When Kinesiology major and New Mexico State University Softball player Tatum Reedy isn’t studying for exams, practicing for games or trying to get in a few hours of personal time, she is helping the community. In fact, Reedy and her team contributed more than a thousand hours of community service during the last school year, including nearly 55 from Reedy.
“As a part of New Mexico State Softball, we are all part of something so much bigger than just the game. We represent the team, the school, the community and even the state,” says Reedy, a senior. “It's no longer just about ourselves, so any chance we get to give back to the community and interact with those individuals who support us is a win in my book.” Tatum says she’s encouraged to give back because she sees a culture of caring at NMSU. The campus community focuses on the success of students, faculty and staff, while always considering the impact the university can have in Las Cruces, the state and beyond.
A family moment
That caring focus shone bright in May, when Tiffany Diaz, one of NMSU’s newest graduates, was preparing to accept her bachelor’s degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. The excitement of her accomplishment was tempered by sadness, as her mom, T.J. Diaz, was battling cancer and was too ill to attend NMSU’s commencement.
“When we heard Tiffany’s mom was unable to share in such a momentous occasion, we did everything we could to see that she did,” says Chancellor Garrey Carruthers. Together with James D. Libbin, then interim dean of NMSU’s College of Agriculture; Jean Hertzman, director of the School of HRTM, and student regent Amanda López Askin, Carruthers joined in a very special ceremony to present Tiffany with her diploma one week ahead of schedule at her parents’ home. The following Wednesday, T.J. passed away.
While moments like the one NMSU leaders offered at the Diaz home are not an everyday occurrence, the impact of the actions of students, faculty and staff is.
Planting a seed
When Katherine Mendoza, an early childhood education major, got her hands a little dirty weeding and spreading mulch while volunteering with the Know, Grow and Show Community Garden at University United Methodist Church on Locust Street near campus, she had no idea the impact her time would have on the children and residents in the area. In addition to providing fresh fruits and vegetables for the church’s food pantry and those in need, the spot will serve as a prayer garden for people of any denomination.
“It has a really big impact on everybody,” says Mendoza, who has volunteered at the garden with more than 100 others, including representatives from NMSU and the Doña Ana Community College. “We’re really planting our own seed all together, and one day we’ll see this garden all put together.
A giving community
Sometimes the impact isn’t from food, or community service hours, but from generous service and gifts that make it possible for many students to attend NMSU. In 2015, the NMSU Foundation was joined by campus and Aggie communities to raise more than $5.8 million for scholarship funds (creating 82 new scholarships) across the NMSU system during a one day giving event, Giving Tuesday.
“We are in the business of having an impact across the NMSU system, but we can’t do it alone,” says Andrea Tawney, president of the NMSU Foundation. “There are so many lives being changed every day because of our Aggie family, and when you see that kind of impact, you know we truly are a caring community.”
Professor’s compassion makes a dream come true
As Cheryl Carroll sat in her geography class at NMSU-Alamogordo, she felt her eyes tear up. Her low vision disability was making it hard for her to see the diagrams describing weather condition details Professor Frank Webb was drawing on the board.
“I was trying to keep up with what he was explaining, all the while straining to see what he was doing on the board,” Carroll says. “I kept wiping my tears and tried to stop crying, but the tears kept falling. I gathered my books and made my way out of the room.” As Carroll waited for her son, who was taking the same class, the feelings of failure increased, as did the tears. That was until Webb approached her after class.
“He asked what he could do to help and I told him what had happened, including the frustration I felt from my inability to decipher what was going on in the lecture, all due to my broken eyes. He encouraged me to continue and told me that he would do everything he could to help me through.”'
Throughout the semester, Webb kept his promise, drawing diagrams on paper for Carroll and incorporating different strategies so she could see, even allowing her son to be her eyes during lab. The time he spent on Carroll allowed her to receive her Associate of Arts degree, a dream come true for her. The impact Webb had on Carroll inspired her to write “Against All Odds, a Dream Come True,” an essay and tribute to Webb, which was selected to be read at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Convention in Austin.
“He made a difference in my life, and he took away the discouragement that came flooding in that day,” Carroll says. “I won’t ever forget that.”
Mentors at NMSU support student success every day by engaging with students and providing them with leadership and guidance. It can be the edge a student needs to tackle the challenges in the classroom and inspire them to push themselves toward aspirational goals. Neil Harvey, head of the Department of Government at NMSU, is one person that does that for student Ismael Torres.
“In his work, Dr. Harvey remains committed to community-based participatory research, and exemplifies the bridge between academia and service that results,” says Torres, a President’s Associates Scholar and former intern at the United States Department of Treasury. “His
work empowers members of the community, and it is inspiring to witness the impact he has had.” –Ismael Torres