Statewide Listening Tour - Aztec, Farmington, Chaco Canyon

My final tour trip, exploring northwestern New Mexico, was special for several reasons. It was the only trip during which I visited high school students and was also able to visit a very special archeological site with some of our students, accompanied by several distinguished UNM faculty. 

I started the trip visiting Aztec High School. It was invigorating sitting in the library, surrounded by sophomores, juniors and seniors who plan to expand their horizons through higher education. Many of them told me they are considering becoming Lobos, and one even said he’s already committed to the UNM BA/MD combined program. They came prepared with questions about the benefits of college. It was a refreshing discussion and a good reminder about why we, as a university, do what we do: offer opportunities and encouragement for students of all ages to pursue their passions. Many thanks to Aztec High School Principal Warman Hall and Aztec Municipal Schools Superintendent Kirk Carpenter for hosting me. 

The evening was spent among School of Medicine alumni and faculty, as well as Farmington community members and other Lobo alumni, at a wonderful reception on the cliffs above the city. Dr. Sugar Singleton (SOM 2003) was gracious enough to open her beautiful home to us. It was not only a wonderful chance for me to meet the health care providers in northwest New Mexico, but also for our alumni to reconnect, as many of them had attended UNM together. 

The following day, I was greeted at San Juan Community College by their president, Dr. Toni Pendergrass. The school, which originated as a branch of New Mexico State University, is now one of the largest two-year institutions in the state. Themes that emerged from our conversation included campus safety and issues of economic and community development in rural areas. I was impressed by the beauty of the campus and their commitment to the surrounding community. 

My final stop on this tour was one I had highly anticipated, and, quite frankly, it surpassed my expectations. Chaco Canyon National Historic Monument is where many of our archeology and anthropology students take part in field school, and it is the focus of groundbreaking research by faculty member, Dr. Patricia Crown. I was honored to get a personal tour of the site from Dr. Crown and Dr. W.H. “Chip” Wills, both of whom have done extensive work at Chaco. Dr. Crown, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, was the first person to discover traces of cacao north of the Mexican border, proving the existence of chocolate at Chaco. They also took me to a private area of the park (with park ranger’s permission, of course) where I stood in the oldest room in North America, a place more ancient than the oldest buildings in Santa Fe. The chair of our Department of Anthropology, Les Field, also joined us at the site, along with three of our ASUNM Students, President Becka Myers, Chief of Staff Alice Vernon, and Director of Communication Brendon Gray


Although my formal listening tour is now complete, I look forward to seeing more of this beautiful state and meeting more people in its varied communities. The tour may be over, but the listening never stops.