Around Aggieland

Giving Tuesday Update

Mark your calendars for NMSU’s fifth annual #GivingTuesday hosted by the NMSU Foundation on Dec. 3, 2019.

Catch the full recap online:

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Revving up student philanthropy

NMSU Alamogordo proved on #GivingTuesday that giving back is not just for alumni and friends. Led by the campus’ student government, a new scholarship endowment will support their fellow classmates studying in the NMSU Alamogordo automotive technology program.

“NMSU Alamogordo is really stepping up and showcasing that student philanthropy is alive and well,” says Leslie Cervantes, associate vice president for alumni and donor relations. “We would all be so blessed if we could create that same culture across the entire NMSU system, which I know many of us are working on every day.”

To start the scholarship, students, led by John Hurt, created the campus’ first-ever car show in October 2018. The event hosted 10 different car clubs, including 89 stylish cars ranging from dragsters to T-Buckets. 

“We realized by inviting our community to campus and bringing in these beautiful cars, it does a lot of good,” Hurt says, who is now an alumnus of NMSU Alamogordo. “Not only do we get students a few extra dollars to take some classes, but at the same time, we fill a need within our New Mexico communities. In the desert southwest, we are in dire need of automotive mechanics.”

The students’ gift – matched by #GivingTuesday funds through the NMSU Foundation – will soon support students who live in New Mexico and are enrolled in at least three college credits leading to either a degree or certificate from NMSU Alamogordo’s automotive technology program.

“One of the things that these students really get is the need,” says Ken Van Winkle, president of NMSU Alamogordo. “This program equips students for high-quality jobs in the automotive industry. We’re really proud of the fact that our students started this scholarship, and that it’s going to help many of their fellow classmates for years to come.”

The student group plans to host their second car show Sept. 14, 2019, to raise additional funding to grow the endowment. The show accepts all vehicle types and costs $20 to participate, but the event is free to the public. Visit for more information.

Angel Mendez

Top: John Hurt, left, is joined by fellow classmates and NMSU Alamogordo President Ken Van Winkle, right. This group of students started a new scholarship endowment on #GivingTuesday to support students studying in NMSU Alamogordo’s automotive technology program.
Below: NMSU Alamogordo’s student government hosted their first-ever car show in October 2018 to support a new endowed scholarship they started on #GivingTuesday for students studying in the automotive technology program.


Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Faculty Successes

Lanasa among select group picked for TV Academy

Amy Lanasa, head of NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, was one of only 25 faculty members selected nationwide to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s 2018 Faculty Seminar Program.

The weeklong fellowship in November in southern California included panel discussions, programming and scheduling executives, legal experts and content creators. Faculty were also offered private studio tours and trips to top Hollywood production facilities to meet with producers, observe production and get first-hand updates on the latest in television technologies.

“The Television Academy Faculty Fellowship was one of the greatest experiences of my professional life,” Lanasa says. “Not only was I immersed in the newest practices in the television industry from the development process all the way through distribution and scheduling, but I also had the opportunity to meet 24 other educators from all over the country. The best part is that our students are now eligible for a very prestigious internship program as a result.”

Minerva Baumann ’13


NMSU alumna, faculty member named NM Public Education Secretary

Karen Trujillo ’92 ’93 ’98, assistant professor and interim associate dean for research at NMSU’s College of Education, was named New Mexico Public Education Secretary in January 2019 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Trujillo, who also served as the research director for the college’s Alliance for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, as well as the state director for Educators Rising NM, has 25 years of experience in education, including nearly a decade in the classroom and 20 years working in professional development. 

Trujillo has worked in four different school districts and charters, along with training educators in more than 30 districts across New Mexico. At the NMSU College of Education, Trujillo oversaw grant research pertaining to educational innovation. She has multiple publications on teaching and education demographics. Trujillo earned three degrees – a bachelor’s, master’s and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction – all from NMSU.

Adriana M. Chávez

NMSU art professor created keys to honor lives lost in Holocaust

NMSU sculpture professor Rachel Stevens played a key role in a ceremony in the Ukrainian City of Lviv in 2018. Stevens created an installation comprised of 75 glass keys that were exhibited at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe from May through August 2018. 

The keys were gifted to people active in Jewish heritage and renewal in September 2018, which marked 75 years since the annihilation of the city’s Jewish population by Nazi Germany. These keys were based on a rusted synagogue key that Stevens discovered in a Lviv street market in early 2018 as part of her research on Jewish culture in a region formerly known as eastern Galicia. 

Stevens says she used glass for the replicas because in the Jewish tradition, the material represents “the fragility of life.” Creating them in glass “became a tangible way for me to express my grief about the past and my hope for the future,” she says.

Minerva Baumann ’13

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

NMSU takes STEM to Farmington

Stephanie Smetak, a fifth-grade teacher at Country Club Elementary School in Farmington, New Mexico, teaches a stop-motion class that blends learning and technology for her students.

Smetak says she enjoys teaching the class, which was developed by the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU. Not only does she get to watch students learn about and grow their technology skills, she also learns certain elements alongside them.

“Students are always more willing than I am to take the time and fidget with something to get it right, whereas I just want to Google it and be done,” Smetak says.

When Smetak once experienced difficulties displaying videos on the class projector, one of her students was able to fix it.

“When he did, he jumped up, yelled and had the biggest smile on his face,” Smetak says.

A student at Ladera Del Norte Elementary School in Farmington, New Mexico, participates in an art and math activity during a program offered by the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU.

After-school programs have proven especially successful for minority and low-income populations who are traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields. Student demographics for the Farmington district show a 62.2 percent minority population, and 55 percent of the Farmington district is low-income. 

To this end, the Arizona Public Service Foundation awarded $50,000 to the NMSU Foundation to support the STEM Outreach Center in continuing its successful out-of-school-time STEM education programs in Farmington. The STEM Outreach Center is part of NMSU’s College of Education, and the programs help students explore math and science through collaborative instruction. This grant is the third from the APS Foundation since 2015, totaling $327,000 in support to establish these programs and provide teacher professional development.

“We are thrilled to work with the Farmington School District because the administration, teachers, students and families are so receptive to providing high-quality, out-of-school-time STEM opportunities in their community,” says Susan Brown, interim dean of the College of Education.

The newest grant will allow the STEM Outreach Center to continue its programs at six sites, benefitting 19 teachers and 370 students. The center offers the programs, “DiMA,” or Digital Media Academy; and “COUNT,” or Creating Opportunities Using Numerical Thinking. DiMA reduces the digital divide by introducing students to technology and showing them it is a powerful tool they can use to create and learn, while COUNT helps students overcome math anxiety by showing them the math in their everyday lives.

Adriana M. Chávez

Fifth-grade students at Country Club Elementary School in Farmington, New Mexico, work on STEM projects during an after-school program. The Arizona Public Service Foundation recently provided $50,000 to the NMSU Foundation in support of NMSU’s STEM Outreach Center, which develops classes used at six sites in Farmington.

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Aggie Milestones

125 years

Crimson chosen as school color in 1894. 

100 years

Era Rentfrow graduated from the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1919 and began working on staff, eventually becoming the college registrar. While in school, she was engaged to fellow student Joe Quesenberry, the first Aggie to be killed in combat during World War I. Perhaps motivated by his loss, she tracked and chronicled the Aggies that served during World War II. Recognizing the need to secure their place in history, she gathered their photographs and biographical information. The photos are displayed today in Aggie Memorial Tower.  

60 years

Donald C. Roush joined the NMSU faculty in 1959 as dean of the College of Education, and he later became the university’s academic vice president. Today, the annual Roush awards presented to faculty members are named in recognition of his 35 years of teaching improvement in New Mexico.  

40 years

In the late 1970s, work began to combine the Department of Nursing with the Department of Social Work, which was in the College of Arts and Sciences, along with health services, which was part of the College of Education. The College of Health and Community Services was founded in 1979. The NMSU community college system and the School of Continuing Education were originally part of the college as well. In the mid 1990s, the name was changed to the College of Health and Social Services. 

30 years

NMSU was officially designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 1989, where, at the time, at least 25 percent of undergraduate full-time students were Hispanic. Now, as of fall 2018, 56 percent of the undergraduate full-time students at the Las Cruces campus are Hispanic. 

Era Rentfrow

Donald C. Roush

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Couple donates trees to honor area storytellers

"Stories should be told anywhere and everywhere, to anyone and everyone...” These are words that were spoken by Jennie George Curry who founded Storytellers of Las Cruces in 1927, a group that promotes, supports and encourages storytelling. Curry will be one of 12 Las Cruces area storytellers to be honored with a Cedar of Lebanon tree on NMSU’s campus. 

Randy ’77 and Cindy ’78 Farmer purchased the trees for NMSU to honor storytellers. The Farmers were inspired by the children’s book, “The Giving Tree,” which features a little boy who grows up and a tree who gives the boy every part of herself to make sure he had everything he needed. 

The first tree was planted at the original site of a “storytellers” tree located on College Drive by the nematology lab buildings and Heritage Farm.

“The original tree was planted here during Fabian Garcia’s time. He was a part of the first graduating class, and he was on the first football team,” Randy says. “The reason why that tree ended up dying more recently was because the water stopped going through the canal here.

“I would like to name one tree, the tree planted at the original site, in Jennie Curry’s honor and the second in Don Cotter’s honor. The rest of the trees I want to be named to honor other great storytellers of the area,” Randy says. 

In 1973, Curry published her book, “Tumbleweed Tales,” a collection of stories about the Southwest, Christmas, Mother Goose and other topics. Curry believed that storytelling was a “service to the community.”

Don Cotter, an NMSU professor emeritus of horticulture and plant science, spent 20 years at NMSU. He published his first photography book in early 2018 titled, “Fran’s Organ Mountains,” named after his wife. His second book, “The Cotter Family: An Adventure,” was released in March 2018 and tells the story of an American family through adventures, international travel and unique experiences. 

The Farmers are still deciding on the naming criteria for the other trees but do want the public’s help once a system is in place. The duo also wants to see plaques placed at all the trees. 

“These trees aren’t for us or even our grandkids,” he said. “They are for our grandkid’s grandkids.” 

Melissa Rutter ’17

Randy and Cindy Farmer purchased 12 Cedars of Lebanon trees for NMSU’s campus to honor area storytellers. The trees are planted at eight different locations including outside of the Skeen Hall.


Posted by grel in Spring 2019

NMSU students study at Google

Five New Mexico State University students were among 65 from across the country selected for Google’s Tech Exchange program in fall 2018. The students took courses on Google’s campus in San Francisco as they would in a regular semester, but those courses were attached to a project given by Google. Students also had Google mentors and access to professional skills training and interview sessions with Google representatives.

Minerva Baumann ’13

"What impressed me the most during my time at Google was the culture. Google is a place where new ideas and perspectives are not only allowed but also encouraged. It is a place that encourages you to make mistakes and learn from them, and they won't blame you for making those mistakes."

Vensan Cabardo
Interested in a career in software development

"I learned that collaboration is really important to be successful in the workplace. At Google especially, they have a great support structure and all the instructors are open to feedback. I have learned from being at Google that one person’s impact can really make a difference."

Jacob Espinoza
Interested in a career in artificial intelligence

"A sense of entrepreneurship is what I brought back from Google. We constantly had to assess current market trends and user needs when coming up with ideas for projects. Non-school related projects are so hard to incorporate into a student's already busy life; however, as a student we are at our lowest risk to try innovative ideas that could potentially change the world."

Kay Sweebe
Interested in a career using big data to help solve problems

"One of the most important things that I learned while I was at Google was that as long as you apply yourself and work hard, you should be able to tackle any job. If there are problems, it is always a good idea to have a team with you to ask questions so that you can overcome daily obstacles."

Marco Salazar
Interested in pursuing a career in video game development or artificial intelligence

"I hadn’t seen myself represented very much in other places, but going to Google showed me that people like me could excel in STEM. I was used to muscling my way through any problems I had with my classes, but it became clear that I couldn’t do everything on my own. Now, I can ask for help without the shame, and it’s made my life a lot easier."

Arianna Martinez
Interested in a career as a software engineer

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Aggie bragging rights

NMSU awarded STARS gold in 2018 Sustainable Campus Index

NMSU was awarded its second gold rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in its 2018 Sustainable Campus Index. AASHE is a publication that recognizes top-performing colleges and universities in 17 sustainability impact areas. The STARS report highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from institutions in the most recent calendar year, including NMSU’s efforts to educate students in their dorms about how to recycle, reduce waste and conserve energy.

NMSU programs earn U.S. News & World Report 2019 Best Online rankings

In its annual listing, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Best Online Education Programs offered by U.S. National Universities. Three of NMSU’s online graduate programs have improved their standings. In 2019, NMSU tied for 49th in criminal justice online graduate programs, tied for 113th in nursing online graduate programs and tied for 143rd in master’s in business administration online graduate programs. NMSU’s online graduate programs in engineering were also recognized and listed in the 72nd to 94th range. 

Panorama receives bronze at CASE

The fall 2018 issue of Panorama received a bronze award at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education District IV annual conference in February 2019. Panorama strives to share stories about the inspirational, successful and outstanding alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of NMSU. Panorama is a joint collaboration produced by NMSU Marketing and Communications and the NMSU Foundation.  

Recognition continues for Military and Veterans Programs

NMSU’s Military and Veterans Programs commitment to service members, veterans and dependents continues to be recognized. Since 2010, NMSU has been named a Military Friendly School by Victory Media and published in GI Jobs. Military Advanced Education & Transition has placed NMSU on its Top Colleges & Universities list since 2016. Additionally, Military Times included NMSU on its Best for Vets: Colleges list, a recognition NMSU has received since 2017. 

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Ramakrishna and Ammu Devasthali receive honorary degrees

Ramakrishna and Ammu Devasthali, who have made a name for themselves within the art and medical communities, were honored with honorary degrees during the fall 2018 commencement ceremony. Rama received an honorary doctorate of science, and Ammu received an honorary doctorate of fine arts. 

Rama, a radiologist, became the first fellowship trained neuroradiologist in Las Cruces and was the first to bring multi-slice CT and Digital mammography to the area. He currently serves on the board of KRWG in Las Cruces. Ammu earned two master’s degrees from NMSU and now serves as an NMSU regent after being appointed to the position in February 2019.

The duo established two endowments at NMSU, one for KRWG-FM and another in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Both are active in fundraising for the arts at NMSU and were very involved in helping pass the GO Bond and raising private money to support the construction of what will be Devasthali Hall, NMSU’s new Department of Art and Art Museum on University Avenue. 

Melissa Rutter ’17

Ramakrishna and Ammu Devasthali receive their honorary degrees from President John Floros and Chancellor Dan Arvizu.











Posted by grel in Spring 2019

NIH renews STEM program for 5 years

NMSU’s RISE to the Postdoctorate Program has generated nearly two decades of success in supporting underrepresented minority students to earn advanced degrees in biomedical fields. Building on that success, the National Institutes of Health has renewed NMSU’s grant for five more years with $3.6 million to expand the program in innovative ways by engaging NMSU students in integrated biology and engineering research.

Principal investigators Igor Sevostianov, mechanical engineering professor, Lakshmi Reddi, College of Engineering dean, and Michele Nishiguchi, Regents professor and biology department head, are working together to develop new interdisciplinary courses that draw between engineering and biological science disciplines.

NMSU’s RISE 5 program targets underrepresented minorities with a fellowship that covers their salary, paid health insurance, travel funds to attend national meetings to present their research, as well as funds to participate in summer programs at  national R1 universities. The Carnegie ranks R1 universities as those with the highest levels of research activity.

Minerva Baumann ’13













Posted by grel in Spring 2019