The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has approved a joint grant of $2 million to increase the number of students pursuing associate and bachelor’s degrees in the humanities and to support the transfer of humanities students from Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) to the University of New Mexico.

UNM will receive $1.2 million of the three-year grant and CNM will receive $800,000 in the joint effort to enrich New Mexico’s society and economy with more graduates from the humanities.

According to Mark Peceny, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UNM, the grant will deepen the existing partnership between the humanities programs at UNM and CNM.

“We’ve had previous grants that help us support transfer students in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math),” says Peceny, “and now this grant gives us an opportunity to really build similar kinds of support systems to help students move from CNM to UNM in the humanities.”

“By working together through this grant, CNM and UNM can help many more students interested in the humanities receive the support they need to complete degrees and succeed in their chosen career,” said Erica Volkers, dean of the School of Communication, Humanities & Social Sciences at CNM. “Graduates of the humanities are instilled with important lifelong attributes that enhance the quality of work environments. We’re excited about the potential of this grant to help more students complete degrees in the humanities and become highly valued professionals.”

CNM President Katharine Winograd agrees. “Students who earn degrees in the humanities enrich our community and state in so many ways,” Winograd said. “Graduates of the humanities are critical to a healthy society and often become outstanding leaders in business and industry.”

Funding from the grant will be utilized in numerous capacities, including jointly planned events and outreach activities to stimulate student interest in the humanities; a summer academy for CNM students in the humanities who are considering a transfer to UNM; providing a stipend for graduate assistants who will act as student navigators to help CNM students successfully transfer to UNM; sharing data and aligning courses between UNM and CNM; and hiring a Transfer Specialist in the UNM Arts and Sciences advisement office.

“The need has existed for some time to build more of a capacity to help transfer students from CNM and other schools,” Peceny says. “To provide the same support and opportunities (that we give to first time students) to those who are coming back to school or continuing their education.”

Irene Vasquez, Chair of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UNM and Project Investigator for the grant, says this funding provides an infusion of resources that will allow UNM to continue offering a high-quality, diverse education for undergraduates.

“The emphasis on the humanities is critical to our society,” Vasquez says, “especially if we think of workforce needs. Employers are looking for students with well-rounded skills, the ability to think critically and contribute constructively to society. Funds toward the humanities and the arts are so important.”

Where first-time freshman students have a lot of resources built in at UNM – orientation, dedicated advisors, etc. – transfer students are often seen as self-guided, independent and knowledgeable. But non-traditional students can benefit greatly from the same support afforded to freshman. With their initiative to increase partnerships between community colleges and universities, the Mellon Foundation is helping to empower students who might otherwise be lost in the system.

“Greater communication and intentional partnerships across institutions can lead to greater success,” Vasquez says, “collaboration with CNM allows us to imagine ourselves as sharing a pool of students. Connecting faculty and students will prepare people transferring to UNM by familiarizing them with admission and transfer policies and practices, navigating the campus, and understanding degree requirements and funding options.”

When transfer students have a clear path to earning their BA, it not only makes the process more pleasant and seamless, it can reduce the amount of time it takes for them to graduate. Part of this initiative includes bringing CNM students to the UNM campus to help create a sense of belonging in the UNM community. Through open houses and connections with faculty and fellow students, the goal is to ensure a holistic, supportive experience.

“The grant from the Mellon Foundation allows us to focus very intently on this group of students in the humanities,” Peceny says, “and ultimately do a better job supporting all the students who come to us from community colleges.”

Learn more about the initiative to nurture collaborations between community colleges and universities by visiting the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website.