Skip to main content
President Garnett S. Stokes

President Garnett S. Stokes


UNM has had a diverse group of students since the day it opened. If you look at the photo of its first graduating class, (1894), you’ll notice that there are different races as well as genders. In this period of time, there was still segregation in most of the country. There wouldn’t have been the collaboration of different cultures like there was at UNM when it first opened. Because of this, UNM was ahead of the times.

Although UNM has made it a priority to diversify the campus from the beginning, that has not been the case with the Office of the President. Until 2018, there had only been male presidents at UNM. Although there have been female regents and even a female Regent President, UNM has never had a woman as the face of the university. This seems to be a major turning point for University of New Mexico.

President Garnett S Stokes education has set her up for a different style of leadership. “Stokes earned a B.A. in psychology from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Georgia in industrial/organizational psychology. She is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.” ( President Stokes comes during a time where there has been mass turn-over in the presidents’ seat with 8 new presidents since 2000. The question is, what is she doing to make her presidency last?

While it may not be due to her gender, the fact remains that after she took office, she did something that no previous president had done. In the first 100 days, she went to about 100 events where she tried to hear from the New Mexican people to see what New Mexico is all about. Since then, she’s kept travelling office hours around the campus to continue listening. To quote her directly, she said “I’m looking for the things we are doing well and the ways in which we can serve the citizens of New Mexico better. … The good, the bad and the ugly are things I need to understand,” ( It’s clear, that she wants to truly understand how to make UNM the best it can be.

President Stokes’ limited tenure has not been without controversy. In 2018, she recommended cutting several of the university’s sports due to a ballooning sports budget. The Albuquerque Journal mentions that “it didn’t take long [for President Stokes] to find herself in hot water, spurred by her recommendation that regents cut men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing and women’s beach volleyball to address a persistent seven-figure deficit in the athletics department.” Many also asked, why not cut football? She mentioned that it was a requirement to be a part of the Mountain West Conference. The Daily Lobo didn’t seem to like this response when they wrote, “We as students cannot control the decisions made by the Board of Regents. Many of the factors that went into the decision to cut sports had nothing to do with the wants and needs of students, but everything to do with staying in a conference many students don’t even know exists”.

Even with this criticism, many still believe that having her as president is inspiring to younger women. The Daily Lobo interviewed a student when Stokes first became president and received the response, “Having women in such roles ‘normalizes success for (young women) and shows them how successful they can be and the success that they should be able to reach’.” This seems to be a significant step for the University in a time where the push for equality continues to grow.


Riley Michael Barber