Program History

The UNM-NMSU joint doctoral program is the only Geography Ph.D. program in New Mexico. The concept of a joint doctoral program is ground-breaking for higher education in New Mexico. Consequently, progress toward formal approval of the program was slow.

The idea of establishing a joint doctoral program in Geography arose in the late 2000s, when the departments were chaired by Dr. Paul Matthews (at UNM) and Dr. Christopher Brown (at NMSU). In 2007, an academic program review at UNM recommended that the department develop a Ph.D. degree program. The UNM faculty decided that a doctoral program would be feasible only through partnership with NMSU’s faculty, because the two departments have distinct strengths and minimal overlap in their academic foci. The NMSU faculty agreed to pursue a partnership, and in 2014 the two departments met to sketch the outline of a shared program. During the following years, the departments maintained commitment to the envisioned program and developed a full proposal, under the leadership of Dr. Matthews and Dr. Brown, and under the successive Department Chairs Dr. Carol Campbell (at NMSU) and Dr. Scott Freundschuh and Dr. Maria Lane (at UNM). On each campus, the Deans of Arts and Sciences energetically supported the program proposal, and provided resources to help it move successfully through the review processes.

On each campus, the program had to be approved by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Faculty Senate, the Provost, and the Regents. Each of these stakeholders requested revisions to the program proposal, which led to greater input from geospatial professionals in the state. By 2018, the Boards of Regents of both universities gave their approvals and passed the proposal to the New Mexico Governor’s Office, which is responsible for approving new academic programs in state universities. Finally, after positive reviews from the Higher Education Department and the Board of Finance, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham authorized the joint doctoral program in May 2019.

Starting in Fall 2019, we will accept applications for students to enroll in Fall 2020, and hope to have our first graduate Ph.D. graduate by 2025.