Campus life at UNM -- need a car? Campus life? Safety? Engineering? Dorms?

Questions we have about UNM/Albuquerque! Thank you! :slight_smile:

  1. Dorm recommendations?
  2. Campus atmosphere and life?
  3. Experience with engineering school?
  4. Safety in walking at night from library/studying to dorms?
  5. Does she need a car?

Hi, my daughter was accepted into UNM for engineering. It is a great program, but we are conflicted because it is a small program – not that many women. What is the better dorm to choose? Particularly for women, engineers and those out of state? I see that this is the first year (coming) to require on campus living for freshman, but there is still a waiver in place for local students. The reviews on niche seem to point to a lack of campus experience and most people are just there for a degree – they are commuters. Anyone’s thoughts on this? She will be coming from Chicago and really need to bond and experience the college life. We are also conflicted because I used to attend UNM for grad school and my memory is that the campus and area by the dorms at that time were not safe to walk at night. She plans to live in the dorms and we are hoping to not have to get her a car – but will she need it to live in Albuquerque? I see that some of the services have now moved off campus? Thanks!

I’m not an engineering student (I’m math/stats/French/future music) and I have not lived on camps (although I will in fall, as a freshman - currently I’m dual credit).

@DiotimaDM or @WayOutWestMom may have better ideas.

  1. I will be staying in Hokona as it's required of Regents Scholars, and it's the only dorm I've visited. It's fairly quiet and somewhat bland, but I think it's kind of cute. The meal plan allows 24/7 access to the dining hall (La Posada) along with 2 daily meal swipes (which can be used at convenient locations closer in-campus).
  2. I've only experienced it as a commuter. There are lots of commuters, but there is definitely a campus atmosphere as well. And the freshman residency requirement is only for freshman outside a 30-mile radius - many commuters are within that radius and won't be affected.
  3. My older sister got her bachelors and masters in electrical engineering at UNM. It's a solid choice. There are many outstanding engineering faculty, although usually TAs teach the lower-level courses. My sister's advisor (who is absolutely brilliant) dislikes teaching undergraduates because he feels that they do not care to learn, but many other professors don't share that view.
  4. Generally good advice to walk in pairs, regardless of location. It's a good idea to carry pepper spray. I can't say either way - I'm rarely on campus past dark. Usually the area **on** campus is considered safe, but walking off campus/near the bookstore and Central late at night alone is possibly unsafe.
  5. She can use the bus (there are several around UNM), Uber, Lyft, etc. Making friends helps - most commuters have cars, the bus system is ok (as long as adequate time is allowed). Parking on campus is horrible. I live near the Sandias and commute, but I will not get to keep the car I'm borrowing from my parents right now... so I don't really know.

Thank you @CharlotteLetter this is really helpful.

Greetings, @enginmom4 !

Dorms - I (the mom) liked Hokona best. The rooms felt light and airy, and it had more charm than the others we toured. There’s a huge study / social lounge with pretty views, and a downstairs social / entertainment area. Community bathrooms. Alvarado would be my second choice. There’s a Living Learning Community for Engineering in De Vargas. That was my least favorite dorm but my son’s favorite. I found it cramped and dark. He loved it because pods of three rooms share a bathroom (vs. large community bathrooms) and because it has many smaller study / meeting rooms rooms vs one big one in Hokona.

Off-campus dorms - Casas del Rio, Lobo Village, Lobo Rainforest - are nicer, but more expensive than on campus dorms.

Campus atmosphere - quieter than some places we toured, but in a relaxed way, not a stressed/anxious / hostile way. Happy, friendly students. Seemed like there would be plenty of activities to keep students busy, plus there are walkable shopping / entertainment districts nearby.

No experience with engineering but looks good on paper. You know about Sandia and the other big lab for internships, right?

Safety - There are night time safety patrols, and many call boxes located all over campus - as there are on every large, urban campus I’ve ever been on. Campus is next to downtown, so while I don’t have specific info that the campus is unsafe, I’d advise any student to use reasonable care when walking at night. Walk in groups, stay out of dark areas, call for an escort if needed. Again, this is my standard advise for ANY campus at night. It is not specific to UNM.

Car - not necessary if living on campus.

Look for my thread on this forum where I share lots of visit report info. :slight_smile:

@DiotimaDM thanks – very helpful! And I absolutely appreciated your other post!


UNM students get a free pass to the Albuquerque bus system and there are Enterprise short term cars for rent on campus (used to be zip cars). There are plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, and cute stores within walking distance. Parking on campus can be a challenge. Having a car is neither necessary nor desirable, IMO.

The benefit of those commuters is that they can probably give your daughter a ride if she needs to go farther afield. There are plenty of non-commuters too, thanks to UNM’s generous scholarships for OOS and high stats students.

Thank you @mamaedefamilia

Can’t be of much help on dorm recs. My student graduated in 2008 and all the dorms have been extensively remodeled since then. She also lived off campus except for 1 year in DeVargas (which she picked because she could get a single). Several friends have had children who lived in Simpson Hall which is a private dorm located on campus. They’ve all been quite happy. Simpson is all suites w/ private bedrooms plus a shared common living room & bath. Very nice upgraded amenities.

I would characterize UNM laid back or, as my daughters would say, chill. Greeks are located off campus so they don’t dominate the social scene. There really isn’t a rah-rah sports culture either. Lots of students are outdoorsy–climbing, hiking, biking, skiing are popular activities and there is a good climbing wall on campus. The student gym is nice. Heated therapy pool is handicapped/wheelchair accessible. Large athletic practice fields near gym & undergrad dorms that students can used when not being used by varsity teams. Lots of intermurals & club sports games are played there. There has been a good deal of student activism on campus in the last couple of years, but the protesters aren’t violent and won’t harass students who don’t want to get involved.

UNM is an urban campus with all that implies. There really isn’t a clear demarcation of campus–not campus. There will be homeless people & panhandlers along Central near campus. There is thriving commercial area just east of campus called Nob Hill–tons of restaurants, brewpubs, coffeeshops, stores, an independent art film theater–where lots of students hang out & study.

Popejoy Hall on campus is the major local venue for traveling shows like Book of Mormon, Wicked and the Porgy & Bess revival, and is home for the NM Ballet and NM Symphony. So UNM is kind of the cultural center for ABQ.

Although I know of several students who were engineering majors, my biggest exposure to the engineering program has been thru D1. D1 was a physics major who flirted for a year with various engineering majors (CivE and MechE). Plus engineers are cross enrolled with physics dept for material science and core math & physics classes. My impression from D1 is that engineering profs are competent and professional. Many have worked in industry or at the National Labs so are very aware of current trends and employment trends in the field. There are plentiful internship possibilities w/ the 2 National Labs (Los Alamos and Sandia), AF Research Lab, White Sands and Intel and many students do intern. There are some tech start-ups, but NM just isn’t a hotbed of that kind of thing like Silicon Valley is. I really don’t know how plugged in UNM is to the CA tech pipeline.

The engineering school has its own compact engineering sub-campus on the west end of the main campus, including science & engineering library. CSEL is architecturally very interesting; it’s entirely underground. Librarians are quite helpful. The engineering campus is as far away from the dorms & dining areas as it is physically possibly for it to be and still be on the same campus. It’s a hike. There isa campus shuttle but I can’t vouch for its timeliness. A bike would be very useful.

UNM is an urban campus. There is nothing to physically prevent non-students from being on or walking on campus. Like all urban campuses, one needs to be aware of one’s surroundings and use good judgement. There are blue light emergency call stations located around campus and I believe a security escort service is available late at night. That being said, both my daughters have walked around the med campus/hospital and its parking lot (which is contiguous with main campus) at all hours of the night without any issues. I would, however, recommend young women stay out of the parking garages late at night.

It would probably be helpful if she ever wants to do anything off campus beside going to Nob Hill. Although UNM students ride free on city buses, the city buses can be problematic. They don’t run on time or go where you want to to and there have been some safety issues (violence). ABQ just isn’t public transit friendly. And if she is ever interested in going to the stadium or The Pit or skiing or to Santa Fe or to one of the shopping malls or working at an internship–she can’t get there via public transit.

Be aware, though, that ABQ has auto theft problem. The campus area isn’t any worse than any other part of town, but auto theft here is much higher than the national average. Also on-campus parking is terrible!

Thank you @WayOutWestMom - very helpful!

P.S. One quibble with @DiotimaDM

No. It’s really not. Downtown is a good 5+ miles to the west of UNM and across a major interstate highway (I-25).

UNM is close to Nob Hill/campustown.

Like many western cities, ABQ has multiple “downtown” areas. There is Downtown where the city/county government is located and all federal offices. There is Uptown near i-40 and Louisiana where there are 3 major shopping malls. There is Old Town which is original city site near the Rio Grande. It’s a tourist draw & home to several museums. Then there is “West Side” which is the newest area of city development on the western side of the Rio Grande (I use the term city development loosely because several Westside areas are actually separately chartered towns. Rio Rancho, Corrales, Placitas, Bernaillio)

Nob Hill/campustown is one of the smaller commercial centers and pretty much caters principally to students.

Personally (as a minor teen girl) I think the buses are safe at reasonable times of the day/night (I hear Central buses are a bad idea between dusk and dawn), although sometimes the schedules are inconvenient. And I’ve never had issues with the buses running late; most connection times are 10+ min so as long as the route is well-planned (don’t plan a 2-min connection) it goes fine. If she has a bike and doesn’t mind the bus, she can get around pretty well IMO.

@WayOutWestMom Huh, I think of downtown as starting just on the other side of the freeway, but since I don’t live there, my perception isn’t accurate. Thanks for the clarification. :slight_smile:

Re: The Pit or the stadium - the campus shuttle system has buses to the Pit. We’ve ridden one from a stop near the university bookstore. That’s if you live on campus, though. Those off campus probably need a car unless they live right next door.

I live near the Sandias and to me downtown ABQ is is anywhere around I25/I40 that isn’t on the West Side - primarily consists of Downtown ABQ, ABQ Uptown, Nob Hill, UNM, and the various cultural/artistic centers near (<7 mi) the interchange. The common joke (which is quite true) takes about 30 minutes to drive to anywhere in “that area” (up to 45 with traffic) from other places in Albuquerque and adjoining counties.

RE: commuters. The commuters are mostly townies and they are not interested in providing cab service to dorm students. They might take you one way if they’re going there anyway, but don’t count on getting a ride back to campus afterwards.

D2 uses Uber or Lyft when she doesn’t want to drive her own car–like if she’s going out to a brewpub/bar or is going Downtown where all the parking is limited, metered/expensive.

Biking can be good option if one is a savvy rider. There are designated bike routes all over the city. Dh commuted to work by bike exclusively for over 25 years, even riding in inclement weather. (12 miles each way daily) D1 and D2 both commuted by bike from their rental house to med school and home again for 4 years each. Daylight hours only. Riding at night is putting your life at risk. Drivers just don’t see cyclists.

A helmet is must and watch out for loose sand/road debris and goatheads (which are a type of tire destroying thorn not an actual goat’s head). All of the worst bike accidents I’ve seen are due to rider error, loose dogs or road debris, not car on bike.

@CharlotteLetter I heard that joke too when I first moved here in 1979, but remember people used to say the same thing about LA…

@DiotimaDM The shuttles run during the day on weekdays. The night shuttle only run until 10 pm, M-Th. That’s no help if the basketball game at The Pit is on Saturday night starting at 7pm.