New graduate application process stirs faculty concern


Shane Buchanan

A new system for graduate school applications has created concerns among faculty.

Department heads and program coordinators of several graduate programs at New Mexico State University have made complaints about SLATE, a system adopted by NMSU’s graduate school last academic year. The program serves as a portal for prospective graduate students to apply to programs and for faculty to access applications. 

Sociology Department’s Director of Graduate Studies Julie Steinkopf sent an email to a list serve of NMSU faculty expressing how serious she believes the issues with the graduate application system are. 

I’ve been talking with colleagues across the university about grad school admission issues. The more I learn, the more horrified I am. I think that this is such a serious issue that that faculty [in the graduate school] ought to know the problems grad directors are having as it impacts faculty, too,” Steinkopf said.  

NMSU offers 106 graduate programs in total, including traditional face-to-face, online and hybrid programs. 

Concerns were addressed at a meeting Jan. 30 in the Corbett Center Student Union Senate Chambers, hosted by Luis Cifuentes, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School. Faculty members Luis Vásquez and Denise Esquibel from the Graduate School were also in attendance to answer questions. 

Issues with the SLATE system, voiced by program directors, included applications missing letters of recommendations or PDFs missing pages, applicants being charged more than once for the same application fee and graduation applications pertaining to one department being sent to a different department.

The Graduate School proposed solution to combat the technical issues in SLATE. First, an email would be sent to all graduate program directors that would grant them access to sign into SLATE following the meeting. Then, starting Feb. 10, the graduate school would host two-hour SLATE training by each college. 

Esquibel said that completing the training is mandatory for program directors to be able to view their respective applications. 

Different graduate programs at NMSU require different applications, with the earliest programs requiring submissions by Sept. 15 to March 15. SLATE became available to access at the university beginning Sept. 15.

Psychology Department Head Dominic Simon said the department has been unable to access completed graduate applications and as a result, he is two months behind on viewing and accepting applications in comparison to NMSU’s neighboring university, the University of Texas at El Paso.  

“We have an application deadline of Jan. 15. My understanding is that UTEP’s equivalent department has one of Dec. r15. So, if we wait for what is now Feb. 15 — because we’re a in a position where we don’t have PDFs, I don’t have access to SLATE — I’m now in a position where I’m now two months behind from NMSU’s geographical competitor. You’ve [the graduate school] been trying to get us to be competitive by accepting the best graduate students,” Simon said. 

Following Simon’s remark, other program directors in the room made remarks in unison that described frustration with being unable to navigate SLATE. Rani Alexander, anthropology department head, said she fears that being charged multiple application fees will deter applicants from choosing NMSU for graduate school. 

“Whenever a graduate student encounters an additional fee, it stops them cold. So, we’re not asking for changes to the requirements, we’re just asking that the requirements that we set up with you [graduate school] in the summer actually work,” Alexander said.  

In response to Alexender’s comment, Esquibel, assistant dean of graduate academic affairssaid directors should make an appointment with the Graduate School when they run into issues. 

“If there are things that are not working as you had set up in the beginning, this is where we need to have a conversation. Make an appointment with me — let’s sit down and then I will take it because I do not make changes in my office,” Esquibel said. 

Vásquez said he realized that experiencing issues with SLATE has been difficult for both the Graduate School and graduate directors, as he has served as a department head, associate professor and professor at NMSU prior to his current position as associate vice president for research and graduate studies. 

“I do want to validate that at times, it has been frustrating from both sides. I’ve been on the other side and I’ve also been a director of training programs,” Vásquez said. 

Cifuentes noted that NMSU’s graduate enrollment for the upcoming school year will not be affected.  

“My conclusion is that whatever it is that we’re doing, the transition [to SLATE] did not have a major negative impact on enrollment. In fact, we are up over the last year, so that’s good. And keep in mind that these new enrollees, 204, went through SLATE,” Cifuentes said. 

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