Around Aggieland

Partnership begins work to expand health care workforce in New Mexico

Under a mission to develop and expand the workforce of nurses and social workers in New Mexico, a new partnership between the NMSU College of Health and Social Services and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico began to take shape in fall 2020.

Through a $500,000 gift from BCBSNM, CHSS created a new faculty position in the NMSU School of Nursing and funded 40 scholarships for seniors in undergraduate nursing and social work programs who have committed to working in New Mexico for at least one year after graduating.

“Expanding the workforce of nurses and social workers in New Mexico is critical in providing access to care and promoting the health of our state’s Medicaid population,” says Sharon Huerta, BCBSNM vice president of New Mexico Medicaid Operations. “The new faculty position at NMSU will play a key role in training the students who will soon be serving our communities as nurses and social workers.”

The new Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico Nursing Professor of Practice is dedicated to preparing nursing, nurse practitioner and social work students for New Mexico’s workforce. Elizabeth Kuchler, a board-certified family nurse practitioner who has been a faculty member in the School of Nursing for the past five years, was appointed to the position in August 2020.

Elizabeth Kuchler was appointed as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico Nursing Professor of Practice in the NMSU School of Nursing and will prepare nursing, nurse practitioner and social work students for New Mexico’s workforce.

“Dr. Kuchler is a dedicated teacher, student adviser and mentor. She has close to 40 years as a registered nurse with a focus in public health nursing and has specialized in the care of children and adolescents as a nurse practitioner for the past 15 years,” says Alexa Doig, director of the School of Nursing.

In addition to continuing her work as a nurse educator in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, Kuchler now serves in the role of the director of Clinical Placements for Nurse Practitioner Programs, engaging in community outreach focusing on nursing workforce development.

“I am both proud and humbled by this opportunity to be the bridge between the College of Health and Social Services and the School of Nursing and our community partners,” Kuchler says. “With our combined efforts, we will prepare nurse practitioners and social workers for the benefit of all New Mexicans. These health care and social services providers will be able to improve access to health care and related services in communities across the state.”

In fall 2020, CHSS began awarding the scholarships created through the BCBSNM gift to students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Bachelor of Social Work programs. The recipients have each pledged to gain health care-related employment in New Mexico immediately following graduation, preferably in behavioral health, and remain employed for at least one year.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Sharneece Pratt (left) and Stephen Montoya earned bachelor’s degrees in nursing in 2019. A donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico is funding 40 scholarships for students in bachelor-level nursing and social work programs and the new faculty position as part of a new partnership with the College of Health and Social Services.

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

NMSU Alamogordo courses sparked passion for higher education

When Stephanie Hernandez’s husband died in 1998, the young mother of one was devastated.

Not knowing exactly what she had in mind for her life, Hernandez ’02, ’03, ’06, ’19 enrolled at NMSU Alamogordo, where she was introduced to a career in business and cultivated a passion for higher education.

Hernandez is Alamogordo’s assistant city manager and speaks highly of the benefits of having NMSU Alamogordo in her hometown.

From being a widow with a child, to happily married with five children, she earned associate and bachelor’s degrees in accounting and economics, and master’s degrees in economics and educational leadership. She is now pursuing a doctorate degree in educational leadership and administration with an emphasis on government.

“I may work for the city now, but higher education has always been my thing,” says Hernandez. “I try to get as many people as I can to just take a class, even if they don’t keep on going to obtain a degree.”

The way forward for Hernandez took her and her daughter to Las Cruces, where Hernandez could continue her education while supporting her child. After earning her bachelor’s degree in accounting, she worked in NMSU’s budget, accounting and Foundation departments for 20 years while completing her other degrees.

“A community college provides so much more than what people realize,” she says. “It is a valuable asset that provides a huge service to the community in many ways.”

Besides bridging the gap from high school to college, community colleges provide certificate training as the region’s economic development shifts.

“I never want to downplay certification programs, because they are so important,” Hernandez says. “There are certifications, not tied to a college degree, that are important in the community, such as auto mechanic, and, probably, are more valuable in some instances because of the community’s need.”

Hernandez has established an endowment in her maternal grandparents’ name, Pomposo G. and Josefina R. Misquez Endowed Scholarship, for first-generation college students attending NMSU Alamogordo as an additional way to encourage others to continue their education.

In honor of her husband, Cruz Hernandez’ 20-year service in the military, the couple has established the Perfecto Ben “Chico” Segura and Cruz Hernandez Veteran’s Endowed Scholarship at NMSU. Segura was Cruz Hernandez’ boxing coach.

Jane Moorman

Stephanie Hernandez displays her Aggie pride in her office at the City of Alamogordo.

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Faculty Successes

Regents Professor receives second national Fellow designation

NMSU Regents Professor Bernd Leinauer has been nominated and elected as a 2020 Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America. The award is presented for outstanding contributions to crop science through education, national and international service, and research. The fellow designation is the highest recognition bestowed by the Crop Science Society of America. Only 0.3 percent of members have an opportunity to be elected as a fellow.

Leinauer has been with NMSU since 2000 as the turfgrass specialist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension Service.

The award is especially noteworthy because Leinauer was named American Society of Agronomy Fellow in 2017. Being recognized as a fellow by two separate societies is an accomplishment that very few scientists achieve.

In addition to his work for NMSU, he also holds the endowed turfgrass chair position at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Jane Moorman

NASA grant allows astronomers to analyze Jupiter’s atmosphere

A $283,800 grant from NASA’s New Frontiers Data Analysis Program will allow NMSU astronomers to investigate the Juno mission, which is currently in orbit around Jupiter.

“We proposed to analyze some infrared images and spectra of Jupiter’s atmosphere to try to understand the circulation patterns and the waves, and the transition between orderly and chaotic circulations in Jupiter’s atmosphere,” says Nancy Chanover, astronomy professor and principal investigator on the project.

The team of researchers working with Chanover (right) includes co-investigators Jason Jackiewicz, astronomy associate professor; Wladimir Lyra (left), astronomy assistant professor; and Ali Hyder (center), astronomy Ph.D. student.

Like the sun, the atmosphere of Jupiter is made up of mostly hydrogen and helium gas. Each professor will approach the data differently: Chanover from the upper cloud deck of Jupiter; Jackiewicz from the interior and vertical motions within the atmosphere; and Lyra from numerical simulations of fluids of all astrophysical kinds.

Minerva Baumann ’13

Air Force ROTC commander promoted

Wendy Woodard joined NMSU’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 505 Pistoleros as a commander and community builder in 2018. Her duties include leading and overseeing all training activities and academic courses for all current cadets. Woodard is also the department head of aerospace studies.

Woodard came to NMSU from Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, where she was a lieutenant colonel and an instructor pilot. After just two years at NMSU, she was promoted to colonel and will continue to mold the characters of AFROTC students.

“Having a third year with them means I get to see and hopefully impact their continued development as officer candidates, students and citizens,” Woodard says. “This is a true gift because I am able to continue building relationships with the community, university and especially the cadets in Detachment 505 at NMSU.”

Amanda Adame ’19

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Aggie bragging rights

NMSU receives top tier designation

For the sixth consecutive year, NMSU has been recognized as a top tier university according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges for 2021 rankings. NMSU is tied for 241 for national universities, tied for 117 in top public schools and tied for 119 for top performers on social mobility. Additionally, NMSU is tied for 145 in undergraduate engineering programs, tied for 171 in undergraduate computer science programs, a new category, and tied for 201 in undergraduate business programs. The rankings are based on outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, student excellence and alumni giving.

Creative Media Institute programs rank in top 25

The Animation Career Review ranked NMSU’s animation and visual effects program 22nd among the country’s public animation schools and colleges for 2020. The Creative Media Institute program also ranked sixth among the top 10 animation schools in the Southwest.

CMI’s animation curriculum includes focus on the art, craft and business of storytelling as well as 2D animation, 3D animation, character design and development, digital illustration, drawing for animation, modeling, rigging for 3D animation, screenwriting, sets and environment, 2D and 3D production studio, visual effects and writing for animation.

Programs earn graduate schools ranking

Several NMSU graduate programs have been recognized on the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools 2021 rankings. Graduate programs in the College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Business, College of Health and Social Services and College of Arts and Sciences were ranked. 

U.S. News & World Report ranks professional school programs in business, education, engineering, law, medicine and nursing along with area specialties annually. The rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students.

Studio G among most successful university business incubators

Arrowhead Center’s Studio G, NMSU’s student business accelerator, is featured in Forbes’ “Which colleges produce the most start-ups.” University-related business incubators are one metric for how colleges can lead to successful startsups. Research has shown that university incubators have a lasting impact on a startup growth, which helps more new companies reach viability. The piece referenced UBI Global’s university business incubator rankings, which looked at factors such as the program’s impact on economic growth, access to network partners and access to funding.

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Aggie Milestones

130 years

In September 1890, the cornerstone was laid for McFie Hall, also known as “Old Main.” The building was named for prominent Las Crucen and judge John R. McFie and was destroyed by a fire 20 years later. The cornerstone still stands on the NMSU Horseshoe, next to the flagpole.

70 years

The Carlsbad Instructional Center, the first community college in New Mexico, is created by an agreement between the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts and the Carlsbad Board of Education in 1950. Ten years later, the center was renamed as a branch campus of New Mexico State University.

65 years

Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, arrived as a faculty member at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1955. He was instrumental in designing and obtaining funding for NMSU’s Tortugas Mountain Observatory.

60 years

New Mexico State University of Agriculture, Engineering and Science shortens its name, officially becoming New Mexico State University in 1960.

45 years

The first NuMex plant varieties were released. The NuMex Big Jim chile, a popular type of chile pepper developed by chile breeder Roy Nakayama in 1975, was the first NuMex cultivar of any sort.

McFie Hall cornerstone

Clyde Tombaugh

Roy Nakayama

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Course offers art of winemaking with a dash of science

Before you can swirl, sniff and sip a glass of New Mexico wine, someone has to grow, crush, press and ferment the

Camila Prieto (left) and Madison Baker check the temperature of red wine recently pulled from barrels during a winemaking course, which is open to students and community members.

grapes, bottle the wine and get it to consumers.

NMSU offers a class that teaches both the science behind wine production and the business skills and theories needed to create a successful small winery or vineyard in New Mexico.

“Winemaking is an art,” says Dale Ellis, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences agriculture business adjunct instructor. “It’s science-based, but there is an art to it. I get to teach the fun part, the art of creating something new out of raw grapes.”

The academic course and Cooperative Extension Service workshop has been offered since 2008. Instructors Ellis and Daniel Goodrich, viticulture program coordinator in NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service plant science department, have been involved with the program since 2014 and 2010, respectively.

“The class originally targeted hobby and amateur winemakers, but has evolved to include people involved in the industry, which includes 80-plus licensed wineries,” Goodrich says.

“Many of our students, especially through the Extension workshop, just want to gain an understanding and appreciation of what it takes to make a bottle of wine,” Ellis says.

The class participants harvest grapes from the College of ACES vineyard at the Fabian Garcia Science Center and create wine.

“We have more than 60 varieties of grapes in the vineyard, so we are able to experiment with different blends,” Goodrich says.

“Last year we made a white wine from Malbec red grapes,” Ellis says. “It was different for us because we hadn’t done a white wine out of red grapes.”

Annually, wine created during the class is entered in the New Mexico State Fair competition and is judged by the New Mexico Vine and Wine Society.

“For the last six years, every wine that we have submitted has won bronze or better medals,” Ellis says. “Our entries are in competition with the commercial wineries and about 400 wines are submitted.”

For the wine enthusiast, the course allows them to discover the fine nuances of the different wines during the tasting profiles.

“We try to demonstrate to people that there is a broad spectrum of wines,” Ellis says. “We try to give them a good appreciation for what they are really getting when they buy a bottle of wine no matter what the price.”

Jane Moorman

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Girls from Chaparral Middle School learn about STEM, life as future Aggies

The Chaparral Outreach Program in Chaparral, New Mexico, began in fall 2019 with 90 girls at Chaparral Middle School. The program, created by staff members in the NMSU College of Education, encouraged girls to pursue STEM careers and higher education studies at NMSU.

In fall 2019, the Chaparral Outreach Program in Chaparral, New Mexico, kick-started the STEM Sisterhood program to encourage seventh- and eighth-grade girls to explore STEM careers and pursue their education at NMSU.

While the program was met with a successful start, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought progress to a halt. NMSU College of Education staff members Erika Acosta, Michelle Sterling-Rodriguez and Yomara Rios-Laurenzana ’19 are hopeful they can secure funding to continue the program.

The STEM Sisterhood began in November 2019 as a pilot project at Chaparral Middle School with 90 girls. However, 200 girls at the school expressed interest in participating.

“Since we were going to take the girls to in-person labs on the NMSU campus, such as the robotics lab and the flight simulation lab, we could only accommodate so many girls,” Acosta says. “We were looking into continuing the program with 2020 summer camps, but then COVID happened.”

The initial funds that made the STEM Sisterhood possible were part of legislative funding given to the Chaparral community to raise STEM awareness among teachers, students and families. The funds paid for transportation for students to the NMSU Las Cruces campus, meals at Taos and special T-shirts for the girls. The kickoff included a forum featuring a diverse group of current NMSU female students in STEM-related degrees, then continued with various hands-on workshops in the College of Education, College of Engineering and Doña Ana Community College.

Members of the STEM Sisterhood at Chaparral Middle School participated in labs on the NMSU campus in fall 2019, including the robotics lab and the flight simulation lab at O’Donnell Hall. The program was poised to continue through 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic threatened funding and participation.

The funding also helped the outreach program give scholarships to more than 65 Chaparral High School graduating seniors to help pay for registration and orientation fees.

“What we found in talking to the teachers is a lot of times, we don’t have the time or resources to be able to help students who need guidance with higher education and career exploration,” Acosta says. “Some of these girls had never stepped foot on a college campus before, and with this program they were able to walk around campus and see themselves as future Aggies.”

Rios-Laurenzana, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from NMSU, says seeing the girls participate in the STEM Sisterhood was inspiring for her as a student.

“It was my senior year in college, and I don’t think you realize how much you need a role model to follow until you’re older,” Rios-Laurenzana says. “I think the STEM Sisterhood was an amazing example of keeping these girls moving forward as women in STEM.”

To learn more about STEM Outreach Center programs visit

Adriana M. Chávez ’19

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Sanchez aims to cultivate new opportunities for Physical Science Lab

Teamwork and trust are two important components to leading an organization. Retired Army Brig. Gen. Eric L. Sanchez ’87 plans to apply that philosophy as the new director of NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory. Sanchez began his tenure at PSL as deputy director in October 2019 after three decades of military service. He was appointed director in June 2020 after Jim Chavez ’81 stepped down.

One of Sanchez’ goals is to empower and encourage PSL’s employees and students.

“In order to create new opportunities, which is what we are trying to do, you also have to invest in your organization,” he says.

Other goals include reviving student programs and enhancing faculty interaction. A student talent development program for junior and senior year students, the Classified Ready Employee Workforce program, allows students to gain national security experience and a security clearance, was launched in fall 2020.

“We’re looking for opportunities for research with faculty and also looking at potential joint appointments,” Sanchez says. “We’re trying to bring in different faculty researchers, so they are not afraid to walk across the street and have conversations with us.”

Founded by NMSU in 1946, PSL has supported various government and private sector scientific and technical activities throughout the United States and the world through contracts and research agreements—a tradition Sanchez plans to continue.

Tiffany Acosta

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

First-generation college student chosen to lead William Conroy Honors College

Phame Camarena, a first-generation college student and native Californian, is the new leader of the NMSU William Conroy Honors College, having been named the college’s third dean in July 2020 by NMSU Provost Carol Parker.

“I am excited for the opportunity to build on the exceptional foundation of high-quality honors education already offered by the William Conroy Honors College at New Mexico State University,” Camarena says. “At this time of historical crisis, I understand the importance of ensuring that the Honors College serves the needs of the whole university, while supporting students in the honors community so they can aim higher and achieve more meaningfully.”

Camarena has more than 15 years of administrative experience, most recently as director of the Central Michigan University Honors Program, a position he held for the past 10 years. Camarena says that as leader of the Honors Program at CMU, he drew upon his personal experiences as a first-generation college student in an honors program.

“Honors education helped to transform my life and now it is my sincerest privilege to continue that same spirit of transformative learning as the dean of the William Conroy Honors College,” Camarena says.

Adriana M. Chávez ’19

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Athletics launches new collaborations

Even though fall 2020 sports were postponed, the Aggies’ Athletics Department has unveiled two new collaborations. Pistol Pete’s Crimson Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon from Lescombes Family Vineyards and Pistol Pete’s Six-Shooter Whiskey from Dry Point Distillers are now available.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with both Dry Point Distillery and Lescombes on these exciting new projects,” Athletics Director Mario Moccia says. “This puts NM State at the forefront of innovation in this category of licensed products and will be a revenue generator during a time when it is needed most. The cherry on top is we hope this will stimulate awareness and new sales/revenue when small businesses in New Mexico need it desperately.”

“My father and I started this business two years ago and would dream of a big NMSU spirit collaboration while we sipped drinks,” says Chris Schaefer ’08, Dry Point Distillers co-owner. This collaboration is a first between the university and a spirit maker.

Brandon Young ’97 ’05, CEO at Lescombes Family Vineyards, says they were excited to work with NMSU on the Crimson Legacy project. It’s not the first collaboration, as they’ve teamed up before with the Cooperative Extension Service and the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. NMSU is among the first dozen universities in the nation to have a licensed wine. 

“We are also proud to have a few Aggie alumni working here at Lescombes Family Vineyards, myself included,” Young says. “Another inspiration was seeing what the team at NMSU and Bosque Brewing did with their Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale and felt it would be fitting to have an official wine.”

Pistol Pete’s Crimson Legacy is available at all Lescombes locations, on its website at and can be shipped to 40 states. Pistol Pete’s Six-Shooter Whiskey is available at Dry Point Distillers in Mesilla and local retailers such as Pic Quik stores, Toucan Market and Kelly Liquors. Both Schaefer and Young hope to expand distribution to additional retailers in the state.

Tiffany Acosta

Posted by grel in Fall 2020