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Red, Green, or Christmas – A Mixed Approach to Supporting First-Gen Students at UNM

Brandi Wells-Stone, University of New Mexico / The Center / December 07, 2022

University of New Mexico mascot with campus sign

Here in New Mexico, we have a state question that greets every person who is ready to eat: Red or Green (or Christmas)? This question is so integral to our way of life and often yields a quick response for preference. For many New Mexicans, there is a strong preference for one or the other. However, if you ask a follow up question such as red or green for your burrito, your hamburger, or your enchiladas... those strong preferences are not always as strong and depend on your meal. What makes our 'red or green' question so important is that these chile styles are traditional in their own respective ways. They are a way to connect to the larger identity of our state and culture. And more importantly, once you try it, it becomes something that is naturally embraced and becomes an integral part of the way we gather.

At the University of New Mexico (UNM), we see our work deeply connected to our state’s way of life, including how we support our first-generation student community. In many ways, our state question and the way folks respond is similar to the ways we approach first-generation student work.

Green and red chile peppers

One approach to this work is the direct student support services and programs that we offer to students. Often, this comes from offices connected to student affairs and student service units across our campuses.


Another approach is through the research side often exploring particular phenomena connected to the first-generation experience to reduce various adverse outcomes. Often, this comes from academic departments across our campuses.


Finally, we see this approach as a mix of scholar-praxis work where academic affairs and student affairs are working together to enhance, create, and sustain work that supports our first-generation students.

What’s Your Preference?

In recognizing that both approaches have strong foundations in their own respective ways, we are working to provide opportunities for our UNM community to learn about the different approaches in hopes that they will find the flavor that suits them. This fall, we will host our first symposium bringing together UNM faculty and staff to present the various ways they are advancing first-generation student work. Our tracks will be marked by red chiles for those who are presenting direct service work, green chiles for those who are presenting research projects, and Christmas for those who are embedding a scholar praxis approach for first-generation work. Participants will have the option to choose red, green, or Christmas and regardless of their preference, all will leave the symposium with a better understanding of the work across our institution and the ways that they can embrace first-generation students in various capacities as an integral component to the ways we think about our work.

For more information on University of New Mexico's approach, please visit their website here.