For the first time in three years due to the pandemic, a good-sized contingent from The University of New Mexico made the trip to Santa Fe to showcase a variety of activities highlighting the University’s people, colleges and departments as well as faculty and staff as part of UNM Day at the State Capitol.
The goal of UNM Day at the State Capitol is to impress legislators in Santa Fe by showcasing some of the outstanding people and programs at UNM, with an emphasis on previously funded programs, programs in need of funding and programs that are exceptionally exciting and resonate with the public.
“After three years away, it was a thrill to be back at the State Capitol and to speak with our legislators in person again,” said President Garnett S. Stokes. “It was also truly inspiring to see so many of our Lobo students, staff and faculty meeting with legislators, representing UNM as they advocated for our legislative priorities and demonstrated the far-reaching impact of our university."
UNM filled the rotunda with 30+ colleges and departments from the main and branch campuses, the Health Sciences Center as well as athletics with colorful and interactive displays. One of the areas highlighted was in the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) which showcased several Level I teams from UNM’s Grand Challenges, an initiative created several years ago to help find solutions and solve some of the state’s more pressing issues such as water, substance use disorders and aging, which were the three initial areas of focus. Since then UNM has added 10 Level I teams and is currently seeking proposals for Level 2 teams.
The OVPR table included 5 (of the 10) new Level 1 Concept Grand Challenges Teams that switched out throughout the day. Multiple legislators came through to talk with the researchers about their concepts and to discuss next steps and importance of their projects to New Mexico communities. The Level 1 teams included Basic Needs, Housing Justice, Space Research, Child Health and Successful Aging.
All legislators received OVPR’s new research brochures that highlight some of the latest measures of excellence that refers and highlights directly undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research including $355M expenditures in FY22, 1,625 awards received in FY22, 336 patents issued since 2018, 1,457 student researchers supported in FY22, and 184 doctorates awarded in AY21-22.
“After three years away, it was a thrill to be back at the State Capitol and to speak with our legislators in person again. It was also truly inspiring to see so many of our Lobo students, staff and faculty meeting with legislators, representing UNM as they advocated for our legislative priorities and demonstrated the far-reaching impact of our university." - UNM President Garnett S. Stokes
Another popular stop was the UNM School of Engineering’s display that featured an activity called Nanoblocks, developed by Anjali Mulchandani, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. Nanoblocks is a playful, interactive method used to teach all ages about nanotechnology-enabled water and air treatment, both big initiatives in the state. Through Velcro cube blocks — one larger and one that breaks into smaller cubes called “nanoblocks” — and colorful pompoms that serve as “pollutants” that are added to a pan that represents water, the activity simply and creatively illustrates the difference between traditional methods of cleanup and nanotechnology-aided methods.
Participants were asked to “absorb” pollutants first using the large Velcro block and see how many are absorbed. Then for comparison, they were asked to “absorb” pollutants using the smaller nanoblocks, which illustrates that this method of water and air treatment is superior to traditional means by catching more pollutants. This activity has been used at events around the country since it was developed in 2016, Mulchandani said. It was a popular stop at UNM Day as well, attracting visitors of all ages and backgrounds for the entire duration of the event.
Students also took an active part in UNM Day at the State Capitol with displays from Associated Students of UNM (ASUNM) and Graduate Professional Student Association (GPSA). The GPSA introduced a bill to make amendments to the Graduate Scholarship Act to provide a scholarship that would cover 100 percent for all graduate students throughout the state. ASUNM is lobbying the legislature to obtain funds for safety improvements.
In addition to the UNM’s students, dozens and dozens of high school students were in attendance yesterday from various areas throughout the state creating a perfect opportunity for them to learn about different research opportunities available as undergraduates.
House Memorial, HM14, officially designating Jan. 30 as UNM Day, was passed as part of the day’s activities.
Finally, to cap the day, the UNM Alumni Association held its Annual Legislative reception at the La Fonda on the Plaza giving Lobos and legislators an additional opportunity to mingle and talk UNM.
Of course, on Monday, everyone in the Rotunda and on the Plaza was a Lobo – woof, woof, woof!