021. The new seal is a simple block lettered design that is centered with UNM’s new logo and the institution’s founded date encompassed by a southwestern theme.
As part of the selection process, a UNM Seal Committee was created that sought a new original design that exemplified the University’s past, present and future. Founded in 1889, UNM sits on the traditional homelands of the Sandia Pueblo. The original peoples of New Mexico – Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache Tribes – have significant connections to the land. UNM is New Mexico’s flagship institution and the only Research 1 university in the state. It is designated a Minority Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of the seal committee was to choose a design that reflects UNM’s academic mission or the history and future of New Mexico’s flagship institution while also celebrating the many cultures which coexist within the state.
The Seal Selection Process
A university seal is not a logo, but an official mark that is used on official insignia, diplomas and other official documents. University seals are often circular in form, with imagery that can be considered representative of the university. The imagery on a seal can be symbolic, scenic, abstract, architectural, or figurative. The University Seal is used in the most formal expressions of the University’s identity and must represent its traditions, culture and aspirations for the future.
The campus seal committee, led by the Division of Equity and Inclusion, worked to develop a submission process for a new seal design that encompassed these distinctive attributes. In October 2019, the seal committee solicited submissions which were due in November 2019 and sought public input after four designs moved forward as part of the process. The four selected designs, chosen by the committee via a blind review, were accompanied by a Statement of Intent by each artist describing their design and how it represents UNM. A fifth design, a commercial seal, was created in 2014 and has served as the University’s interim seal since spring 2017.
A feedback period that offered the campus community the opportunity to rank and provide commentary on the seal designs that were under consideration was the next step in the process. Students, staff, faculty, alumni and New Mexican’s from across the state ranked their preferred seal choices and gave a wide variety of commentary that supported each of the designs presented. The seals were presented to the UNM Board of Regents earlier this spring and again in May when a seal design was selected for modification.
The most popular design had a howling Lobo and the Sandia Mountains in the background, but also received criticism for being too complex. The UNM Board of Regents instead went with the recommendation of the committee's next highest-ranked design. Questions about how the seal would embroider, etch, or emboss were critical considerations in determining the most appropriate design. With that in mind, the UNM Board of Regents chose a more simplified design that would be better reflected on University diplomas and graduation apparel.
The new seal was officially adopted on October 21, 2020, by the Board of Regents, and will be implemented throughout 2021.
"Responding to concerns raised by the Kiva Club, Red Nation and other UNM stakeholders, the Division for Equity and inclusion worked with colleagues across campus to determine an appropriate mechanism for redesigning the new seal, and made recommendations for changing the seal by … replacing it with something more inclusive, aspirational, honoring diversity and defining UNM as an institution of higher education," said Division for Equity and inclusion Vice President Assata Zerai. "I am very proud of the process we executed with the UNM seal committee, which included receiving feedback from 8,089 participants representing our campus, our great state of New Mexico, and alumni throughout the U.S. The UNM Regents took the qualitative and quantitative input from constituency groups into account in making their final decision. We look forward to seeing the new seal on diplomas, hopefully by May 2021."
Implementation of New Seal
The seal has been affixed on diplomas and used as a backdrop at some of UNM’s most important events for 46 years. Several entities at UNM use the seal including the president’s office, the university’s secretary’s office and the Board of Regents use the seal on official documents. The seal is also stamped on students’ diplomas.
The implementation of the new seal includes several different phases such as printing new diploma and transcript stock paper, producing new graduation materials including ceremonial banners and the official University medallion and putting the seal on select retail items such as diploma frames and graduation regalia. There are also some physical areas in which the seal will be replaced, such as several campus entry points.
“The work to implement the new seal has already begun, but production time impacts the speed at which the seal will appear on official documents,” said UNM Marketing Director Ethan Rule. “The May 2021 graduating cohort will be the first class to see the new seal in graduation materials and on their diplomas.”
The earliest known UNM seal appears on the University catalog and resembles the Territorial Seal of New Mexico. The first appearance of a conquistador and a frontiersman, which was controversial, appears in 1909 under President Edward Dundas MacQueen. That imagery had been controversial for years but came under intense scrutiny in 2016 after Native American students, including members of the UNM Kiva Club, and The Red Nation, an off-campus Native American advocacy group, said that seal was offensive in glorifying the violent treatment of Native people. UNM has one of the highest populations of Native American students in the U.S. Since 1909, the seal has undergone seven iterations and has been redesigned each time. The design that is being replaced was ratified and approved by the Board of Regents in 1969 and trademarked in 2010. A vote by the Board of Regents is required to change it.