NMSU millennials are
quietly changing the world

By Minerva Baumann ’13

Sarah Casson ’13 is 25 years old, with degrees from New Mexico State University in government and Spanish. In the four years since she graduated, she has worked in the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., and on a Fulbright fellowship in Colombia, and she is currently the records manager for Latin America at Guinness World Records.

“My team reviews record proposals and evaluates evidence to determine who will be recognized as official record holders,” Casson says. “Another part of my job is traveling to judge live record attempts in Latin America as an official adjudicator. I recently went to Mexico for the Day of the Dead to adjudicate an attempt for the largest gathering of Catrinas, which was a truly amazing thing to see.”

The Albuquerque native is an example of the growing power of millennials in the labor force. An analysis by Pew Research in 2016 reveals millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. Another 2016 study by the Deloitte University Press shows millennials are the largest share of the U.S. labor market. Like Casson, many millennials are already in increasingly senior positions.

Derrick Hunter ’03 is vice president of operations for Elite Golf Management, which manages golf courses in Las Vegas and across southern Nevada with plans to expand across the U.S. The 36-year-old earned a marketing degree and focused on the Professional Golf Management Program. He grew up in Las Cruces and won a high school state championship in golf. He chose NMSU because of the strength of its golf management program, directed by Pat Gavin.

“NMSU gave me the tools and knowledge to reach my current position,” Hunter says. “My marketing and business background gave me the tools necessary to turn around struggling facilities. From developing marketing strategies to writing professional business plans, I find that as I put together my next project, the basics for that project I learned at NMSU.”

Michael Apodaca ’13 ignited his career with a degree in kinesiology from NMSU. At age 26, Apodaca, who is originally from Rio Rancho, is a strength and conditioning coach for the Seattle Mariners.

“Full-time positions in Major League Baseball are very hard to come by,” Apodaca says. “As a strength and conditioning coach for the Mariners, my job is to keep the athletes healthy, most importantly. I create weight training and conditioning programs that are individualized for each of the players’ needs. I thank the good Lord every day for giving me a platform to make a difference in others’ lives.”

Apodaca illustrates another result of the 2016 Deloitte global survey of 7,700 millennials from 29 countries: Millennials are taking their values to work with them. When asked to rank factors that influence their behavior at work, millennials say their personal values and morals come first. More than half would not work for an organization that does not share their personal values, and 7 in 10 millennials surveyed feel strongly that their company does share their values.

“Our work environment favors the team player – the one who values and appreciates her or his co-workers,” says 30-year-old Lina Abdallah ’14, a process engineer at Intel, who came to NMSU from Jordan and received her doctorate in physics. “This is one of the main drivers of my success at my current job, but also at NMSU.”

“It is exhilarating to know that your skill set is required and valued by the world’s largest processor manufacturer, that you can hold your own in a work environment that prides itself in hiring only the best,” Abdallah adds. She had just started her job search when she was referred to Intel’s Talent Acquisition program, and within two months, accepted the job.

Collaboration and friendliness are the hallmarks of Fernando Fioretto’s experience at NMSU. Fioretto ’16 grew up in a small town in Italy where his passion for computer science began when he was 8 years old. At age 30, after receiving his doctorate in computer science, Fioretto is a research fellow at the University of Michigan, where his focus is artificial intelligence and data science.

“Among other things, we study people’s mobility at a city level to understand how we can help to design smarter infrastructures to better serve the population’s increasing mobility needs,” Fioretto says. “At NMSU, I not only acquired the technical skills necessary to solve many of the problems I face today on a daily basis, but NMSU offered a fantastic environment to develop a strong network of exceptional collaborators.”

Another data point from the Deloitte survey shows millennials believe that business success is built on a foundation of long-
term sustainability. NMSU grads reflect that optimism about the future. “We live in a world driven by technology,” says Hunter. “We have to adapt and learn new strategies to stay competitive.”

Fioretto sums up millennials’ values-based philosophy: “Millennials are a generation that has been primed to do well by doing good.”

Sarah Casson awards the Guinness World Record to J. Balvin for the longest stay at No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Latin Songs chart by a single artist. 

NMSU millennials’ advice for Gen Z

“I wish I had known that the education, the friends that you make, the contacts that you meet will be with you for the rest of your life. Take advantage of this as much as you can, as it will only make you more suc-cessful.” – DERRICK HUNTER ’03

“For undergraduates: follow your talent, not your desire. For graduate students: pick your adviser, not your field of research. Dr. (Stefan) Zollner saw in me potential that I did not know I had and pushed me to realize it.” – LINA ABDALLAH ’14

“Engage yourself in the learning process and follow your interests and passion rather than job prospects. It may require more than one try to discover your true interest and strengths, so don’t dismiss anything after the first try!” – FERNANDO FIORETTO ’16

“Take advantage of all of NMSU’s international programs. I think NMSU was an amazing springboard for an international career. I worked at the Office of International Education, participated in Model United Nations and took advantage of study abroad opportunities. All of these experi-ences opened me up to the world and brought me to where I am today.” – SARAH CASSON ’13

Fernando Fioretto poses in his lab at the University of Michigan.


Left: Derrick Hunter poses at one of the golf courses managed by Elite Golf Management, where he is vice president of operations.
Middle: Seattle Mariners hitting coach Brian Hunter, left, watches the game with Michael Apodaca, center, and player Austin Grebeck.
Right: Physics professors Heinrich Nakotte, far left, and Stefan Zollner, far right, along with students Lina Abdallah and Timothy Nunely, demonstrate how a spectroscopic ellipsometer is used to measure material samples.