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New developments

Building modernization plans convey NMSU’s unique identity

Visitors to NMSU’s Las Cruces campus this year have probably noticed the sounds of cranes, earthmovers, and other construction equipment rolling through an obstacle course of orange barrels and detour signs. 

To University Architect Heather Watenpaugh and NMSU’s team of project designers and engineers, the rumbles and beeps of those vehicles are the sound of progress, growth and modernization. 

Most recently, NMSU celebrated the groundbreaking for its Agricultural Modernization Educational Facilities project, a two-phase, general obligation bond-funded project that got underway in June 2021. The first phase of the project includes the construction and modernization of facilities that support human health and biomedical research, student learning and public outreach, and food security and animal production efficiency. 

The improvements to NMSU's Agricultural District are needed to bring the facilities in line with the needs of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the academic advancement trajectory of NMSU as a whole. 

“These new facilities will lead to growth in research, teaching, outreach and service that will benefit all New Mexicans, and allow us to continue the outstanding NMSU tradition of the land-grant mission exemplified by the work of Fabian Garcia early last century,” College of ACES Dean Rolando Flores Galarza said at the groundbreaking ceremony in August 2021. 

The project is part of a long-term facilities master plan for all of NMSU’s campuses and sites statewide that aims to repurpose or replace older buildings with structures that meet the current and future needs of the university’s land-grant mission. 

“The average age of our buildings on the Las Cruces campus is 56 years old, and some of them have the original mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems,” Watenpaugh says. “We’re working to align with the university system’s LEADS 2025 strategic plan, so we work closely with units to figure out what the academic plans and needs are, and develop plans to meet those from a facility standpoint.” 

Following the approval of $43 million for the agricultural modernization project, which was green-lit by voters in two phases through the 2018 and 2020 GO bond elections, university planning efforts have identified Thomas and Brown Hall, part of the complex of buildings that make up the College of Engineering, as the flagship project for the 2022 election cycle. 

Voters in 2020 also approved funding for upgrades to NMSU’s Information and Communication Technology infrastructure and repairs at Agricultural Science Center sites around the state. Watenpaugh says these infrastructure, repair and maintenance projects are vitally important. 

“Deferred maintenance over the years at some of these sites has left some of our science centers and other facilities in need of repairs in order to continue to operate and serve their mission,” Watenpaugh says. Through an ongoing facilities assessment project, planners are identifying additional needs and prioritizing those projects in alignment with the strategic plan. 

Looking beyond the replacement of Thomas and Brown Hall, Watenpaugh says the next major project in the facilities master plan that NMSU will bring to New Mexico voters for approval will be a renovation and repurposing of Milton Hall, one of the Las Cruces campus’s older buildings. Milton Hall was originally the student union building and has been reinvented and added to several times over the years, creating a space where some internal areas don’t connect – but the building has historical value that is worth preserving, she says. 

“When you step on a college campus years later, you want it to feel like the same campus,” Watenpaugh says. “You don’t want all of the buildings to be gone. You want to reinvent them. 

“Milton Hall has its struggles, so we’re in the process of evaluating the physical structure and determining how we can repurpose it for an Admissions and Enrollment Management Center, along with a new gateway plaza for the center of campus.” 

For all of these projects, the design and planning include not just the buildings, but the outdoor spaces that surround and connect them. 

“We’re very interested, from a master planning standpoint, in place-making – creating useful places out of the spaces in between the buildings for students. Especially in our climate, it’s just as important as the building itself,” Watenpaugh says. 

From the Ag District at the west end of campus to the design collaboration with the New Mexico Department of Transportation on the new Interstate 25/University Avenue interchange in the eastern part of campus, with its traffic circle monument structures and concrete artwork designed by Las Cruces artist Collette Marie ’01 (read more about the project on page 33), new projects are being designed to create a sense of place for the campus – picturesque, welcoming and unique to NMSU. 

“We’re really looking at our Aggie identity,” Watenpaugh says, “and how we present ourselves to those who are visiting, alumni who are returning, and, most importantly, students who are considering making this their home for the next four years.” 

Contributions to this initiative may be directed to Kassie Ckodre, College of ACES development officer, at or 575-646-6495. 

NMSU administration, Board of Regents and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences officials help break ground on the new Agricultural Modernization Education Facilities project on the Las Cruces campus August 2021. 
NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu speaks at the groundbreaking celebration held in August 2021 for the new Agricultural Modernization Educational Facilities project. 
An architectural rendering of the food science building in the agricultural district on the Las Cruces campus. 
An architectural rendering of the biomedical research building in the agricultural district on the Las Cruces campus. 


Thomas and Brown Hall: Rebuilding the past to create a better future

Plans are progressing to replace the nearly 50-year-old Thomas and Brown Hall. The new facility opens up possibilities to reconfigure the College of Engineering complex. The new building will continue to be home to the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. It also will be home to engineering high-tech research laboratories; the Aggie Innovation Space, which will give students access to state-of-the art resources; and the Eloy Torrez Family Engineering Learning Communities that will provide tutoring and mentoring resources to students. At the same time, it will provide welcomed changes to nurture cross-disciplinary, collaborative and distance learning that promote student success to engineering students and all NMSU students.

The guiding principles for the need and design of this facility are to support and expand the student-centric culture in the College of Engineering. It all began in the early 20th century with Ralph Willis Goddard, pioneer of radio transmission. 

Goddard started the student-centric DNA of this college that has persisted for more than a century, with the same underlying themes and challenges. This new facility has been planned to be a beacon for those values across the NMSU campus. 

Contributions and ideas supporting this initiative may be directed to Adrian Bautista, College of Engineering development officer, at or 575-646-2552. 

Linda Fresques