For the first time since its inception, the University Student Cabinet convened recently with more than 40 Cabinet members participating in focus group style discussions on subjects identified as critical to students at the University of New Mexico.

The meeting revolved around four topics; campus safety and civility, transparency and communication, student support services, and tuition and fees. Under these broad themes, members interacted and spoke candidly with several UNM administrators.

“Discussing these topics with such a diverse group of students was energizing,” President Robert G. Frank said, “while my senior staff examines most of these same issues weekly, it’s invaluable to hear this feedback directly from students.”

The Student Cabinet assembled in the Stamm Commons of the Centennial Engineering Center. The group members each brought varied perspectives on the student experience. Discussions ranged from campus lighting to the future of the Lottery Scholarship.

Students circulated every 15 minutes through the four focus group tables. Conversations were student initiated, with UNM administrators on hand to take notes and answer questions. At each table, there was strong consistency among the conversations.

For example, at the student support services table, the groups that filtered through were especially concerned with student advisement. Vice Provost Carol Parker, who facilitated the topic, shared various improvements that had been made to University Advising over the past two years, also taking notes of potential improvements to the process.

UNM President Robert Frank (l.) and Associate Vice President for Student Life Walt Miller (far right) listen to a foucs group.

In addition to the feedback on advisement, subjects discussed during the meeting included future changes to the Lottery Scholarship, transparency in tuition and fees, campus safety, UNMPD visibility, and improving University and student communications.

“I feel like some students do not think they have a voice at UNM,” Cabinet member and Psychology sophomore Sarah Cabe said, “having President Frank in the room was a great start.”

With over 27,000 students on UNM’s main campus, it’s a challenge to ensure that every voice has an opportunity to be heard. The Student Cabinet is working to provide UNM’s administration with a forum in which student ideas and concerns can be heard unfiltered.

“There were many views that I realized I could bring back to ASUNM, some of which we’re already working on,” said Associated Students of UNM Vice President Jenna Hagengruber. “Having the chance to hear these diverse voices was very beneficial.”

Preparations for a follow-up meeting, to be held in the spring of 2015, are already ramping up. UNM administrators are reviewing the input gathered and developing preliminary goals. This compilation of information will be presented to the Student Cabinet in the spring for their input.