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UNM Grand Challenges event on Friday

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The next step in the University of New Mexico’s Grand Challenges initiative is set.

The public and campus community is invited to an “Out-of-the-Box” event at 9 a.m. on Friday at Ballroom C of UNM’s Student Union Building to help discuss proposals for health, environmental and societal impact in New Mexico.

During the 90-minute interactive event, team leaders for each of the Challenges will present their goals, teams and plans and then respond to audience questions.

To RSVP, visit It will also be live-streamed via UNM’s YouTube channel and available thereafter for later viewing.

The Grand Challenges, which were announced last week by President Garnett Stokes, include:

• Substance Use Disorders — Project lead: Brandi Fink, assistant professor, psychiatry and Katie Witkiewicz, Regents’ Professor, psychology.

The goal of this challenge is to reduce mortality and substance use disorders including alcohol, opioid and other substance misuse.

• Successful Aging — Project lead: Janice Knoefel, professor, neurology.

The goal is to focus on researching and implementing strategies that will improve the quality of life for New Mexico’s senior population, and extending the time that seniors can remain independent.

• Sustainable Water Resources — Project lead: Kerry Howe, professor, civil engineering.

The focus is on developing the Rio Grande Watershed as a vibrant and resilient trans-boundary watershed that supports a thriving economy, healthy landscapes and aquatic ecosystems, and vibrant communities.

The 14 proposals, representing 160 faculty and staff from over 60 departments across the university, were evaluated by both professional external reviewers and emeriti faculty. The steering committee recommended three areas of research to Stokes, who then selected the three Grand Challenges.

“I was so impressed by the quality and scope of proposals we received,” Stokes said in a statement. “Each one represents a unique opportunity for UNM to serve and impact New Mexico, and all of them strongly reflect a collaborative approach to research and scholarship that spans not only fields of study, but also generations, cultures and perspectives.”

For more information, visit