NMSU’s STEM TECH Lab receives new name, major gift By Angel Mendez

One of the popular acronyms in the education world today – STEM – represents more than science, technology, engineering and mathematics. While many different definitions of STEM exist, the end goal of this interdisciplinary, collaborative study is to inspire and equip young students with the skillsets needed to fill the growing pipeline of open STEM jobs available around the world. And, New Mexico State University wants to help. 

Last Fall, NMSU debuted its STEM TECH (Test and Evaluation Collaboration Hub) Lab in O’Donnell Hall funded by a $900,000 grant from the Department of Defense. Operated under a partnership between the Colleges of Education and Engineering and NMSU’s STEM Outreach Center, NMSU is the only university to house such a lab, which brings in hundreds of K-8 students from throughout the Las Cruces community and uses high-tech simulation and other novel gadgets to teach STEM concepts.

While direct impact on student STEM interest will take years to measure, new data shows NMSU’s STEM outreach through the lab and beyond is already affecting the local economy. Since 2009, more than 24,000 students have participated in NMSU’s afterschool programs, generating $7.77 million in labor income and $4.95 million in childcare savings for area families.

This success interested NMSU ’69 alumni Jack and MaryLou Davis.  

“Jack and I both believe that proficiency in STEM is a must, even if the student is not directly involved in a scientific profession,” says MaryLou.

A former educator herself, MaryLou, who is also chair of the NMSU Foundation Board, and her husband, Jack, former CEO of Arizona Public Service, see the importance of STEM from both the business and educational perspectives. Their recent investment of $500,000 has renamed the “Jack & MaryLou Davis STEM TECH Lab” and created new endowed scholarships in the Colleges of Education and Engineering.

“Jack and I see NMSU’s STEM TECH Lab as a unique facility that we hope will challenge students from all grade levels,” MaryLou says. “The university and the state will benefit from immersive student STEM experiences as they continue their studies and, eventually, enter the workforce fully prepared for their futures.”

The gift comes shortly after support from Smoky and Alan Torgerson who invested in a STEM professorship to recruit top teaching talent to the program. Both gifts will enhance the STEM program and spark both an interest in STEM at a younger age as well as an interest in NMSU as the prime pathway to pursue those STEM passions.

“This gift is a great example of the commitment and dedication of outstanding NMSU alumni who like to ensure that NMSU students are equally successful in their careers,” says College of Engineering Dean Lakshmi Reddi. “We respect their generosity by making sure our STEM student recruitment and retention efforts are designed in a way that every dollar they contribute has the maximal benefit.”

Above top: Dylan Guerrero and Jasmine Paez from Zia Middle School experience the lab's virtual reality programs teaching STEM concepts with hands-on learning.
Above bottom: MaryLou (left) and Jack Davis believe in the impact a STEM education has on New Mexico's youth. Their recent investment in the effort has officially renamed a key component of NMSU's STEM outreach program as the "Jack & MaryLou Davis STEM TECH Lab."