When people think of architects, they think of beautiful buildings. From towering buildings that touch the sky, to homes and structures that recreate or enhance a local culture’s style, architects influence a cityscape in hundreds of distinctive ways.

For UNM’s Geraldine Forbes Isais, Dean of the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, architects and planners not only impact a city’s skyline; but also define a city’s vision by designing beautiful buildings and well thought out communities. And it is this view that has focused her vision and leadership as dean of the UNM School of Architecture and Planning.

Forbes Isais’ view is that architecture, planning and design are ways of thinking and problem solving that can be applied to communities and cities as much as they can to the creation of sturdy buildings.

“(Design and planning) is a system, a methodology, that can be applied in other situations that can guide economic development, or aid in economic stability.”

As part of her philosophy for public service, Forbes Isais encourages her students and fellow faculty to engage beyond the classroom, to go out into the field and address problems and issues at their source.

“We see the need to connect rural communities – to create a network throughout New Mexico, making the knowledge base of the University of New Mexico available to that network. We have field classes all of the time. What I saw, and still see happen, is that we go out as almost an encapsulated entity and we come back in, leaving very little behind in these communities. We need to leave an imprint wherever we go.

“New Mexico is the fifth-largest land mass state, and yet we have one of the smallest populations. For us to help people, whether in the School of Architecture and Planning or any other UNM entity, we have to find a way to do so that isn’t such an expensive endeavor in time and resources. We have to be smarter about how long one has to be in a place to actually make a difference.”

As an example of this focus on statewide community outreach UNM Is School of Architecture and Planning is working with other colleges at the University of New Mexico, as well as local government agencies, nonprofits and universities in southwestern New Mexico as a part of the Silver Plata Studio to apply a holistic model of planning and community growth to remote rural areas hard hit by recent economic storms.

When she first arrived on campus, Isais saw potential in the University of New Mexico, and the School of Architecture and Planning, to be the best in the nation. To reach for the proverbial brass ring, and using the skills inherent to architecture and planning to improve not only in the school, or the university, but all of New Mexico.

“When I arrived at UNM I wanted the school to be the best design school in the country. I still hold that mindset.”

Her hard work was recognized recently when she was honored in DesignIntelligence as one of the 25 Most Admired Educators for 2016.