The UNM Alumni Association is proud to announce the award recipients of the 2022 UNM Alumni Awards. During and after their time at UNM these recipients have impacted the university, their perspective fields and communities across the world.

These award recipients exemplify the continuing growth, diversity and strength in our communities. Join us in congratulating the 2022 UNM Alumni Award Honorees.


Bradford Strand, Ph. D. (‘88)

Bernard S. Rodey Award: Recognizes those whose leadership efforts have contributed significantly to the field of education. The recipient may or may not be an alum of the University.

Bradford Strand received his bachelor’s degree in physical education and social studies from Mayville State University in 1978. Strand taught and coached high school for five years and earned his master’s degree degree from North Dakota State University in 1984. He coached college basketball for two years and then earned his doctorate from the University of New Mexico in 1988.

Strand taught one year at William Paterson University, seven years at Utah State University and has been at NDSU for the last 25 years. This year completes his 44 years as an educator. He served for 12 years as a department head at NDSU and is currently a professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

Strand has conducted more than 275 presentations, workshops and demonstrations and is the lead author of three books. Bradford has published more than 170 professional articles and abstracts on physical education, fitness education, youth sport, leadership and technology in physical education and secured more than $1,150,000 in grants and contracts for various projects.

Strand has served on 18 national boards and received a number of professional honors. He is a Fellow in the North American Society of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport and Dance; and the National Academy of Kinesiology; American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Research Consortium Fellow; and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from his undergraduate alma mater, Mayville State University.


Shaandiin Tome (‘15)

James F. Zimmerman Award: Given to an alumnus/a of The University of New Mexico who has made a significant contribution which has brought fame and honor to The University of New Mexico or to the State of New Mexico.

Shaandiin Tome is a recognized filmmaker from Albuquerque.  Her breakout, award-winning short film Mud (HashtÅ‚’ishnii) premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2018, with foreign debut showings worldwide elevating her as a writer/director. While working on her path as an evolving filmmaker, she has directed multiple narrative-shifting short documentaries.  Her work spans media and brand companies such as Alterra Mountain Company, Vox, Levi’s, Vice and media organizations PBS and National Geographic.

Her narrative projects have been selected for the Sundance Creative Producer’s Fellowship 2019, Sundance Talent Forum 2020 and Sundance/OneFifty/WarnerMedia’s Indigenous Intensive Fellowship 2020. She was subsequently selected as a finalist for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative with Spike Lee.

Currently, Tome is a part of the 2021 Adobe Women’s Fellowship. She has taught film editing and postproduction to foreign students traveling abroad. A New Mexico State Legislature joint memorial was enacted that bestowed formal recognition for her achievement in film. New Mexico Magazine featured her saying “Tome takes capable command of her set, capturing stark imagery and memorable performances.”

Her cross-cultural experiences allow her to collaborate with other trailblazers in capturing untold stories among the indigenous community, both as a director and cinematographer.  She aims to bring resonating imagery in a blend of convergence with story, illustrating her perspective as a Diné woman.

She is represented commercially through Ecstatic Static and Sanctuary Content. Film/TV through Curate.


Jane Ellen Smith,

Erna S. Fergusson Award: Recognizes exceptional accomplishments and/or commitment or distinguished service to The University of New Mexico. The recipient may or may not be an alum of the University. Formerly named the Award of Distinction.

Jane Ellen Smith received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her one and only professional job has been as a faculty member in the Psychology Department at the University of New Mexico, where she has been for more than 37 years.

Smith’s research focuses primarily eating disorders, with much of it devoted to health disparities. She has more than 120 publications, including 8 books. She was the first female to be tenured in the Psychology Department, to become the director of clinical training, and to become the chair of the Department; she went on to serve as chair for 12 years. During this period, she oversaw the hiring of many faculty, and established a record of strong support for underrepresented minority faculty. Smith was the principal investigator on a $5 million award from the National Institute of Health that created the Psychology Clinical Neuroscience Center. She was responsible for implementing the popular fully online bachelor’s degree program in Psychology, and she finalized the introduction of the Basics in Addiction Counseling (BAC) concentration; a program that offers undergraduate courses in substance use treatment and arranges internships at agencies that allow students to earn 300 hours of supervised experience.

Smith has served on numerous committees, such as Strategic Planning (7 years; chaired for 3), Tenure/Promotion, College Curriculum, and Space Allocation. She is currently a member of the Internal Advisory Boards for Advance at UNM, the Global & National Security Policy Institute, the Community Safety & Human Security Certificate and CASAA (Center on Alcohol, Substance use, And Addictions). In recognition of Smith’s commitment to teaching, she was awarded the Presidential Teaching Fellowship (2007-2009). Given her belief that teaching and research go hand-in-hand, she developed three new undergraduate laboratory courses. The newest, Body Image Lab + Practicum, entails teaching students to do research on the topic of extreme body dissatisfaction, which is a risk factor for the development of eating disorders, obesity, and depression. For the practicum component, she teaches undergraduates how to conduct a national prevention program: The Body Project. Smith brought this program to UNM in 2019. Although COVID halted the running of these groups, a new cohort of undergraduates are trained and eager to launch the program again. At the graduate level, she has been the primary mentor for 26 doctoral students.


Yixing Chen, Ph. D. (‘15)

Inspirational Young Alumnus Award: Recognizes significant contributions by an individual, whether through professional achievement or community service. Recipients demonstrate a commitment to excellence in post-academic life and an ongoing commitment to professional work, research, multicultural relations and/or volunteerism, while being recognized as an emerging leader.

Yixing Chen is an assistant professor of marketing at the Mendoza College of Business and a faculty affiliate of the Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute, Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society and Eck Institute for Global Health at the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, Chen teaches Marketing Analytics at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Chen received his doctorate in Business Administration (Marketing) from the Mays Business School at the Texas A&M University. He studies social impact of marketing, with an aim to measure and improve the effectiveness of marketing interventions for social sector organizations (e.g., health care and education). His research has appeared in premier academic journals such as the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, and Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology and his research has received several prestigious academic awards.


Nancy López, Ph. D.

Faculty Teaching Award: Recognizes outstanding teaching and service to students. The recipient is a faculty member currently employed full-time in any school or college of the University.

Nancy López, is professor of sociology. López co-founded/directs the Institute for the Study of “Race” and Social Justice and she is the founding coordinator of the New Mexico Statewide Race, Gender, Class Data Policy Consortium. López currently serves as Associate VP for DEI.

Her scholarship and teaching are guided by the insights of intersectionality – the simultaneity of tribal status/settler colonialism race/structural racism, gender/heteropatriarchy, class/capitalism, ethnicity/nativism, sexuality/heterosexism as systems of oppression/resistance across a variety of social outcomes (education, health, employment, wealth and housing) and the importance of developing contextualized solutions that advance justice. López has been recognized for her contributions to engaged scholarship through the American Sociological Association William Foote Whyte Distinguished Career Award for Sociological Practice and Public Sociology. Dr. López current research funded by the WT Grant Foundation and Hewlett Foundation includes a mixed method study in three research practice partnerships that examine the role of ethnic studies curriculum and culturally relevant pedagogy in reducing complex intersectional inequalities in high school. She has served on more than 75 graduete committees and she given more than 130 seminars on at national conferences, invited lectures and community gatherings.


Zachary Sharp, Ph.D.

Research Award: Recognizes outstanding research being conducted at the University of New Mexico. The recipient is currently conducting research full-time in any school or college of the University.

Zachary Sharp received his bachelor’s degree in geology from U.C. Berkeley and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Michigan. He was then a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institute of Washington followed by eight years at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland as a Geologist (research professor).

Sharp is a regents professor and distinguished professor and the director of the Center for Stable Isotopes (CSI). Sharp’s research includes work on dinosaurs, paleoclimate, the study of meteorites and lunar samples, and the formation history of the Earth. His book “Principles of Stable Isotope Geochemistry” is available from the UNM Digital Repository and has been downloaded over 30,000 times.

He is a fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, the Geochemical Society and most recently, the American Geophysical Union (AGU). He was also the Blaustein visiting Professor, Stanford University and a Humbolt Fellow at Goettingen University, Germany. Sharp attributes his academic success to his outstanding graduate students and wonderful colleagues at UNM.  


Christina O’Connell, Ph. D. (‘96 ‘21)

Lobo Award: Presented to a UNM alumnus/a who has given outstanding personal service to the university or whose career achievement reflects on the University.

Dr. Christina O’Connell is the executive director of Ambulatory Primary Care at University of New Mexico Hospitals. Dr. O’Connell started her nursing career in 1996 at UNMH. She has dedicated her career to addressing health care disparities and inequities by focusing on empowering communities and integrating social determinants of health into primary care. Her mission is to enhance equity and access to healthcare services for New Mexicans. In 2021, she had the opportunity to further serve her community by directing the COVID Vaccine Clinic at The Pit where over 100,000 doses were administered. 

Dr. O’Connell obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of New Mexico in 1996, her master’s in Nursing Administration degree from Walden University in 2014, and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree from the University of New Mexico in 2021. Her focus of research was understanding the relationship between compassion fatigue and resilience among primary care medical providers and staff. She is currently a member of the New Mexico Organization of Nurse Leaders, the American Organization of Nursing Leadership, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and the American Nurses Association. She is also a member of the Governing Council at Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque.


Kim Kloeppel, Ph. D. (‘80 ‘05 ‘11)

Zia Award: Honors New Mexico residents with a UNM degree who have distinguished themselves in any one or more of the following categories – philanthropic endeavors, public office, service to the University, community and volunteer activities, and/or business professional fields, or educational fields.

Kim Kloeppel is a New Mexico resident and worked at the University of New Mexico for 25 years before she retired in July 2020.  She received her doctorate in Organizational Learning and Instructional Technology (OLIT), a master’s degree in Public Administration and her bachelor’s in Sociology (all from UNM).

She was the Associate Director for Student Affairs Finance and Administration (Chief Operations Officer) and oversaw the Division’s 24 department’s finance/business/administrative/fundraising and special projects and initiatives. She was the lead in planning and securing funding for the Smith Plaza renovation in the heart of main campus. She also served as the interim dean of students for three years and implemented many programs for student and academic success, the Lobo Food Pantry and campus safety. As interim executive director of Student Health and Counseling in 2019, she provided strategic, clinical and budgetary management for an integrated, multidisciplinary team of medical and mental health professionals and staff in the delivery of comprehensive campus-based health services.  She also taught a class for eleven semesters to educate students on life skills for successful transitioning to the “real world.” 

While at UNM, Kloeppel volunteered and participated as a marshal in the May and December commencements and Freshmen Convocations. She was extremely active as a volunteer in in the Alumni Association/Alumni Relations office with the Young Alumni, Homecoming events, Dinner with 12 Lobos, Lobo Living Room and Alumni Legislative Reception. Kloeppel was the creator of the UNM Random Acts of Kindness initiative, was active in the UNM Horizons Society and the Lobo Club/Sixth Man Team participating in events, mentoring students and assisting coaches with recruitment for several years.

Outside of her UNM initiatives, Kloeppel was on the advisory council of the United Way Philanthropic Society (HPS) which encourages Hispanic leadership in Philanthropy, organized and participated in fundraising events and numerous grant awards, by supporting middle school youth in preparing them for college and career opportunities.  She also served with United Way’s Mission: graduate and assisted with several sub committees in collaboration with HPS. She volunteered with Community for Learning (CFL), collaborated with Los Ojos de la Familia, was a member of the Outcomes, Inc. Board of Directors and was a Quality New Mexico Examiner.

She has received two previous awards for her community volunteerism including the Sarah Belle Brown Community Service Award in 2017 and the UNM Gerald W. May Distinguished Service Award in 2008.


Ireena Erteza, Ph. D. (’86)

Zia Award: Honors New Mexico residents with a UNM degree who have distinguished themselves in any one or more of the following categories – philanthropic endeavors, public office, service to the University, community and volunteer activities, and/or business professional fields, or educational fields.

Ireena Erteza recently retired from her role as a distinguished member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories. Erteza received a bachelor’s in electrical engineering, summa cum laude (1986) from the University of New Mexico, a master’s (1987) and a doctorate (1993) in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.

Inspiring others, especially women and people of color, in the technical workforce has always been a passion for Erteza. She has used her strong interpersonal communication and leadership savvy to make a large impact on her community through her devotion to philanthropic and community engagement.  For 35+ years, she has encouraged the next generation of engineers at UNM, Sandia, Stanford University and in the community at large at all levels (students through professionals).  Her focus on community engagement for STEM and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) manifests through outreach: mentorship and advocacy, inspirational talks, articles on public platforms and social media, and most recently working toward shattering the glass ceiling for technical professionals by developing and highlighting the importance of techniques for assessing and addressing the impacts of DEI on technical staff and leadership pipelines. As she has first-hand felt the importance of representation, she has been devoted throughout her career to being a strong role model for women and people of color pursuing science and engineering careers.

Professionally, Erteza is well known for her game-changing contributions to national synthetic aperture radar systems including innovative research efforts in computation, signal processing techniques, and novel system architectures emphasizing simplified workflows, automated processing and extraction of information, and communication efficiency. While her technical vision and imagination were the catalyst for rethinking traditional approaches to radar processing in the national community, their power to change the status quo was greatly enhanced by Ireena’s ability to effectively share and follow through to implement these innovative ideas.  Her professional achievement, leadership (technical and executive), innovation and lifelong involvement in mentoring, and DEI efforts have been recognized by numerous national awards, including: 2017 Asian American Engineer of the Year Award, 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award from UNM School of Engineering (the school’s highest honor), 2020 SWE Advocating Women in Engineering Award (for executing technical innovation and leadership, and for steadfast advocacy to empower women and promote diversity and inclusion in engineering and STEM), 2019 Women Worth Watching Annual Leadership Award, 2018 Women of Color STEM Outstanding Achievement Award (Technology All-Star), and 2005 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers in Engineering.


Senator Martin Hickey and Senator Mark Moores

The Higher Education Distinguished Legislator Award: Recognizes a New Mexico state legislator who has made an extraordinary and exemplary contribution to higher education at UNM during the immediate past legislative session.

The UNM Alumni Association celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of outstanding alumni with awards given out throughout the year. The award recipients will be honored at a reception and awards dinner on April 20.