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UNM’s Graduate Studies marks 100-year anniversary

University of New Mexico students walk between classes by Zimmerman Library earlier this year. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

University of New Mexico students walk between classes by Zimmerman Library earlier this year. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

On July 23, 1919, the Albuquerque Journal ran a letter from David S. Hill, a professor of education from the University of Illinois who was set to become UNM’s sixth president. “There are points of contact to be made between industry and business, and the university,” Hill announced in his vision statement, “in order that our graduates, whether as employees or employers, may participate as leaders in the economic field. There are the sciences and arts and best traditions of the past to be preserved, cherished, and transmitted to students who will become torch-bearers of culture in New Mexico.”

Hill arrived with radical optimism, proclaiming, “Free, public education must be made available to all persons capable of receiving it, regardless of race, sex, age, or occupation.” (Albuquerque Journal, Oct. 10, 1919) He launched a dedicated research arm of the university, the Graduate School, which offered a master’s degree.

The first decade of UNM theses focused on our unique sense of place. Carl Taylor’s 1929 MA English thesis, “Bride of the Sun,” combined romance and New Mexico regionalism; Reginald Fisher’s 1929 MA in anthropology launched “A Plan for an Archaeological Survey of the Pueblo Plateau;” Blanche Harper’s 1927 MA in political science provided “A History of New Mexico Election Laws;” and Cora Nelle Freeman studied standardized tests in small-town schools in her 1925 psychology thesis.

One hundred years later, UNM’s graduate mission continues to thrive. We enroll over 6,000 graduate and professional students each year, and we annually confer over 1,700 graduate and professional degrees. We have grown into 120 graduate and professional programs with 25 of them ranked in the top 100 in the nation (according to) 2020 U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings. We continue to consider the well-being of our region, but we are also advancing technology, curing disease and enriching our lives with the arts.

President Garnett Stokes’ Grand Challenges Initiative unites researchers, educators, students and community members in solving problems of critical importance: successful aging, sustainable water resources, and substance use disorders. The ripples of such research can be felt across New Mexico.

Our annual Shared Knowledge Conference, representing the breadth of UNM like no other single event, allows students to communicate their research with each other, faculty members, staff and the greater New Mexico community.

On Nov. 7, UNM celebrated a century of graduate studies showcasing the work of about 100 graduate students, with a focus on discovery and innovation across our 12 colleges with graduate programs. Students and their posters populated every floor in Hodgin Hall. Research topics included 3D printing on the moon, diseases caused by using contrast imaging and the use of poetry in education.

Nine students presented LoboBITES. Much like a “sound bite” that captures the essence of a complicated topic, the LoboBITE distills graduate student research, sometimes three or more years in the making, into a three-minute presentation judged by a non-academic, community panel. This year’s judges were N.M. Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil; N.M. Rep. Abbas Akhil; city of Albuquerque Director of Economic Development Synthia Jaramillo; Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Ernie C’de Baca and co-owner of The Grove Café & Market, Lauren Greene.

Judges selected this year’s winners. Sofiya Krashilshchikova’s research deals with detecting brain injuries using speech so that appropriate treatment can be pursued. Sofiya, completing her master’s in speech and hearing science, won a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to represent UNM in a regional 3-minute thesis competition in March.

Second place, Anna Shkireva – language, literature, and sociocultural studies – convinced us that we can all learn new languages.

The people’s choice award went to Florencia Monge – biomedical engineering – for her work with novel sensors that can detect the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Graduate education at UNM has come a long way since it first began in 1919 but continues to strive toward the future of its optimistic past.

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