Dean's Newsletters

Dean's Newsletter from Robert Alexander González

November 20, 2020

Dear Friends,

President-Elect Biden’s recent call for the country to lead “not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example” provides a perfect directive for how we should respond to the resounding calls for change heard today throughout the hallways of higher education.

How do we become exemplary leaders within academia? More importantly, how do we help shape the exemplary planners, architects, and landscape architects of tomorrow?

When I recently posed a similar question—"What kind of leaders do we need at SA+P?”—during a “Q&A with the Dean” session hosted by AIA New Mexico, I was pleasantly surprised with a bold answer given by the group’s president, Jennifer Penner: “We need a disruptor.”

The sentiment is in line with President-Elect Biden’s, when he spoke directly to the urgency surrounding the current social concerns for humanity and for the environment, in his exhilarating acceptance speech in Wilmington, Delaware. The “example” of which he speaks necessarily prioritizes the responsible citizen, rather than the responsible practitioners we’re here to train.

In the AIA architects’ roundtable, I also brought up the issue of labor justice, pointing out that it is our responsibility to train architects within the academy so they have the skills to gain employment—but it is also our responsibility to given them the skills to enact meaningful change in their communities. This is the power of the word justice. Nearly half of the students at UNM are “first-generation” students and, as a first-gen myself (along with our University President Garnett S. Stokes), I know the importance families place on students entering the workforce upon graduation. But first-gens also know that there is much work to do to strengthen the communities they come from. Model architects and planners of today and tomorrow are consequently, and necessarily, very different from those of the past.

This new type of citizen-professional has been the through-line in the dialogues in which I’ve participated during my now five-month listening tour. We simply need to broaden our vision of what makes the exemplary practitioners that can address critical needs of today.

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