Alumni Connections

NMSU alumna leads as state actuary

Anna Krylova

As an undergraduate, Anna Krylova ’09 thought she wanted to be a financial adviser. But while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in finance at NMSU, she discovered a desire to study a field that was “more mathematical.” So, she opted to concentrate her studies in risk management and insurance and actuarial science.

With her sights set on becoming a professional who measures risk and uncertainty, Krylova graduated from NMSU with a bachelor’s degree in finance and an RMI concentration along with a supplementary major in applied mathematics. Today, she is the chief actuary in the Office of Superintendent of Insurance for the state of New Mexico.

“I received an amazing base knowledge in RMI studies at NMSU,” she says. “The program’s leaders – professors Al Berryman and Tim Query – provided mentorship that was indispensable and helped me get to where I am today.”

The late professor L.E. “Lije” Pease founded the RMI studies program at NMSU more than 25 years ago. Today, it encompasses three pathways for undergraduates: an 18-credit RMI minor and RMI concentration for finance students, both offered through the Finance Department in the College of Business, and an actuarial science and insurance concentration for math students.

“There is high demand for jobs in the RMI/actuary industry,” says Query, NMSU finance professor, who oversees the insurance studies program and the Actuarial Science Insurance and Financial Services Center. “At NMSU, students are taking RMI classes in record numbers. The benefit of having an RMI studies program at a Hispanic-Serving Institution is that more diverse students are entering the industry.”

Dozens of businesses and individual donors have contributed to the program. Every year, the College of Business awards approximately $23,000 in student scholarships, and John and Margy Papen founded an endowed professorship to support the faculty in actuarial sciences. 

Given the high job demand in the industry, students who study RMI and actuarial science typically find employment more easily, Query says. Such was the case for Krylova.

  “After I graduated, professor Berryman connected with the folks at Mountain States Insurance, and that’s where I started as an actuary. I stayed there for three years before I went to the Office of Superintendent of Insurance,” she says, noting the small but growing RMI and actuarial science industry in New Mexico. “Yes, actuaries are very much in demand.”

Carlos Andres López ’10

Students in a risk management and insurance course listen to instructor Yolanda Hernandez discuss an upcoming course exam. Founded more than 25 years ago at NMSU, RMI course enrollment numbers are setting record highs, building a future workforce for in-demand careers.

Yolanda Hernandez leads a risk management and insurance course, which is offered through the Finance Department in the College of Business.

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

The Aggie Traveling Hat

Benjamin Davenport poses in front of Hadley Hall in February 2019 with the Aggie Traveling Hat. It was the first time since the hat was purchased that it had returned to campus.

It doesn’t have legs, but it’s visited 42 countries. It can’t talk, but it’s united 150 Aggies and counting. It, you ask, is the Aggie Traveling Hat.

This rugged, crimson-faded, NMSU hat isn’t human, but thanks to Benjamin Davenport ’01, it has come to life as an adventurous, Aggie personification over the last 18 years. Davenport, who works on government projects around the world, leads a group of NMSU engineering alumni who also work internationally on state or defense affairs for the military or government. Linked by the Aggie Traveling Hat, this group is building an NMSU global footprint.

It all started in 2001. Davenport purchased the hat inside the former campus bookstore inside Corbett Center, and he packed it when he moved to the Marshall Islands outside of Hawaii for his new career. 

“A group of us Aggies were in the same area, and we were out on the water near a small island,” Davenport says. “We just got the idea. We placed the hat on the edge of the boat we were on and snapped a photo, and from there, it took off.”

Since that day, the Aggie Traveling Hat has experienced the Japan World Series, rode an elephant in Thailand and visited the Outback in Australia – to name just a few notable adventures.

While the Aggie Traveling Hat has done quite a bit in 18 years, one adventure it has not – and will never – go on is traveling through the mail. The hat is always physically handed from one person to the next.  

“It unites people. Sometimes it’s through scheduled gatherings, but oftentimes, through random, chance meetings,” Davenport says.

Of course, with that many hands, the hat’s bound to get into trouble. Twice, Davenport remembers almost losing the hat – once in 2008 when someone’s luggage got lost, and again in Guam when it fell off a sailboat during a storm. 

“We had to ask the captain to turn around to get it, and by the time we did that, the hat was water-logged and sinking. A buddy of mine dove in after it and came up with it on his head,” Davenport says. 

Despite close calls, Davenport says the hat never feels like a chore but more like a hobby that keeps him from getting homesick for New Mexico.

“It’s brought together many different people from many different backgrounds and situations, but we all share the same story – we’re New Mexico State grads,” he says. “The hat is our token to stay connected and lets us celebrate our culture and heritage no matter where we are.”

If you’d like to connect with fellow Aggies through the Aggie Traveling Hat, email Davenport at

Angel Mendez

The Marshall Islands

Yokohama, Japan


Posted by grel in Spring 2019

New Mexico’s first female U.S. Marshal reflects on her NMSU roots

From covering news stories in the rural Southwest to investigating gangs on the city streets of Chicago, Sonya Chavez ’89 has had quite the professional journey over the past three decades. That journey reached a new milestone in April 2018, when Chavez was selected as the new U.S. Marshal for the state of New Mexico. But, it was her time as a journalism student at NMSU that launched it all for her.

“The entire NMSU experience was absolutely a positive one for me,” says Chavez, who is the first woman to be appointed to the role of U.S. Marshal in state history. “The background that I got at NMSU really helped me develop as a professional in so many ways.”

Chavez grew up in Moriarty, a small town in central New Mexico. When it came to selecting where she would go to college, Chavez’s choice was clear.

“I was interested in pursuing a career in journalism, and I knew NMSU had a great journalism program,” she says.

After graduating from NMSU, Chavez worked around the southwest as a broadcast journalist. Chavez, then, transitioned into her long-time career investigating gang activity for the FBI. 

“In some ways, it was a culture shock, because I didn’t have a background in law enforcement,” says Chavez. “But I discovered there was a lot of similarities in my journalism background and the FBI. When you’re interviewing someone, you are either doing it to gather evidence or to get a confession. And that rapport building, I already knew how to do that. Little did I know, as a young journalist doing interviews in the cornfields of West Texas, that all that was preparing me in ways that I would not even appreciate until much later.”

After 11 years fighting super gangs in the Chicago area, Chavez returned home to New Mexico where she continued working the gang detail through the Albuquerque FBI offices. After 23 years of service with the FBI, Chavez is thrilled to be serving the greater New Mexico area in her new role as U.S. Marshal. 

“There is nothing more rewarding than being able to do important work in a place you call home,” says Chavez. “Doing a public service job where you are protecting the community where you grew up in—it’s really gratifying and so exciting.”

Matthew Legaretta ’17










When she wasn’t taking journalism classes, Sonya Chavez (second from left, first row) spent a lot of time as a Delta Zeta sorority member, serving community organizations like Casa de Peregrinos and hosting campus events, including an ice cream social for new Aggie football recruits.










Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Alumni Successes

Kim Baranowski ’97

Kim Baranowski ’97 recently received the 2018 Citizen Psychologist Award from the American Psychological Association for her sustained commitment to supporting survivors of human rights violations.

To promote the rights and psychological health of asylum seekers—many of them survivors of torture—she provides pro bono forensic evaluations that document the psychological abuse, while training other clinicians in these methods and mentoring students to conduct research on how human rights violations affect refugee well-being. 

The Citizen Psychologist Initiative recognizes APA members who engage their communities through public service, volunteerism and board membership.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree of fine arts in sculpture from NMSU, she went on to earn a master’s degree in fine arts at another university. She worked as a professional artist in New York for several years while pursuing advanced degrees in counseling psychology. Currently, she is the Faculty Director of Research at Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Human Rights Program and is a lecturer at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. 

Minerva Baumann ’13

Keith “Mike” Ingram ’66

Keith “Mike” Ingram ’66 shares a connection to Hollywood icon John Wayne that dates back to 1987. That year, Ingram purchased ranches once owned by the actor, El Dorado Ranch and Red River Ranch, and started his Arizona-based real estate firm, El Dorado Holdings, Inc.

From Wayne’s ranches, Ingram grew El Dorado Holdings into a company that today manages a portfolio of more than 40 single-asset limited liability companies valued at more than $1 billion. 

Ingram, who graduated from NMSU with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, is also one of the owners of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Born and raised in Roswell, he attended NMSU full-time and worked 40 to 60 hours per week to finance his education, graduating debt-free.

In April 2019, Ingram was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. The association recognizes the achievements of outstanding leaders who have overcome adversity to achieve remarkable successes.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Mike Mechenbier ’76

Mike Mechenbier ’76 is the president and owner of Sundance Mechanical & Utility Corporation, a central New Mexico construction company. But, that’s not his only success. 

He is a board member for New Mexico Bank & Trust, and he is the co-founder of El Ranchito de los Niños, a sprawling home in Los Lunas, New Mexico, that offers permanent housing for siblings in need, which he and his wife, Kathy, founded in 2000. 

“I’ve been lucky in all my business endeavors, and this was a way we wanted to give back to the community,” he says. 

In addition to his construction company, Mechenbier, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, also operates 4 Daughters Land and Cattle Co., a ranching operation founded in 1986.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Crossing the Aggie finish line

Earning a degree is the unifying goal of every college student. Yet, a study by the National Student Clearinghouse shows a mere 57 percent of students actually graduate. No singular issue serves as the root cause of the trend, but an initiative at New Mexico State University aims to solve one – financial barriers.

In the last few years, donors to the NMSU Foundation have started scholarships that support Aggies in the final semesters of their degree programs, including the Martin Degree Completion Scholarship, the RAYVETS Scholarship for veterans, the RN-BSN Scholarship for nursing students and the Aggie Finish Line Scholarship – which has awarded students more than $34,000 since the 2017-18 academic year.

Angel Mendez


While these students face different circumstances, a financial edge is the constant need among them. Meet some of the recent Aggie Finish Line Scholarship recipients:

"I am the first college graduate in my family. College has been my opportunity to be an example for my children. They have seen how hard it is to go to school and work full-time but that anything is possible when you set your mind to it."

Tawnya M. Hall

"As a full-time student living on my own, it can sometimes be very challenging to pay off school before the semester starts. I also work a couple jobs to pay bills, and I have a mother and two sisters I really love and care for. I will use this scholarship to pay my schooling so that I may move on to complete my degree."

Alejandro Corral Salas

"I’m a Mexican international – originally from Durango, Mexico. NMSU is my start to a new beginning, and after May, I will pursue a master’s degree and become a United States citizen. This is my biggest goal, so I can help my home country in Mexico and see my family again."

Abraham Inzunza

"When I graduated from high school in 2011, I had the dream of one day becoming a pediatric or neonatal nurse. At the time, I was a new mother to my son. I knew completing this goal would be a tremendous challenge for me. Having my childhood dream be so close to a reality is truly an amazing feeling."

Yvonne Hernandez

Posted by grel in Fall 2018

Defending the line, saving lives

From taking play calls in Aggie Memorial Stadium to, now, answering calls for emergencies, two New Mexico State University alumni agree that time on the football field as an Aggie prepared them for a line of duty.

Jeremiah Lay ’02, a former NMSU defensive end and current Las Cruces Fire Department battalion chief, finds firefighting as a way to help others and continue the teamwork atmosphere that he experienced inside Aggie Memorial Stadium. 

“I was used to working with a team playing football, and it is no different in firefighting. Everyone has their role and function,” Lay says. “Our academy style is also very militaristic with a lot of structure and physical fitness. Obviously, the physical fitness of football helped out a lot and so did the teamwork, which is a necessity in the fire service.” 

Lay also credits the education he received from NMSU as an agricultural economics and agricultural business major for aiding him in his career of service. 

“NMSU has helped me out a lot with my position as a battalion chief,” Lay says. “The modern fire service is really data-driven, and some of the skills I learned in economics, marketing, management and finance I use daily. It’s not all kicking in doors and fighting fires, it’s also figuring out what to do in regards to allocating funds and establishing ways to respond to emergencies efficiently.”

Joel Navarro ’91, also a former NMSU defensive end and now battalion chief at the Phoenix Fire Department, agrees that the similar atmospheres and the chance to make a difference played a role in him joining his fire station.     

“I am also a paramedic,” Navarro says. “When you can make a difference or impact someone else’s life, their families’ or save their lives, and then you have that person come visit you a week or two later - it’s really cool. Those are the moments you really appreciate what you do and what you’ve learned.”

Melissa Rutter ’17

Jeremiah Lay ’02

Joel Navarro ’91

Posted by grel in Fall 2018

A Champion of Women

Hair, heels and happy smiles – from the outside looking in, the Miss USA competition dons the crown on the country’s most beautiful women. Yet, a new face to the contest this year changed the stereotypes, adding champion of women to this list of what it takes to win.

After taking on the title of Miss New Mexico USA in January 2018, Kristen Leyva used her new spotlight to lift up three of her pride points – female engineers, the New Mexico State University Aggies and her mother, Jo Leyva. Kristen Leyva, a 2016 College of Engineering graduate, now works as a mechanical engineer for Raytheon in Las Cruces, a company specializing in building defense solutions for the U.S. Department of Defense. 

In an industry seeking more female and racial diversity, Kristen Leyva understands the critical role she plays in inspiring others. But, her mother inspired her first. After graduating from NMSU in 1999, Jo Leyva worked as an engineer at NASA and mentored NMSU students.

“Being a first-generation college graduate, a single-mom and a female engineer, my mother defied odds and prospered far beyond them,” Kristen Leyva says. “It was during this time that I believe she became a true testament for what it means to not only be a strong, independent woman but also an inspiration for many.”

Just two months before Kristen Leyva’s graduation from NMSU, her mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. On that day, Kristen Leyva vowed to carry on her mother’s legacy to inspire others toward careers in engineering.

Two years later, she finally found her stage. As Miss New Mexico USA, Kristen Leyva represented her state in the national competition in May 2018. Though she didn’t win the ultimate crown, she did leave with countless memories and a new opportunity to use her story to encourage others. Kristen Leyva will continue visiting schools and speaking at events across the state, and this fall, she met the very first product of her efforts to perpetuate her mother’s work – a recipient of an NMSU scholarship she started in March 2018 in honor of Jo Leyva.

“As an alumna, it’s important to me to give back,” she says. “My mom was raising two girls on her own during her time at NMSU, and I was bouncing around from hospital to hospital with my mom during my time. None of us know what the person next to us is going through or how they’re making it to class each day. I hope that with this scholarship, students will never have to compromise or put their dreams on hold.”

Hair, heels, happy smiles and a champion of women – that’s Kristen Leyva, Miss New Mexico USA. 

Angel Mendez

Kristen Leyva started an NMSU scholarship in honor of her mother Jo Leyva (left) who inspired her and many others to overcome stereotypes and pursue engineering.

Kristen Leyva, Miss New Mexico USA 2018, on stage in fashion by Sherri Hill during the opening of The MISS USA® Competition at George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum on Monday, May 21. The Miss USA contestants have spent the last few weeks touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the Miss USA crown airing on FOX at 8:00 PM ET live on Monday, May 21, 2018 in Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

Posted by grel in Fall 2018

Alumni Successes

Adair Margo ’83

Alumna Adair Margo ’83 is one of three recipients of the 2018 American Spirit Medallion awarded in June by the National WWII Museum.

Bestowed upon individuals who, through their work and philanthropy, exemplify the highest standards of integrity, discipline and initiative, the American Spirit Medallion also recognizes the individual’s unselfish contributions to their community, state or nation. 

Margo was recognized for her tireless work to promote and preserve the legacy of Tom Lea, an El Paso artist whose work conveyed his memories and visions of the battles and campaigns of World War II.

She described Lea as “the only wartime artist who conveyed the truth of war… the only one that depicted rounds being fired or soldiers being wounded.”

Margo, who is currently the First Lady of El Paso, Texas, has spent her career advocating for the arts and championing their significance in helping build relationships within and across multiple cultures throughout the region.

Daphne Griffin

Adair Margo (center) received the 2018 American Spirit Medallion for her work safeguarding the legacy of Tom Lea, an El Paso artist. She is pictured with James Courter (left), immediate past chairman of the board, and Stephen J. Watson, president and CEO at the Museum.

Math teacher Melanie Alfaro was surprised to receive New Mexico’s 2017-18 Milken Educator Award. She won a $25,000 prize for her work inspiring her students and helping to improve their math skills.

Melanie (Maynes) Alfaro ’02

Melanie (Maynes) Alfaro ’02, received the prestigious Milken Educator Award. Of the 44 honorees for the 2017-2018 academic year, Alfaro is the only recipient in New Mexico to receive the national award, often referred to as the “Oscars of teaching.” 

Since 1987, the Milken Family Foundation has honored early to mid-career teaching professionals across the country for their achievements and their ability to inspire students to achieve more in the future.

Alfaro, a former Aggie basketball player and member of the Athletics Department Hall of Fame, is a sixth-grade math teacher at Deming Intermediate School. She received the award in recognition of her efforts to improve math literacy. Deming has jumped two letter grades and 16 percentage points in end-of-year math assessments in the past few years, and Alfaro’s students lead the sixth grade in math proficiency.

Daphne Griffin

Beth DeLucia Schulze ’84

When Beth DeLucia Schulze was in high school, she wanted to be an astronaut and visit the moon. Today, she’s part of a team at Lockheed Martin who is assisting NASA with its Moon to Mars directive to send astronauts to Mars, starting with missions around the moon.

Schulze, who graduated from NMSU in 1984 with a degree in physics, is a software systems engineering manager at Lockheed Martin Space, specifically for the Orion spacecraft – the world’s only deep-space, crew vehicle. Orion is also a part of Lockheed Martin’s Mars Base Camp concept, which once in orbit around Mars, could provide astronauts with a home away from Earth and a platform for conducting critical Mars science and landing site selections.

Schulze and her team are responsible for Orion’s software systems. Scheduled for an un-crewed launch in 2020, Orion will travel beyond the moon and back and usher in a new era of space exploration.

Daphne Griffin

Beth DeLucia Schulze will soon help send astronauts to Mars as part of Lockheed Martin’s work with NASA and the Orion spacecraft – the world’s only deep-space, crew vehicle.

Posted by grel in Fall 2018

Pistol Pete invades social media

Prior to the 2017-18 athletic season, New Mexico State University athletics and MyWeb GP, LLC announced a partnership allowing Aggie fans to spread their love of the Crimson and White with Aggie-centric emojis.

NMSU fans can now show their Aggie pride with customized Pistol Pete emojis on social media, texts and other messaging apps as they cheer on the Aggies. The customized emojis were designed by renowned artists from Marvel, DC Comics, Universal Studios, Disney and Blue Sky.

“While emojis have been around for a while, they remain very popular and this innovative new vehicle is one more way to spread the Aggie brand nationwide,” NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia says. “We are excited to join over 30 schools in participating with MyWeb on this unique program.”

The Pistol Pete emojis are available in the Apple Store, and can be found by searching “Ree Stickers.” A portion of the emoji set will be available for free while the remainder of the set can be purchased for a one-time nominal fee of $1.99.

An Android version was expected to be available this fall.

John Vu 

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017