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Letters to the Editor

Nov 3, 2022 | Fall 2022, Letters, Letters to the Editor

Photo of Leslie Linthicum
In March of this year, in Silver City, UNM double alumna Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act, which expands state assistance in paying for college tuition and fees for New Mexico residents.

While the Lottery Scholarship is aimed at recent high school graduates, the Opportunity Scholarship is intended to help returning students or older adults who didn’t make it college after high school graduation and those who  attend part-time.

UNM adds to the mix the Lobo First-Year Promise, which supports first-year students whose family income is $50,000 or less with full tuition and fees.

As anyone who has tallied up a grocery bill or filled their gas tank or tried to buy a house or rent an apartment lately can appreciate, these assistance programs can change the game for New Mexicans trying to take the step to a better future through a bachelor’s or associates degree or a specialized certificate in this blisteringly hot economy.

The importance of access to higher learning for everyone might come into clearer focus as you read the alumni profiles in this issue of Mirage. It certainly did for me as I put this issue together. There are millions of Americans and plenty of New Mexicans who live productive, interesting and meaningful lives without ever having taken a seat in a college classroom. But for many others, their first steps toward greatness happen on the way to a degree.

I’m thinking of Jack Dongarra, an Italian kid from Chicago whose parents never finished high school. He had dyslexia but he was pretty good at math so he went to college as a math major. Many years and a PhD from UNM later, Dongarra just won the $1 million Turing Award, considered the Nobel of computer science.

I’m thinking of professional mountain biker Doug Campbell, who decided to get serious at 26 and enrolled in UNM’s College of Engineering without much thought about what he wanted to do with his life. Today he’s CEO of a company producing a smaller, cheaper alternative to traditional lithium-ion electric car batteries. If you buy a Ford or BMW EV five years from, money is on Campbell’s battery cell powering your ride.

I’m thinking of UNM music major Raven Chacon from Ft. Defiance, Ariz., whose unique tonal compositions were just recognized with the Pulitzer Prize for music. And of Cynthia Chavez Lamar, whose PhD at UNM in American Studies helped focus her thoughts on collaboration between museums and Indigenous communities and who now heads the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

I could go on — we have a remarkably strong lineup of alumni in this issue.

But I think you’ll want to read about  them yourselves.

And who knows which student taking a first class this Fall, thanks to the promise of free tuition, might be the next UNM grad to make the big discovery or reach the top of their field?

Leslie Linthicum

Spring 2022 Mirage Magazine Features


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