Art, Design, Culture & Innovation

The Aquifer is an incubator that will focus on innovation and creative collaborations to promote new ideas and solutions for a rapidly changing world.

Mission Statement

Santa Fe is a unique locale, rooted in diverse traditions and cultures, recognized for its artistic contributions, and serving as the gateway to innovative science and technology. Drawing from these strengths and the resourceful approaches of the state at large, we envision a site of higher education that provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary thought at the confluence of art, design, engineering, science, history, and public policy, and transdisciplinary approaches that foster a multi-generational problem-solving, living-learning environment. While drawing upon the history and culture of this unique state, we aim to educate students through collaborative, interdisciplinary, project-based learning. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects draw from a variety of fields to push innovation in areas of social responsibility such as climate change and engineering for peace. These kinds of cross-pollinated environments help to develop learners capacity to both frame and solve problems endemic to industry and society.

International and national partnerships can be instigated by presenting New Mexico as a unique environment. Visitors should enjoy the sense that the site affords them access to an unconventional space, with the possibility for those individuals who have an affinity for New Mexico, to come to Santa Fe and New Mexico is to be on the ground floor of a new educational experience.

We are creating a environment for innovation, to work with communities, cultures, and traditions, to build capacity and strategy appropriate to the region while showcasing New Mexico as a microcosm that is relevant globally. The Aquifer will serve as a site of exchange that emphasizes reciprocity, while supporting newcomers to understand New Mexico more deeply, serving as the nexus between New Mexico’s many dichotomies, creating a mechanism for cross pollination and exchange.

Student from above

student building

Creative Community

The Aquifer will develop a cohort of creatives, bringing together designers, artists, entrepreneurs and technologists from the region to create an interdisciplinary venue for innovation and experimentation.

The Aquifer will be invested in researching a variety of emergent technologies that are shaping the global economy and develop new opportunities for the community of Santa Fe and the region.

Educational Opportunities

The Aquifer will offer educational experiences that engage in Design, Technology and Innovation. The incubator will focus on project based learning that is intended to foster new interdisciplinary offerings for students.

The Aquifer might support courses, certificate programs, degrees, executive education, and other organized credentials and learning experiences that support a variety of creative industries such as arts, design, film, digital arts, peace engineering, innovation, historic preservation, and others, driven by the needs of the creative community of Santa Fe and New Mexico

Virtual Reality


Industry Collaborations

The Aquifer will become a nexus for industry collaborations in an interdisciplinary environment and will focus on research for the future and become a venue where corporations, entrepreneurs and creatives can impact global sustainability and resiliency.

Institutional Collaborations

The University of New Mexico is a comprehensive Carnegie-designated Research 1 University and is the only flagship state university that is also a Hispanic Serving Institution. The students, faculty and staff excel in a wide range of research, creative and innovative activities that contribute to the intellectual, artistic and economic well-being of the region.

The Aquifer will be a nexus to continue to expand institutional collaborations including Santa Fe Community College, as well as other state, national and international institutions. The diversity and global visibility of Santa Fe will allow for new opportunities to promote new innovation and sustainability practices for social and global impact.


Santa Fe Initiative Steering Committee

Tim B. Castillo, MArch
Committee Chair Special Advisor to the Provost-Santa Fe
Professor / Associate Dean of Research
School of Architecture + Planning
Leah Buechley, Phd
Associate Professor
Department of Computer Science
Ramiro Jordan, Phd
Professor, Associate Dean of Engineering for International Programs
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Manuel-Julian R. Montoya, PhD
Professor of Creative Enterprise Associate Dean, Planetary Decisionmaking and Inclusion, University College Associate Professor, International Management
FITE Department
Megan Jacobs, MFA
Associate Professor
Honors College
James D. Stone, Phd
Associate Professor, Department Chair
Film & Digital Media College of Fine Art
Vanessa Svihla, Ph.D
Associate Professor
Organization, Information & Learning
Sciences Secondary: Chemical & Biological Engineering
Mary Tsiongas, MFA
Professor in Experimental Art & Technology
Department of Art
Associate Dean of Research
College of Fine Arts