Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color (PNMGC) recently recognized two outstanding faculty members at The University of New Mexico with signature awards at its annual Faculty of Color Awards (FOCA) ceremony.
Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color is a student-led program working to retain students of color through ongoing peer mentoring that provides academic, social, cultural, and emotional support.
Sojeong Nam, an assistant professor of Counselor Education in the Department of Individual, Family, and Community Education, received PNMGC’s Mentorship Award. The award recognizes a faculty member who has made exemplary efforts to positively impact the educational experiences for students of color.
Verónica C. Gonzales, an assistant professor at the UNM School of Law, garnered the All-Around Support Award, which recognizes a faculty member who has provided exemplary efforts to positively impact the educational experiences of students of color including academic development, leadership initiative, social support and networking, and mentorship.
“The Faculty of Color Awards recognize the outstanding contributions of our esteemed faculty of color,” said Valerie Chavez, a graduate student and PNMGC team member. “This event honors these individuals for their often overlooked and unrecognized perseverance in providing encouragement, guidance, and resources to underrepresented students both in and out of the classroom.”
Hired at UNM in 2022, Nam has already made a profound impact on her students, who praised her holistic mentoring of doctoral students, her attention to safe and inclusive environments, and the time she takes to help graduate students cultivate their professional identities. Nam received a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision and a MA in Educational Measurement and Statistics from The University of Iowa, and her professional and scholarly pursuits are centered around comprehending and reducing mental health disparities. Her research efforts concentrate on investigating and deconstructing implicit biases in counseling students, addressing the issues of mental health literacy and stigma within underserved populations, and developing culturally responsive interventions for suicide survivors.
Veronica Gonzales-Zamora, J.D., is a first-generation college graduate of UNM. She was raised in the South Valley of Albuquerque, attended Valley High School, and graduated from UNM’s School of Law with clinical honors. Gonzales worked at UNM’s Institute of Public Law; clerked at local law firms; and interned for the late Justice C.W. Daniels. She also worked for a local service agency caring for high-risk foster youth and clerked for the New Mexico Supreme Court and New Mexico Court of Appeals. She joined the UNM faculty as an assistant professor in 2019.
As an academic, her service work centers on access to the legal profession. She mentors pre-law and law students, alumni, and candidates for law faculty with a focus on the unique needs and strengths of first-generation law students. Gonzales teaches civil procedure, ethics, poverty law, and appellate decision-making. Her scholarly work focuses on access to justice and economic justice. Among other things, she’s recognized for being an all-around inspiring faculty member and an impactful mentor, professor, advocate, role model, and leader within the Law School, especially for first-generation Mexican/Hispanic women.
Interim Dean of Graduate Studies Jesse Alemán acknowledged the impact of the awards.
“What distinguishes these awards is that they are student-nominated and student-selected by a graduate student group that is student-led and student-funded to serve underrepresented minority graduate students through peer mentoring. These faculty have earned the respect and recognition from our graduate students of color,” he said.