After serving as the acting dean of Graduate Studies in Fall 2021 and working as the associate dean since Fall 2019, Jesse Alemán has been named the interim dean of Graduate Studies through July 2023.

Provost James Holloway announced the appointment recently and described Alemán “as an accomplished professor of English and deep thinker in the realm of graduate student learning.” 

Holloway added, “I have been privileged to learn from him over the years.” Alemán has been at UNM since 1999 and is a nationally recognized scholar of 19th-century American and Latinx literary and cultural histories. He is also a Presidential Teaching Fellow, the highest teaching recognition the university bestows. 

Most of Alemán’s tenure as the associate dean occurred during the pandemic.

“I started my position in Graduate Studies in Fall 2019, and by March 2020, I was learning the job remotely in pajama bottoms,” Alemán said. He adapted Graduate Studies’ outreach initiatives to support remote graduate student recruitment, and he contracted a general recruitment video that departments could use to share UNM’s sense of place with prospective students without travel to campus.

He also launched three initiatives to bolster graduate student support.

In response to racial violence across the nation, he started the Critical Race Scholars Award in 2020, which was renamed the Glenda Lewis Critical Race Scholars Award in 2021 in memory of the graduate student leader. The scholarship supports cohorts of graduate students whose research focuses on critical race studies.

He also initiated the Summer Dissertation Award, a $5,000 scholarship awarded to 19 graduate students to facilitate dissertation writing over the summer. The award will be renewed for its third summer.

Finally, he started the Faculty Mentoring Program, now in its second year. The program pairs underrepresented minority graduate students with faculty members who agree to mentor students outside of their home department. The program involves 24 students and six faculty members. 

“Higher education research indicates that the pandemic disproportionately pressured graduate students, especially underrepresented ones, in ways beyond academic performance,” Alemán said. “Mental health, housing stability, financial security, family obligations, and questions of confidence beset our students. So, we put programs into motion to support graduate students holistically: financially, of course, but also academically, socially, and through networks of mentoring and cohort-building that are all foundational to graduate student success.”

Julie Coonrod, the current interim dean of the Anderson School of Management who previously served as the dean of Graduate Studies for 10 years, said “Dr. Alemán has mentored many Ph.D. and M.A. students and is dedicated to their success. We enjoyed working together to bolster student mentoring across campus. His commitment to graduate education and UNM makes him well-suited for the interim dean of Graduate Studies.”

In his new role, Alemán will lead Graduate Studies through a major transition. Beginning January 2023, a collective bargaining agreement between UNM and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, the union representing assistantship holders, will govern assistantship employment. Labor-related issues tied to assistantships, including contracts, compensation, tuition, and benefits, among other things, will now be under the purview of the Office for Academic Personnel. Graduate Studies will no longer oversee employment-related assistantship matters.

“For longer than the 25 years I’ve been at UNM, Graduate Studies handled assistantships on top of its role as the central academic administrative unit of graduate education. Assistantship contracts and the new CBA that governs them now fall under the purview of the Office for Academic Personnel, leaving Graduate Studies to focus on academic progress, curricular programming, and development, and improving the quality of graduate education for all our graduate students,” Alemán said.

Graduate Studies will maintain its administrative authority over the academic requirements and eligibility of all assistantships, while OAP will administer assistantship contracts, their related labor issues, and relevant interpretations of the collective bargaining agreement.

The transition will be new for everyone but understanding and patience are key, Alemán notes. “We’ve already made critical preparations to migrant contracts to OAP, and we’re in the process of bolstering Graduate Studies’ academic support services to provide graduate students with holistic resources toward success. Our experienced and expert staff will help Graduate Studies find its institutional equilibrium quickly but will need patience and understanding from students, faculty, and staff as we navigate this new order of operations,” Alemán remarked.

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