Around Aggieland

Faculty honors, Presidential Medallion presented at fall convocation

Eleven faculty members were recognized for their excellence in teaching and research and their service to the university during the 2017 fall convocation ceremony.

Kenny Stevens, Department of Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering, received the Westhafer Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

The Westhafer is presented in memory of Robert L. Westhafer, professor in the Department of Mathematics from 1946 to 1957. It is given in alternating years for excellence in teaching and for excellence in research and creative activity. 

Andreas Gross, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Zachary Toups, Department of Computer Science, received the Patricia Christmore Faculty Teaching Award. 

Named for Patricia Christmore, former accounting department head, this annual award recognizes and rewards superb junior tenure-track faculty members for excellence in teaching. 

The University Research Council presents its Award for Excellence to faculty and staff in recognition of exceptional research and/or other creative scholarly efforts at NMSU. 

The recipients are Salim Bawazir, Nirmala Khandan and Pei Xu of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center; Catherine E. Brewer, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering; Kenneth C. Carroll, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences; and Tim Wright, Department of Biology. 

Emma Orta, College of Health and Social Services, and Esther Steiner, College of Arts and Sciences, received the Excellence in Academic Advising Award. 

This award recognizes faculty and professional academic advisers for their outstanding achievements and service to NMSU students. The candidates are nominated by students. 

In addition, Chancellor Garrey Carruthers presented the Presidential Medallion to Don Kidd, Western Community Bank chairman and chief executive officer, and his wife, Sarrah, in recognition of their generosity.

Jane Moorman

New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers, fifth from right, Provost Dan Howard, second from left, Presidential Medallion recipient Don Kidd and his wife, Sarrah, both at center, join faculty members for a group photo following the 2017 Fall Convocation ceremony at the Atkinson Recital Hall. Awardees include, left to right, Ken-neth Carroll, Catherine Brewer, Zachary Toups, Tim Wright, Andreas Gross, Esther Steiner, Salim Bawazir, Emma Orta and Pei Xu.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Pontelli named College of Arts and Sciences dean

Enrico Pontelli, a New Mexico State University Regents Professor with nearly two decades of service to the university, was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in May. 

Pontelli was an interim associate dean in the college for two years prior to being named interim dean in 2016. He served as head of the Department of Computer Science for five years and is also an alumnus, earning his Ph.D. in computer science from NMSU in 1997. 

“I am a proud Aggie,” Pontelli says. “This institution has given a lot to me, and the reason I want to do this is to give back to NMSU. The college is strong and has incredible faculty and staff. I have started a number of initiatives that I want to continue.” 

Community outreach is important to Pontelli. He is the founder of the university’s Young Women in Computing program, which has reached more than 14,000 students and raised the visibility of NMSU in the computer science education community. 

Pontelli’s research interests are in the general area of artificial intelligence, high performance computing, assistive technologies and bioinformatics. He has published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers in international venues and secured more than $14 million in funding for his research. 

Minerva Baumann ’13 


Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Laree Estes Perez awarded honorary doctorate

Former NMSU regent Laree Estes Perez returned to campus in May to receive an honorary doctoral degree at commencement. “I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the honor,” Perez says. “It’s certainly the greatest honor that I’ve ever received.”

Beginning in 1991, Perez served on the NMSU Board of Regents for six years and was board president from 1994 to 1996. 

Perez received a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and economics from Baylor University. She also served on the Baylor University Board of Regents for nine years. 

In 1996, Perez sold her Medallion Investment Management Company to Loomis, Sayles & Company, one of the largest companies in the country. She joined the investment advisory company DeRoy and Devereaux, where she’s been vice president since 2002 and has helped that business grow to over $1.1 billion in assets. 

Coming from a ranching family, and with a heart for New Mexico agriculture, Perez named the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences – including the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management – in her estate for the purpose of establishing scholarships. 

Kristie Garcia ’07 


Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Starbucks CEO shares lessons with students,

When Kevin Johnson ’81 arrived at NMSU in May to receive an honorary doctorate at commencement, he had a much different perspective than when he walked onto campus for the first time as a freshman in 1978.

The chief executive officer of Starbucks, Johnson has been on quite the journey since graduating from NMSU with his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration with a major in business systems. 

“It was at NMSU where I discovered a passion for technology and business, which became my career,” Johnson says. 

His passion for software led him into a career that included IBM, Microsoft and serving as chief executive office of Juniper Networks. Johnson served on the National Security Telecommunication Advisory Committee under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

After a successful career in technology, Johnson joined Starbucks in 2009 as a member of its board of directors. In March 2015, he became president and chief operating officer and assumed the role of CEO in April of this year. 

Through the years, Johnson and his wife, June – also an NMSU graduate – have generously supported NMSU’s Arrowhead Center and the College of Business. 

“My experience at NMSU taught me the importance of helping others, which June and I have carried forward throughout our lives,” Johnson says. 

He visited NMSU’s Arrowhead Center in May, where he spoke to students and faculty about the importance of leadership, human connection, storytelling and life-long learning. 

Kristie Garcia ’07 

LEFT: Starbucks CEO and New Mexico State University alumnus Kevin Johnson returned to NMSU to receive an honorary doctoral degree and visited with students, faculty and staff of Arrowhead Center and the NMSU College of Business in May. RIGHT: Johnson greets NMSU alumna and Starbucks store manager Jessica Lyn Robles during his visit to Arrowhead Center, NMSU’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Aggie bragging rights

National top tier university ranking

New Mexico State University has been recognized as a top tier university for the past five years according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges for 2018 National Universities rankings. 

NMSU improved more than 20 spots and is tied for 198. The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings are based on seven factors: assessment of excellence, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving.

A national leader in equal access to higher education

In a report from the Brookings Institution, NMSU was listed as a leader in equal access to higher education. The report gave NMSU the second-highest score in the nation as a public university that provides opportunities for social mobility to students and produces valuable research. 

In the Brookings report, “Ladders, labs, or laggards? Which public universities contribute most,” by Dimitrios Halikias and Richard V. Reeves, the pair evaluated 342 of the nation’s selective public four-year universities “using newly-available tax data from the Equality of Opportunity Project at Stanford to gauge mobility and an independent ranking from the Carnegie Foundation to assess research activity – to determine which universities are ladders or labs, and which universities are laggards less deserving of public funding.” Private universities, historically black colleges and universities, public liberal arts colleges and military-oriented institutions were not considered. 

NMSU ranks second as a leader for acting as both a ladder for social mobility and laboratory for research. Of the universities considered, NMSU, as a leader, is among only 20 percent of the universities accomplished in both categories. 

NMSU is considered a ladder for promoting social mobility by helping low-income students achieve higher levels on the income ladder following graduation. Nearly 18 percent of NMSU students come from the bottom 20 percent income bracket.

Ranked No. 1 in nation in science, engineering funding for minority-serving institutions

NMSU ranks first in the country for federal obligations for science and engineering activities for minority-serving institutions, according to a report from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 

A high-Hispanic enrollment institution, NMSU led the nation in receiving $48.8 million in federal science and engineering obligations during the 2015 fiscal year. The majority of the funds, 84 percent, were in the research and development category, and 62 percent of the science and engineering total came from the Department of Defense ($11.6 million), NSF ($9.6 million) and NASA ($9 million).

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

FYRE: First-Year Residential Experience aims to help students succeed

The First-Year Residential Experience (FYRE) is a new program at New Mexico State University designed to help students achieve success at the very beginning of their academic journey.

The program is aligned with a new requirement for first-year students to live on campus. Research shows that students who live on campus in their first year are better connected to a university community, more likely to attend class and more likely to graduate. The FYRE program aims to encourage self-discovery and a thirst for learning.

The program will expand the number of Living Learning Communities in the residence halls, place a greater emphasis on outreach to students, and expose students to more leadership development activities in the form of residence governance opportunities. 

A key objective of the FYRE program is improving students’ connections with faculty. To that end, the program will host social activities and events that bring students together with faculty members known as FYREstarters, who will be affiliated with their residential unit.

For more information about the FYRE program, including exemptions to the first-year residency requirement, visit

Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017

Outstanding faculty, staff honored during spring convocation

Two new Regents Professors, 13 other faculty members and one department were recognized for their excellence in teaching and service to the university and community during the spring convocation ceremony in January.

In addition, Chancellor Garrey Carruthers presented the Presidential Medallion to retired director of special events Barbara Hubbard for her dedicated service to the university and the community. Susan DeMar, College of Arts and Sciences, and Satya Rao, College of Health and Social Services, received the Community Engagement Award for their demonstrated efforts to better New Mexico communities through partnerships and volunteer work.

Michael Johnson, chemistry and biochemistry, and Nancy McMillan, geological sciences, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, were named Regents Professors, recognizing their outstanding contributions to the university’s mission in the areas of education and research.

Receiving the Donald C. Roush Award were Merranda Marin, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Michael Hout, College of Arts and Sciences; Matthew Holt, College of Business; Anna Lopez, College of Education; Fangjun Shu, College of Engineering; Maria Ortiz, College of Health and Social Services; Vicente Lombraña, NMSU Alamogordo; Kenda Josselet, NMSU Carlsbad; Mike Teitsworth, Doña Ana Community College; and Karen M. Henry, NMSU Grants. The Outstanding Assessment Committee for Co-Curriculum, Administration and Operations Excellence in Assessment Award was presented to NMSU’s Center for Learning and Professional Development.

Jane Moorman

Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017

Million-dollar gift supports transformative scholarships for journalism students

Floyd “Cy” Cress traveled the world as a writer after World War II, saved his money and retired as a millionaire to a quiet life in Deming in the mid 1980s. He valued the power and splendor of the written word so much that he donated more than $1 million beginning in 2014 to fund journalism scholarships at New Mexico State University. So far, more than two dozen NMSU journalism students are realizing their dreams thanks to him.

“This gift was very exciting for our department,” says Hwiman Chung, department head of journalism and mass communications. “We had been looking for ways to help students financially, and with this donation, school can be possible for many more journalism students.”

Cress asked that his $1 million estate gift to the university remain anonymous until after his death.

He passed away in January of 2017 at age 96, but lived to see his generosity benefit 25 students who have received the Cy Cress Excellence in Journalism scholarship.

The scholarship was created in honor of his sister, Lois Cress, who shared his passion for journalism and was an editor for the Denver Post. The awards go to NMSU journalism students at any stage of their studies based on financial need and who have at least a 3.0 grade point average. The earnings allocated from Cress’ $1 million gift will be used for journalism scholarships each year.


Floyd “Cy” Cress donated more than $1 million to New Mexico State University to establish the Cy Cress Excellence in Journalism Scholarship. 

Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017

On a roll: Engineering students’ device boosts quality of life for cancer-survivor dog

Last fall, three College of Engineering students working as on-campus co-ops at New Mexico State University designed and built a wheelchair device to assist a dog who had his right hind leg amputated due to cancer earlier last year.

Through the Aggie Innovation Space, Aggie Innovators Natalia Perez, Abdiel Jimenez and Arturo Dominguez designed and created a customized device for the 17-year-old Kita and his owner, Michelle Lebsock.

Perez, Jimenez and Dominguez met with Kita and Lebsock many times to determine the correct height, comfort and restraint requirements of the device. Ease of assembly and disassembly were also important factors the Aggie Innovators had to consider to ensure the device

was portable and easy to use. “The AIS team became very passionate about this project, sharing ideas, collaborating to assess specific constraints and requirements, and evaluating ideas for build-out materials,” Jimenez says.

“This project reminded us how engineers can enhance quality of life, and made us realize that our duty as engineers is not just for people and the environment but for our furry friends that make our lives happier,” Perez says.

Tiffany Acosta

Aggie Innovator Arturo Dominguez, left, and Michelle Lebsock pose with Lebsock’s 17-year-old dog, Kita, in his finished wheelchair. The device was designed and built by students in the Aggie Innovation Space at the College of Engineering.


Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017

NMSU honors fallen Hatch officer

Fallen Hatch Police Officer José Ismael Chavez was awarded a posthumous degree during New Mexico State University’s fall 2016 commencement ceremony. Chavez, an NMSU student, died Aug. 12, 2016, after being shot during a traffic stop. “Officer Chavez was a dedicated student and gave his life serving this community,” NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said during the ceremony. “He absolutely earned this degree, and we were proud to present it to his family. He’s a perfect example of how NMSU is a caring community.” Chavez had enrolled in the last semester of earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice the day before his death. Carruthers presented a certificate to Chavez’s mother, Maria Ramirez, and his daughters, Janiley, 14, and Aryam, 6. Ramirez says she was already proud of her son, but now even more so after receiving the posthumous degree. “We are very thankful to NMSU for presenting this degree to us in his honor,” Janiley Chavez says. “We are very proud of him.”

Jane Moorman

Regents Chair Debra Hicks and Chancellor Garrey Carruthers stand with the family of Officer José Ismael Chavez after presenting them with his posthumously awarded degree. Chavez’s mother, Maria Ramirez, holds his photo, along with daughters Aryam and Janiley.


Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017