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Engineering students give new life to campus community garden

For their spring 2022 semester community service project, Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute students chose to help revitalize the NMSU Community Garden. 

The garden, located at the corner of Standley Drive and Fabian Garcia Avenue, was officially established as a chartered Associated Students of NMSU organization in 2017. The group installed 15 raised garden beds with drip irrigation. Unfortunately, the garden languished during the time campus was closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

The Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute began in 2019 with a donation from Ron Seidel ’70 and his wife, Janice ’69 ’70, to provide students with the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills needed to become successful leaders in engineering careers. Part of the institute curriculum requires community service. 

NMSU_Community_Garden_090822-3.jpg“It is my strong belief that engineers serve society and that service goes beyond the workplace,” says College of Engineering Dean Lakshmi N. Reddi, who envisioned and leads the institute. 

Reddi selected Emeritus Engineering Professor Kenny Stevens, founder of Aggies Without Limits, to lead the service effort. Stevens was recognized with the first-ever NMSU Community Engagement, Extension and Outreach Award in fall 2021. 

“For engineers, the only difference between a job and community service is not getting paid for it,” Stevens says. “It’s kind of cool.”

Using a real-world approach, students analyzed the project by applying engineering process principles. They then responded to a formal request for proposal with their implementation plans, graphics, labor and materials requirements, budgets, timelines and plans for sustainability.

Before the group’s involvement, NMSU Community Garden Organization president Jonathan Alaniz and vice president Alexi Bernard-Weiner had already set to work, getting five of the plots prepared and planted. They also procured a donation of 12 cubic yards of garden soil from Sunland Nursery. 

“We faced some challenges, but we were able to make some real progress,” says Marina Espinosa, mechanical engineering student. “During our weekly meetings at the garden, everyone worked together to move the soil, pull the Bermuda grass and work on the irrigation system. It was amazing to see what we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time.” 

By the end of spring 2022, all 15 plots were filled with fresh soil, equipped with a working irrigation system and ready for planting, which in the summer included eggplant, onions and tomatoes. 

“Mixing your ideas with that of another can ensure a plan is executed with even more efficiency than doing it on your own. This project really allowed me to put that into practice in my own life, and I now know that in my career as an engineer I will be combining my own ideas with the ideas of others to really make something work in the best possible way,” says Iryna Plaksina, civil engineering student.


The NMSU Community Garden offers students, faculty and staff, along with members of the Las Cruces community, a place to garden on campus. NMSU students in the Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute helped revive the garden, which produced tomatoes, eggplant and onions in summer 2022.