Creative Solutions in a Challenging Year

Mar 15, 2021 | Alumni Association President’s Letter, Letters, Spring 2021

2020 was full of challenges ranging from a global pandemic to issues of racial injustice and a controversial U.S. presidential election. The Alumni Association (AA) and the Alumni Relations Office (ARO) faced our own challenges of finding ways to safely continue our programs. ARO staff, Association board members, regional chapter leaders and committee chairs all flexed their creative muscles to find new and innovative ways to deliver for our alumni.

Prior to the Fall semester, we launched the AA Community Connector Series Vodcast on racial equity, inclusion and justice. The series created a safe space for honest conversations and highlighted the expertise of our university faculty. President-Elect Mike Silva and I interviewed leadership from the Division for Equity and Inclusion, African American Student Services, the Athletics Department, the Health Sciences Center and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. We concluded the series by interviewing the presidents of our Native American, Black and El Centro Alumni Chapters.

We followed up the series with our AA board members interviewing UNM’s four new deans. We hope you visit our social media pages to learn more about the deans and their initiatives at the Anderson School of Management, the School of Architecture & Planning, the College of Education & Human Sciences, and the College of Fine Arts.

The pandemic presented us with the challenge of Homecoming. We held virtual and socially distant events from a spirit yard sign campaign to a virtual Lobo Living Room with past UNM presidents. At our drive-in movie event at Balloon Fiesta Park, we crowned the Homecoming King and Queen. We concluded the week with tailgate parties in our UNM decorated driveways. The challenges were great, but our Homecoming Committee and ARO staff successfully kept us Connected by the Unexpected.

A major part of that success was the Green Chile Roast by Post. Unable to have the traditional in-person roasts, ARO staff found a new way to get their green chile to Lobos and New Mexicans around the globe. We sent approximately 3,000 jugs of green chile to all 50 states and Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom. While it initially seemed like a lost year to raise money for our regional chapter scholarships, this ended up being the most successful to date.

Our virtual Lobo Living Rooms were not limited to Homecoming. They began in the summer with football coach Danny Gonzales. After Homecoming, we featured a panel of UNM alumni and experts who discussed the science of COVID-19. We wrapped up the Fall with mental health experts who provided tips on staying healthy during the pandemic.

Lobos for Legislation continued its UNM advocacy activities, including hosting a virtual briefing for our Lobo alumni legislators. President Garnett S. Stokes and Barbara Damron and her government relations team shared UNM updates and priorities and fielded questions in preparation for the legislative session. The successful event was attended by 19 engaged and inquisitive legislators.

President Stokes and I continued the long-standing tradition of celebrating and honoring our Lobo veterans, military service members and their families. We shared our personal military connections and honored our 228 fallen soldiers with taps and the tolling of the Alumni Memorial Chapel bell.

With COVID not allowing us to view Lobo football games in-person, the AA hosted a Coast-to-Coast Virtual Watch Party for the Air Force game to show our appreciation for our team’s hard work. Alums of all ages and backgrounds around the country gathered in our favorite Lobo gear to watch the game. Alums had an opportunity to speak with Athletic Director Eddie Nunez and Deputy Athletic Director Dave Williams. We shared stories about our experiences as students, our favorite hangouts and our love of being Lobos. Although that game did not end the way we wanted, our football team finished the season with two strong inspirational wins and a lot of promise for next year.

Finally, the AA began its major initiative of the year, the Alumni Career Network, an online community providing resources that include career mentoring, training, podcasts and more. The Network will be a resource for all Lobos to connect with each other for career guidance. The Network will also incentivize students to attend UNM knowing they will receive mentoring, internships, career training and job placement support as alumni. We look forward to the Network being the primary resource for alumni-to-alumni hiring and mentoring regardless of the UNM school or the campus they attended. In the end, everyone’s a Lobo!

Now in 2021, the association continues to explore new opportunities and partnerships to connect alums to the University and to each other. As we begin our slow return to our normal activities, we look forward to incorporating our lessons learned and new virtual activities into the Association’s regular programs.

Let’s connect –

Chad Cooper
Alumni Association President

Photo of Chad Cooper

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