March 13, 2020

Three days before University of New Mexico President Garnett S. Stokes and leadership made the arduous decision to further protect the Pack from a virus that was quickly moving its way into the state, a bustling campus-life of 40,000 faculty, staff and students flooded hallways and classrooms - for so many it would be at least a year before they returned in-person.

Behind the scenes, the University was gearing up for what would turn out to be a year of unprecedented and trying times.

“UNM offices and individuals have been working incredibly hard over the last few weeks to adapt policies and operations to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Stokes said in a video to the campus community. “As Lobos, we protect and support the Pack, applying creative problem-solving to our greatest challenges.”

Stokes reiterated the importance of staying calm and patient in the days, weeks and what would become months ahead. 

March 16, 2020

As campus doors closed and UNM entered a phase of limited operations, the University’s Information Technology Department moved swiftly to stand up and expand frameworks it already had in place to ensure Lobos had the technology, infrastructure, resources and support needed to work and learn remotely.

One example is the attainment of enterprise licenses to services like Zoom. UNM Chief Information Officer Duane Arruti said in February 2020, the license had about 2,000 registered UNM users; but after remote work began, that number soared to 10,000. Similarly, the virtual meetings held on the UNM license increased from about 2,600 a month, to 32,000.

One Year Later...

This expansion has ultimately helped centers and departments across campus continue to serve Lobos’ greatest needs virtually amid a global pandemic.

“Over this last year, UNM has been forced to find new ways to support students and carry on our research mission. Our creative staff and faculty have figured out many new approaches to their work, all while navigating a complex and stressful time. Many units have actually seen increased demand for services, but we are making it work. As we come back into a more in-person experience in the fall, I’m sure we will continue to build on the innovations of the last year to further improve student learning and the discovery of new ideas and knowledge,” said James Holloway, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

Virtual Services
This data is pulled from comparable semesters during the 2019, 2020, and 2021 academic years. 

Accessibility Resource Center | ARC
For nearly 10 years, remote real-time captioning at UNM has provided services to deaf or hard-of-hearing students. ARC staff said the difference in sound quality as well as the reduced access to visual cues – such as lip reading or contextual clues – in a Zoom classroom, as well as mask mandates, can really impact a student's ability to use their residual hearing. Remote real-time captioning services increased dramatically within the last year.

623.33% Increase

Captioned hours

Spring 2019:
     Two students requesting captioning services
     30 hours captioned per month

​Spring 2021:
     12 to 14 students requesting captioning services
     217 hours captioned per month

"As UNM has adjusted to a remote learning environment, ARC has needed to address unexpected challenges. One of our biggest is the high demand for captioning. We have seen a 600 percent increase in requests, and this has been a strain on our resources and our budget,” said Amanda Butrum, ARC interim director. “Fortunately, we have received support from many departments on campus, including the Provost office, who are working with ARC to help find solutions and options for providing captioning services."

Agora Crisis Center
Located on UNM’s main campus, Agora is one of the oldest crisis centers in the U.S. Agora staff began online chats at the beginning of the pandemic and saw an instant increase in individuals seeking assistance. Nearly 10 percent of the center’s calls come from a younger age group, but the center’s director Molly Brack said that number increased nearly 85 percent on its chat service

15.69% Increase

Online chats

     4,647 online chats

     5,376 online chats

“We did it because we noticed that crisis centers don't get a lot of calls from young people,” Brack said. “However, we know suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 24-years-old and younger. So, we know that young people have a lot to talk about.”

Center for Academic Program Support | CAPS
The Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS) offers writing support through the Writing & Language Center. One specific writing service is the Online Writing Lab, an asynchronous writing support in which undergraduate students submit pieces of writing to a CAPS writing tutor who then provides feedback on structure, style, format, grammar and thesis organization.

118.11% Increase

CAPS Online Writing Lab

70.88% Increase

CAPS Online Writing Lab

Fall 2019, OWL usage:
     254 students
     443 visits

Fall 2020, OWL usage:
     554 students
     757 visits

“The past year has been unlike any other for us and we haven’t always been sure what to expect or how student learning would be impacted,” said Stephanie Sanchez, CAPS associate director. “Although CAPS has had online services available for some time, the pivot to remote learning in response to COVID-19 challenged us to quickly adapt our in-person services to meet the changing needs of students and faculty. We had to become a more flexible learning center, not just for our student users, but also for our student employees who have been such wonderful resources for their peers throughout it all.”

CAPS falls under the umbrella of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). The CTL has several initiatives at UNM from embedded tutoring, drop-in centers, to its innovative “learning strategies” program.

Collegiate Recovery Center within the Department of Psychology | CRC
In 2019, the UNM Collegiate Recovery Center opened its doors for the very first time. Located in the basement of Logan Hall, Program Specialist Marni Goldberg says the goal was to create a safe space for students in recovery or seeking recovery from substance abuse and other addictions.

When the University switched to remote learning the UNM Collegiate Recovery Center adapted to offer virtual peer-led recovery support services as well as one-on-one support from staff. The number of students supported doubled and the center saw a dramatic increase in the utilization of CRC services (support meetings, check-ins with staff, etc.).

353.33% Increase

CRC service utilization

Fall 2019:
     CRC services used 15 times

Fall 2020:
     CRC services used 68 times

"Virtual recovery supportive programming has been highly utilized by our main campus students and has provided the opportunity for CRC to serve students in recovery from addiction on all branch campuses," Goldberg said. "CRC will continue to offer virtual services once we return to campus so we can continue to support students who prefer online programming."

Engineering Student Success (ESS) Center
The ESS Center offers Pre-college Outreach and Recruitment activities as well as holistic co-curricular activities to support engineering and computer science students at UNM. In response to COVID-19 and the transition to remote learning, the center adjusted all of its activities to virtual environments. The center provides School of Engineering students with the following services:

  • Tutoring
  • Scholarship and financial aid support
  • Mentoring programs
  • Career development and networking opportunities
  • Academic success workshops
  • Community services opportunities in the engineering field
  • Student organization support

Elsa Castillo, ESS Center director, said internal scholarship support nearly doubled in inquiries.

100% Increase

Scholarship applications

     199 scholarship applicants

     398 scholarship applicants

“The ESS Center team invested a tremendous amount of time and effort in making sure that we continue to provide quality services to our students during the pandemic,” Castillo said. “We were able to make the necessary adjustments to ensure a smooth transition into the new virtual environments, whether converting regular in-person meetings into zoom meetings, developing apps to facilitate ​student access, or conducting one-on-one calls to check on our incoming freshmen.”

Human Resources | Employee and Organizational Development
In spring 2020, UNM Employee and Organizational Development (EOD), a division of Human Resources, pivoted the ULead Leadership program to an online offering.

The course, a six-week leadership program for professional staff, offers three learning paths (project management, managing relationships in the workplace and diversity and inclusion in the workplace) was originally offered in-person so that employees could develop relationships with other aspiring leaders, culminating in a group project.

20% Increase

Individuals per session, ULead Leadership program

EOD increased each virtual cohort to include 30 individuals, compared to 25 in-person individuals.

“Though at first there were concerns that this professional development opportunity would not be as effective in an online setting, we quickly found that the format opened up the ability for branch campus employees and staff, who could not leave their worksite, to participate,” said John Rodriguez, EOD manager.

Maxwell Museum
The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology expanded its virtual presence following its closure in March 2020. Museum Director Carla Sinopoli said virtual exhibitions existed before the pandemic, but the museum mainly focused on in-person exhibits. She said the museum closure allowed staff the time to create new digital content.

Curator of Education Amy Grochowski said the museum expanded several of its virtual education programs, including the development of two guided virtual tours “People of the Southwest” and “Ancestors.”

478.24% Increase

In-person v. virtual tours

Virtual Tours:
     People of Southwest | 370 visitors
     Ancestors | 879 visitors

In-person Tours (pre-pandemic):
     People of Southwest | 149 in-person visitors
     Ancestors | 67 in-person visitors

Since the pandemic began, Maxwell also produced five online exhibitions.

"Within a week of being closed, the Maxwell staff began launching a range of virtual initiatives. It's been a challenging year, but I'm really proud of how the museum staff pulled together to continue to serve our community throughout this time,” Sinopoli said. “Moving into the virtual world allowed us to expand our reach beyond the Albuquerque area and we plan to continue many of these initiatives after the pandemic is behind us."

Office of Advising Strategies
The Office of Advising Strategies moved quickly to provide guidance and training for delivering secure remote services. All academic advising services have been 100 percent virtual since March 16, 2020.

Laura Valdez, Office of Advising Strategies director, said there has been a steady increase in student visits that’s continuing into Spring 2021. She said the reflection in numbers is a result of the five largest undergraduate colleges, A&S, Anderson School of Management, College of Education and Human Sciences, School of Engineering, and University College. 

29.43% Increase

Advising sessions

Fall 2019:
     11,645 completed advising sessions 

Fall 2020:
     15,072 completed advising sessions 

“Advisors have remained accessible to students and have been a conduit of critical information on services like food pantries, laptop loan programs, and mental health organizations in addition to providing regular advising,” Valdez said. “They have been our rock in this unsteady time.”

Office of Career Services
Career Services completely transformed its in-person career fairs into a virtual setting. Staff say this change was vital in meeting the needs of employers and students during the pandemic.  

February 2021 Virtual Career Fair:
     68 employers
     568 students
     568 one-on-one sessions
     102 group sessions

"I have been extremely proud of our Career Services staff to meet the needs of our students and our employers by providing virtual job and internship opportunities during the pandemic,” Jenna Crabb, Career Services director. “The transition to online services and events worked extremely well. We figured out how to conduct the fair virtually and presented workshops training our students and employers on how to be successful in virtual career fairs and events. Our students were able to meet individually with employers virtually ‘face-to-face’ to discuss internship and job opportunities. Students were also able to attend group sessions to learn about these organizations.  Our employers and students liked the ease and success of our online platform.”

Student Health and Counseling | SHAC
SHAC Medical, Counseling and Wellness transitioned all its services to a virtual platform via telemedicine and counseling in March of 2020. COVID-19 hotline, online case management and wellness coaching were all new initiatives that took place due to the pandemic. SHAC converted many in-person appointments to telehealth visits offered via Zoom or telephone. In these visits, SHAC staff perform history intakes, assessments and formulate medical management plans including a new addition of e-prescriptions.

Counseling/Case Management | 7,774 in-person visits
     Medical | 15,521 in-person visits
     Psychiatry | 1,463 in-person visits

     Counseling/Case Management | 7,149 tele-counseling visits 
     Medical | 6,579 telehealth visits 
     Psychiatry | 742 tele-counseling visits 

“Providers role modeled adaptability by making separate one’s self from pandemic riddled thoughts, managed predictions of the worst outcomes, re-framed self-talk, shifted mood, created new routines, and stilled their minds while helping others to do the same. Our providers have proven to be the most valuable advantage needed to support our campus community,” SHAC management said.

Women’s Resource Center | WRC
The WRC responsively switched to offering exclusively remote/virtual services. In partnership with students from the UNM Master’s of Counseling Program, interns continue to provide no-cost trauma-informed counseling for students at both the main campus and HSC.

60.71% Increase

Counseling hours

     1,400 counseling hours

     2,250 counseling hours

WRC ultimately doubled the number of interns who support the center as waitlists have continued to remain full.

“WRC’s counseling program demonstrates the strength of our community and the importance of trusting that our students have the solutions and ability to significantly meet the pressing issues of today,” said Jessica Holland, WRC director. “Need is incredibly high right now and most agencies are at capacity and unable to take interns while operating remotely. WRC’s program was able to house six students, the equivalent of 3.5 full-time counselors, who in turn directly supported our community.”