Alumni Connections

FBI Deputy Director offers advice to criminal justice students

He’s the third generation of New Mexico men to serve and protect, and now David Bowdich ’91 has the top job in the FBI not appointed by the President. As the FBI’s deputy director, he oversees all FBI domestic and international investigative and intelligence activities.

NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu pointed to Bowdich’s accomplishments as a result of hard work and a great college education.

“We have Aggies in places all around the country,” Arvizu says. “I think that promotes the value of the education that they receive here. It demonstrates the quality of people who have gone to school here at New Mexico State University.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Bowdich joined the Albuquerque Police Department following in the footsteps of his father, who later became sheriff of Bernalillo County. Bowdich’s grandfather was deputy chief of the Albuquerque Fire Department. Bowdich began climbing the ranks of the FBI in 1995 and was named deputy director in 2018.

“Part of leadership is building teams,” Bowdich says. “I found people who are smarter than me, better than me. You don’t always have to have all the answers. You have to have people around you who can help you find the right answers.”

At a November 2019 visit to campus, Bowdich talked one-on-one with criminal justice majors seeking career advice at the mentoring center, and gave a talk to more than 120 criminal justice students, faculty and local law enforcement. In response to a question from one of the students, Bowdich encouraged students to value their NMSU education against any Ivy League school.

“There is not one of those folks who is better than anyone sitting in this room,” Bowdich says. “There are some that have had exposure to other things that you might not have, but recognize that you’ve got skills. Whatever you choose to do, own it.”

Minerva Baumann ’13


David Bowdich, deputy director of the FBI, visited the NMSU campus in November 2019. During his visit, he spoke to a crowd of criminal justice faculty and students and local law enforcement. He also spoke with criminal justice students including Joseph Linares (right) and Alberto Renteria.

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Jennifer Cervantes ’04 ’07

How can parents get their middle school-aged children to read more?

Let kids choose their reading material whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, magazines, etc. Allowing them to fuel their minds and imaginations on their own terms is critical. And it’s okay if they don’t want to finish a book. Allow them the freedom to put it down and find something else of interest. You may find they prefer one genre over the next. Make reading fun. Go to the library together, read the same material and talk about it, see a tie-in movie and discuss the differences between the book and the film, and don’t underestimate the power of reading to a child regardless of their age. Finally, let kids see you reading. There is nothing more powerful than showing your own enthusiasm and curiosity.”

Cervantes, who writes under the pen name J.C. Cervantes, is the New York Times best-selling author of “The Storm Runner,” “The Fire Keeper” and “Tortilla Sun.” Her fourth book, “The Shadow Crosser,” will be published in fall 2020.

Compiled by Adriana M. Chávez ’19

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Professor sparks student’s passion, lifelong correspondence ensues

The Bible’s poetry is meant to inspire the soul, but for one would-be minister, the words of an NMSU poetry professor led him beyond being a minister of education to life as a poet laureate.

Terry Lucas ’74 enrolled at NMSU in 1969 with a plan to enter seminary after graduation. He pursued a degree in philosophy but lacked enough English credits to graduate.

Terry Lucas (left) and his partner, Janet Goodman, read letters in Keith Wilson’s papers in the NMSU Library. Wilson was a poetry professor at NMSU. The materials included Lucas’ first letter to Wilson, which started a 25-year exchange.

“The only class still open that fit into my work schedule was world poetry, taught by Keith Wilson. ‘You’re not going to like it,’ my adviser warned me. I didn’t particularly like poetry and never had enjoyed reading dead authors who spoke what I thought was a different language,” Lucas says. “However, in the end, he couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Lucas and Wilson developed a strong bond beyond the classroom.

After discovering his love for poetry, Lucas wanted to change majors, but his parents were against it so he completed his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and then graduated from the seminary in 1976.

Shortly thereafter, he joined the ministry of a West Texas church.

“After three weeks I realized that I didn’t belong in that church, in the ministry or in Texas. A month or two later I reached out to Keith in desperation with a letter, really a call for help.”

It took three months for Wilson to respond. He was moving and had misplaced the letter but answered immediately once he found it, giving Lucas a specific and thoughtful critique of his poems and encouragement to send more.

“This exchange of letters began a lifelong correspondence between the two of us,” says Lucas. “For the next 25 years on and off, I sent Keith poems and questions and he sent back comments and answers and encouragement. His letters gave me the confidence to continue writing, even though I was working full time in retail to support a family after leaving the ministry.”

Wilson also wrote a letter of recommendation that would help Lucas get into the MFA Program at Columbia College Chicago. Before Wilson’s death in 2009, Lucas and his partner, Janet Goodman, were able to visit Wilson and his wife in Las Cruces. Lucas completed his MFA in 2008 and by 2013 was working full time as a poet.

Today as the Poet Laureate for Marin County, Calif., Lucas remembers vividly how Wilson changed his life. While on campus in November 2019 for a poetry reading, Lucas took a tour of the NMSU Library and read through Wilson’s papers, including that first letter Lucas wrote to Wilson, in which a former student’s passion for poetry reached a professor who helped a fledgling talent take flight.

“It has taken me six years to discover that I have to write,” Lucas wrote. “Whatever else it means for my life I do not know, but I do know that I must write.”

Minerva Baumann ’13

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

From sales to CEO, Hormel Foods leader values NMSU education

Jim Snee is the CEO, president and chairman of the board at Hormel Foods, where he leads 20,000 employees across more than 40 brands that generate more than $9 billion in annual revenue worldwide.

Jim Snee ’89 was in his final semester at NMSU, preparing to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, when he was offered a job to work in retail sales for Hormel Foods in San Francisco. His first day on the job was June 5, 1989.

More than three decades later, Snee still works for the global food company, based in Austin, Minnesota. But he’s no longer in retail sales. In the years that followed his arrival at Hormel Foods, he worked his way up, and now serves as the company’s chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, leading 20,000 employees across more than 40 brands that generate more than $9 billion in annual revenue worldwide. 

Hormel Foods is one of the most admired global-branded food companies in the world and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. 

“If I had to sit down and write the script for my professional career the day I graduated from New Mexico State,” Snee says, “I would’ve never been so bold to think this was in the realm of possibility.

“The education that I received from NMSU, the success of the company, and my ability to deliver results all came together in unison and allowed me to continue to advance and achieve what I’ve been able to achieve,” he says. 

Snee, who’s originally from Albuquerque, came to NMSU in 1985 to study business computer systems in the College of Business. However, he realized he was better suited for marketing and switched majors. As a student, Snee played intramural sports and joined the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He also met Tammy Atwater ’90, whom he later married, and who also graduated from NMSU with a political science degree.

“I always felt at home at NMSU,” he says, “and I think that speaks volumes about the culture of our amazing educational institution.”

After NMSU, Snee furthered his education while working for Hormel Foods. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and participated in Harvard Business School’s executive leadership and management programs.

Over the next decade, Snee advanced within the company’s leadership team, starting in 2008, when he was named vice president of affiliated business units. In 2011, he became the leader of Hormel Foods International, overseeing the company’s global portfolio. Between October 2015 and October 2016, he was named president, chief operating officer and then CEO. In 2017, he was elected to serve as chairman of the board of directors.  

Snee is the 10th president and CEO in Hormel’s 128-year history.

“There’s a multitude of things this job touches,” he says, “but more than anything, I’m the cheerleader, the champion and the spokesperson for not only how successful the business is, but all of the good things that the organization is doing that perhaps people don’t realize.”

Carlos Andres López ’10

Posted by grel in Fall 2019

Smith cultivates relationships, takes helm of Anteater program

Paula Smith, who was named athletic director at UC Irvine in June, worked in the NMSU athletics department as an undergraduate student for four years, which established a foundation for her career in collegiate athletic administration.

Smith celebrates commencement with UC Irvine student-athletes.

When Paula Smith ’88 was named athletic director at the University of California, Irvine in June 2019 she became one of only 40 women and seven African American women to currently hold the title. 

“It’s been a rewarding opportunity to serve UC Irvine where I’ve worked for the last 14 years,” Smith says. “The student-athletes, staff and community have been very welcoming in this new role and supported me 100 percent. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

After serving two stints as interim athletic director at UCI in 2007-2008 and 2018-2019, Smith was the deputy director of intercollegiate athletics prior to accepting the permanent position. The Alamogordo, New Mexico, native spent 12 years at the Big West Conference, where she started as intern and became an assistant commissioner before she was hired at UCI in 2000. Smith went on to spend five years at University of California, Riverside, before she returned to the Anteaters in 2006. 

Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, credits a change in majors from accounting and her four years as a student employee in the NMSU athletic department as helping prepare her for a career in athletics. For those interested in following in her footsteps, Smith believes building relationships is a key to moving up the ranks. 

“One of the things I felt that was key in my growth is staying connected with people in the business and being proactive about expressing your interest in the career,” Smith says. “With any form of business you have to network. It’s important to have the experience, knowledge and education as well as any work experience you can get, so don’t be afraid of volunteering your time. A lot of times that will get you in the door.”

After 30 years of experience in collegiate athletic administration, Smith says understanding the reason for working in the field is vital. 

“We are helping young people have a quality athletic experience, while they are getting their education, and it’s about furthering our student-athletes as a whole person and what will be the next 40 years of their career.”

Tiffany Acosta

Posted by grel in Fall 2019

Climbing the NBA ranks

Tommy Sheppard’s ’91 love of sports has guided him throughout his life. It set the foundation for a career that began at NMSU, where he worked in sports media relations as a student, and led him to the NBA, where he has spent the past 26 years working as a top executive for two teams.

Sheppard, an Albuquerque native who earned a bachelor’s degree in community health and played football for the Aggies for three seasons, was named general manager of the Washington Wizards in July 2019.

“I’ve been in the NBA for 26 years. This will be my 26th season. It was always a goal of mine to become a general manager in the NBA,” Sheppard says.

Sheppard credits the opportunities he received as a student at NMSU for kickstarting his career.

“Steve Shutt helped change my life,” he says, referring to the former longtime assistant athletic director of media relations at NMSU. “He gave me an opportunity to work during my senior year as I was graduating. It was just tremendous. He gave me this whole career in athletics.”

Sheppard worked as Shutt’s student assistant for two years, during which time he developed an interest in pursuing a career in sports media relations. He says, “NMSU gave me an incredible opportunity to learn and be around fantastic people,” including Shutt, Darryl Seibel ’90, former NMSU football head coach Jim Hess, former NMSU information services director Eddie Groth, who died in 2013, and current NMSU athletics director Mario Moccia ’89.

When he left NMSU after graduation, Sheppard took a job at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as an assistant sports information director. He was quickly promoted to sports information director and held the position until he joined the Denver Nuggets in 1994.

“I started in media relations, and I expanded into scouting and working with the front office,” Sheppard recalls of his time serving as the senior director of Team Services and Player Relations for the Nuggets. “It was basically creating a new department within a department. We were team services, so we helped our players in every area as they moved and transitioned into the NBA.”

Sheppard spent nine years with the Nuggets before joining the Washington Wizards, owned by Monumental Basketball, in Washington, D.C. He served as the team’s senior vice president for basketball operations for 15 years until he was promoted to interim general manager in April 2019. Three months later, he was named general manager, joining the leadership team of Monumental Basketball.

In his new role, Sheppard oversees strategy, analytics, player personnel, scouting and coaching for the Wizards; Capital City Go-Go, the Wizards’ NBA G League affiliate; and Wizards District Gaming, a professional NBA 2K League team based in Washington.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Washington Wizards 2019 draft pick Rui Hachimura (center) poses with head coach Scott Brooks (left) and general manager Tommy Sheppard during an introductory news conference in June 2019 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.

Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard introduces 2019 NBA draft pick Rui Hachimura during an introductory news conference in June at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.

Posted by grel in Fall 2019

Alumni Successes Fall 2019

Larry H. Lang ’80

After a 30-year military career leading five U.S. Air Force bands, culminating as the commander and conductor of the internationally respected, U.S. Air Force Band, Col. Larry H. Lang ’80, became the executive director of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra in June 2019. 

An El Paso native, Lang’s love of music began in fifth grade and led him to NMSU where he earned bachelor’s degrees in music performance for trombone and music education.

He went on to earn a master’s degree and pursued his other love – teaching. Lang was a college band director for eight years before embarking on his military music career. 

Lang says, “all of my experiences as a player and teacher informed my work as a professional conductor.”

Lang is now putting his talents to work for the Flagstaff Symphony, which has more than 60 musicians who serve an audience of 14,000 people each year. 

Minerva Baumann ’13

Brennan Little ’93

Gary Woodland, an American golfer who competes on the PGA Tour, won his first major championship in June 2019 at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Not only was it a breakthrough moment for Woodland, but it was a victory for his caddie, Brennan Little ’93, who now boasts two major championship wins on his résumé.

Little, who hails from St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, played golf for NMSU under former head coach Herb Wimberly from 1989-93. During his collegiate career, Little played 21 tournaments with a 76.38 stroke average. After college, he competed in the Canadian Tour, Asian Tour and the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament before he transitioned into a role as a caddie.

Little first teamed up with fellow Canadian Mike Weir, who won the Masters Tournament in 2003. It was Little’s first time being on the bag of a major winner. After stints with Sean O’Hair and Camilo Villegas, Little joined Woodland in 2016. 

Carlos Andres López ’10

Terese Marie Mailhot ’13

Author Terese Marie Mailhot ’13 was awarded the 2019 Whiting Award in Non-Fiction for her book, New York Times bestseller, “Heart Berries: A Memoir.” 

Mailhot, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, wrote “Heart Berries” to tell the story of her life as a Canadian indigenous woman coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. She currently teaches creative writing at Purdue University. 

Not only did Mailhot earn her undergraduate degree at NMSU, but she also met her husband, writer Casey Gray.

“Heart Berries” has earned numerous other awards, including NPR Best Book of the Year, and Best Book of the Year from the New York and Chicago public libraries. In addition to the Whiting Award, Mailhot has received the Electra Quinney Award for Published Stories, a Clara Johnson Award and the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature.

Minerva Baumann ’13

Posted by grel in Fall 2019

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