Renovations of Eloy Torrez Learning Communities expected this summer by Angel Mendez

Creating a home away from home – a family of supportive classmates and professors – is New Mexico State University’s secret to meeting an increasing workforce demand and creating a stout pipeline of talented engineers with new skillsets.

Starting this past fall, the College of Engineering integrated the Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities into its curriculum and culture among all of its students. Work toward the goal, focused on mentoring students to improve retention rates, shows early signs of success.

“These new opportunities to work with their peers and professors one-on-one is enriching students’ collaborative and entrepreneurial skillsets,” said Lakshmi Reddi, College of Engineering dean. “These communities are shattering engineering stigmas of silo-based work and instilling high-demand, employability skills in every one of our graduates.” 

A $315,000 gift from Eloy Torrez, a 1970 NMSU alumnus in electrical engineering and a distinguished alum of the College of Engineering, prompted college leaders to renovate the environment where engineering students peer mentor one another through some of the program’s toughest courses. Adam Bouma, mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate student, serves as one of many peer learning facilitators in the learning communities. 

“It’s very fulfilling for me personally,” Bouma said. “I struggled during my freshman year, and I watched several of my classmates switch programs because of the rigor that’s required of an engineering pathway. Having this new opportunity to coach my younger peers through the tough courses I faced early on is training both mentors and mentees how to communicate and how to work together to solve problems.”

As a peer learning facilitator, Bouma commits 20 hours per week, attending lectures for Engineering 100, a general engineering course required for all freshmen, and teaching at least one workshop or lab, as well as hosting office hours for personal mentoring in the learning communities. 

“We can talk about coursework,” Bouma said. “Or, we focus on life skills and career pathways. Sometimes, we even host impromptu design sessions for competitive, creative fun.”

Since the start of this academic year, about 480 students have used the learning communities almost 2,000 times. Using pre- and post-surveys, data gathered so far shows that 96 percent of students agree that these tutoring sessions helped them understand the information they are seeking and almost 100 percent agreed their tutor showed commitment in helping them understand the material.

Reddi expects the number of visits to increase once renovations of the learning communities are completed this summer. Designs of the new environment inside the Ed and Harold Foreman Engineering Complex call for tearing down walls to create new areas with mobile furniture, collaborative tables, glass walls and more all inside fishbowl-style rooms. 

Once the new space is finished, Reddi plans to increase activity inside the learning communities by inviting guest speakers from the profession and local businesses, offering specialized workshops and emphasizing use of the space for students’ capstone design projects.

Beyond offering a sanctuary for all engineering students, Reddi believes this space will eventually break down systematic diversities faced by subgroups pursuing engineering careers.

“The learning communities will help merge different mindsets and create interdisciplinary teams that focus on solving multi-dimensional, real-world problems,” Reddi said. “Because these students are so engrossed in solving a common problem, they forget they have different majors, skin tones or backgrounds. Young women, first-generation students and Hispanics truly benefit from this type of network. Yet, the diversity they bring to the table because of those differences creates a variance of ideas and is the beauty and key in effective problem-solving.”

Bouma sees these experiences already taking place and hopes that once the learning communities get a new face, the local business community and the college’s alumni will provide additional, real-world support. 

“I would love to see more experts from the field, either locally or within our alumni, host discussions or pose real-life issues that engage this community in new ways,” Bouma said. “We’re eager to learn in the classroom but know the working world awaits us. Sharing their professional experiences and ideas with us would help us better prepare for that future.”

To meet the Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities mentors or to learn more about the program, visit

With the help of more than 20 supporters, $300,000 has been raised for facility renovations and an additional $610,500 has been raised for endowed and current support of the program itself. Please contact Mark Gladden at if you would like to help support the Engineering Learning Communities.