President David Schmidly recently signed the Administrative Support Alliance charter, establishing ASA-UNM as a professional organization within the university. The charter states that ASA-UNM was established as a network of administrative support professionals committed to the advancement of UNM's mission through service to leadership, promotion of best practices among peers and fostering collaboration between university offices and units.

ASA-UNM was created for "camaraderie, mentoring, information sharing and to break down the silos," said Patrice Martin, executive assistant to the executive vice president for Health Sciences.

Martin and Eileen Sanchez, executive assistant to the vice president for Human Resources, said members of ASA-UNM help each other and UNM leadership in many ways, including helping to save the university money. Examples include engaging in professional development aimed at using technology to cut costs and preventing waste of surplus supplies.

Sheryl Cohn, administrative support supervisor at the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and ASA-School of Medicine member, helped develop the ASA-UNM charter. "It has given me an opportunity to learn, strengthen collaborative partnerships and to network in order to share ideas that can benefit all departments," she said.

The organization began at the Health Sciences Center three years ago. "It seemed logical to tap into that collective expertise, years and years of experience," Martin said. The organization implemented a listserv that has approximately 300 administrative support personnel subscribed. "It is currently the primary mechanism we use to share information. We are exploring social networks as a communication tool as well," Martin said.

The original group, consisting of direct support staff of HSC leadership, became the ASA-HSC chapter. A main campus group, now called the ASA-Main chapter and comprised of administrative support staff of executive cabinet members, formed a year ago. The two chapters worked together to develop ASA-UNM as an umbrella organization, formalized in August.

The bylaws provide for the creation of affiliate chapters. The first affiliate is ASA-School of Medicine. Each chapter and affiliate chapter has representatives serving on the ASA-UNM steering committee. "We'd like to eventually filter ASA-UNM through the whole university, including the branch campuses. I feel so much more connected, even just across the street to north campus," Sanchez said.

MaryLou Seyl, administrative assistant to the associate vice president for knowledge management and IT at the Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center, serves as ASA-HSC archivist. "With the inclusion of main campus and affiliates, I have seen folks here at HSC grow, and I have been able to get to know several people on both campuses whom I had never spoken with before," she said.

"We have to retrain ourselves to work collaboratively, because we're so used to working one-on-one with our respective executives. As a group, the goal is to offer more integrated support to UNM leadership," Martin said.

Administrators have been supportive of the initiative, particularly Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Paul Roth, who has supported the group since its inception, and Vice President for Human Resources Helen Gonzales.

At a recent ASA-UNM meeting, Gonzales lauded the members' can-do attitude in the face of economic turmoil. "This is really an opportunity for us to look at what is possible, what is promising and what the future holds," she said.

The audience of more than 30 ASA-UNM members actively participated in discussions. Facilitation of meetings is rotated among members.

"They're all willing to learn and share," Sanchez said. "We're all the leaders."

Employee and Organizational Development Director Jewel Washington attended the meeting to propose a full- or half-day professional development conference. She said UNM has about 1,100 staff in program support roles.

EOD and ASA-UNM will work together to create a conference aimed at developing concrete skills, with most sessions taught by UNM staff. "Who better to teach the up and coming than the people in this room?" Washington said.

ASA-UNM hosts a potluck for members on Tuesday, Dec. 7, noon-1 p.m. at Scholes Hall, Roberts room. Government Affairs Director Marc Saavedra will speak on the coming legislative session.

For ASA-Main, contact Sanchez at (505) 277-5818 or For ASA-HSC, contact Seyl at (505) 272-0635 or