Around Aggieland

Alumni Successes

Deborah Blume ’94 ’04

A school counselor at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School in Greenville, South Carolina, Deborah Blume has worked in six states and three regions of the United States. But she never forgets the impact her time at NMSU had on her.

“I wish I could talk to all of my professors and tell them they truly prepared me for my work in the world,” says Blume, who was selected as South Carolina School Counselor of the Year by the Palmetto State School Counselor Association.

In January 2020, Blume represented South Carolina at the American School Counseling Association’s Gala in Washington, D.C., and will represent the state at the association’s conference in June 2020.

Blume is now in her 25th year as an educator and continues to use the strategies and skills she learned at NMSU working with faculty members such as elementary school counseling Professor Mike Nystul; Eve Adams, who is the co-interim head of the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at NMSU; and former NMSU College of Education Dean Michael Morehead.

Adriana M. Chávez ’19

Jesse Guardiola ’95

Jesse Guardiola (left), a criminal justice graduate and officer in the Tulsa Police Department, received the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing in December 2019 for leading Tulsa’s efforts in Hispanic outreach and community policing.

The honor recognizes state and local law enforcement officials for exceptional efforts in community policing strategies, criminal investigations and field operations. Out of 700 nominations, the Tulsa Police Department was chosen as the top agency.

“This award is as much for me as it is for the men and women at New Mexico State who challenge and change students’ lives every day,” Guardiola says.

Guardiola, a Ruidoso, New Mexico, native, continues his outreach to NMSU, traveling to campus three or four times a year to recruit criminal justice students for the Tulsa Police Department. NMSU Criminal Justice Department Head Dennis Giever said a large number of NMSU graduates have jobs with the Tulsa Police Department thanks to Guardiola’s leadership.

Amanda Adame ’19

Bobby Brooke Herrera ’12

 A 29-year-old man who grew up in a small town south of Las Cruces is now the chief science officer of E25Bio, Inc., and listed on the 2020 Forbes “30 under 30” list of healthcare entrepreneurs.

Bobby Brooke Herrera (right) co-founded E25Bio, Inc., with career researcher at MIT Irene Bosch and MIT professor Lee Gehrke. The company announced in August 2019 that it had raised $2.3 million in seed funding for its fever panel – the first of its kind to be able to screen for active viruses. The panel enables a more rapid and accurate diagnosis of infectious diseases in time for patients to receive potentially life-saving treatment.

“We need to get to a place where there is a just public health system and not an unjust public health system,” Herrera says.

In the next 10 years, Herrera hopes to develop better diagnostic tools that lead to a fairer healthcare system for people now suffering and dying in developing countries.

Minerva Baumann ’13

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Renovated mental health clinic opens doors thanks to donor, university support

Ellen Ijebor, an NMSU Counseling and Educational Psychology graduate student, works in the newly renovated mental health clinic, located on the ground floor of O’Donnell Hall.

A formerly drab and cluttered space tucked away on the ground floor of O’Donnell Hall has transformed into a welcoming, comfortable place for students to seek and provide help.

The NMSU Counseling and Educational Psychology department’s renovated clinic opened at the end of January 2020. Thanks to support from the state legislature, NMSU College of Education interim Dean Susan Brown, Ashley Furniture and Abel Covarrubias ’96 ’98, the clinic has been given fresh coats of paint; new recording equipment, furniture and artwork; soundproofed walls and doors; additional counseling and observation areas; and white noise machines. The clinic will also receive a system to store health files electronically.

In 2019, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to provide $100,000 to the CEP department’s clinic. The facility also added a state-of-the-art recording technology system that allows for each session to be recorded for training purposes.

Interim head Eve Adams says that with the help of Brown and NMSU senior government affairs director Ricardo Rel, they were able to inform state legislators about the need for the clinic upgrades. The project received the support of State Sen. Mary Kay Papen, who is a proponent of improving the behavioral health workforce in Doña Ana County, as well as increasing behavioral health services in the area.

“It feels more professional with the really nice artwork and furniture,” Adams says.

Brett Opelt, a third-year doctoral student in the CEP department, says he has been in the clinic since his first year and has seen the improvements first-hand.

“It feels more like an actual counseling clinic, especially now that we have nice furniture and soundproof walls,” Opelt says. “I think it’s just more inviting and more welcoming.”

Doña Ana County has only 4.31 behavioral health providers per 1,000 people, and has been designated as a mental health professional shortage area by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Part of the clinic’s future plans are to widen the scope of services offered to include learning disability assessments and psychological assessments.

Adriana M. Chávez ’19

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Survey equipment donation helps DACC students become job ready

College students entering the workforce in technical fields need to be familiar with the newest technology so they can step onto the jobsite ready to work. A donation of surveying equipment from two donors will give Doña Ana Community College Civil/Survey students hands-on experience in the newest survey technology.

Priscilla Zertuche looks through a DTM Total Station while DACC Assistant Professor Eugene Hernandez observes.

Kery Greiner, a professional land surveyor from Las Cruces, and John Haynes, a professional engineer from Gallup, New Mexico, donated equipment to the DACC Drafting and Design Technologies department. The donated equipment includes three total stations used to measure distances and angles with high precision.

The donations are now used in DACC Civil/Survey Technology program classes to provide students training in the civil engineering drafting, surveying, Geographic Information System and land development drafting industries.

A May 2020 graduate with an associate degree of applied science in civil survey technology, Priscilla Zertuche appreciates the donation of equipment and the experience gained by using it in classes.

“I want to thank these donors because it helps students a lot,” Zertuche says. “I plan to go straight into the workforce when I graduate, and using this equipment will be very helpful for me as I start my career.”

“The Civil/Survey Technology program continues to grow, with support from the community, such as these donations,” says Eugene Hernandez, Drafting and Design Technologies assistant professor. “This technology will help students develop needed skills called for by the surveying industry and will help provide students with a seamless transition to either the workforce or higher education.”

The Drafting and Design Technologies program allows students to earn several associate of applied science degrees and certificates.

“The degrees in this program provide students with options,” says Chipper Moore, Architecture and Construction Technologies department chair.

For students proceeding onto the NMSU Las Cruces campus, these awards will help them enter into bachelor’s degrees in two majors. The Surveying Technology option creates a transfer pathway for students from DACC to the NMSU Geomatics Program. Civil/Survey Technology also prepares students for transfer into the NMSU Civil Engineering Technology program.

Eddie Binder ’12

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Faculty Successes

Astronomy professor earns NASA medal for second time

The romance of space can’t compare to the value of data just ask NMSU Astronomy Professor Emerita Reta Beebe (center). In 2019, Beebe received NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Medal for a second time for her expertise in archiving and making available worldwide all of the atmosphere-focused data returned by the Cassini mission to Saturn.

The Cassini–Huygens space-research mission, commonly called Cassini, was the fourth space probe to visit Saturn. Beebe’s 2019 NASA medal was for her work in coordinating the archiving of the Cassini data set to optimize access for current and future users. In 2010, she received the medal for her extensive service to the community, working on advanced planning and program reviews for NASA and the National Academy of Sciences.

“The Cassini Project and NASA owe Dr. Beebe a huge debt of gratitude for her ideas and support to enable the future for Cassini science research by planetary scientists, especially the next generation,” says Jon Holtzman, NMSU astronomy department head.

Minerva Baumann ’13

Department head named American Society of Horticulture Science 2019 fellow

More than 20 years ago, Rolston St. Hilaire joined the American Society for Horticulture Science as a graduate student. Now, he is an inductee of the society’s 2019 class of fellows.

St. Hilaire, head of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and a professor in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, has published more than 130 publications. As an assistant professor, he developed six new courses related to landscape, ornamental horticulture and environmental stress physiology.

St. Hilaire also has contributed extensively to international horticulture. He has presented research findings at scientific conferences in Canada, Italy and Mexico and mentored and/or recruited graduate students from India, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Trinidad.

Currently, he serves as the ASHS International Division vice president, overseeing professional interest groups that deal with horticulture topics internationally, and ensuring that there are scientific talks, workshops and oral sessions to provide more information to scientists wishing to learn more about international horticulture. The ASHS is recognized around the world as one of the most respected and influential professional societies for horticultural scientists.

Melissa Rutter ’17

$1.5 million grant for bacteria research may impact antibiotic-resistance

Biochemistry professor Paola Mera (left) investigates the mechanisms that guide how tiny life forms known as bacteria grow and reproduce. The long-term goal of Mera’s lab is to create ways to attack antibiotic-resistance, considered one of the biggest health challenges of our time. Mera’s $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will fund the equipment and manpower to help her team take their recent discoveries to the next level.

“We have exciting data that show the molecular machines that are involved in copying the bacterium’s chromosome and the machines involved in segregating the chromosomes are talking to each other,” Mera says. “And they’re talking not only in one direction, but they’re talking in two directions.”

By decoding the mechanisms involved in this essential communication for bacteria, the Mera lab can identify new targets for the design of effective drugs that interrupt the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Minerva Baumann ’13

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Aggie bragging rights

NMSU recognized for best online programs

U.S. News & World Report has ranked NMSU programs on its Best Online Education Programs offered by U.S. National Universities. A pair of NMSU’s online graduate programs improved in the standings. In 2020, NMSU tied for 43rd in criminal justice online graduate programs and tied for 131st in master’s in business administration online graduate programs. NMSU’s online graduate programs in engineering also were recognized and listed in the 74th to 94th range.

NMSU among Top 200 Colleges for American Indian students

NMSU earned a place on the list of Top 200 Colleges for Indigenous Students in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s Winds of Change 26th annual Special College Issue. Published in December 2019, the issue is the only resource of its kind for Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians focusing on a STEM discipline. Major criteria for the selection were support for the American Indian student community and the graduation percentage of American Indian undergraduates.

Golf Course earns pair of honors

According to Golf Advisor, NMSU’s Golf Course received two accolades ranking in the Top 25 college golf courses in the nation and the Top 10 golf courses in New Mexico. The lists are developed by golfers’ reviews. NMSU posted a 93 percent recommendation rating for the No. 22 spot for college golf courses, and ranked No. 9 for golf courses in the state.

NMSU recognized for family-friendly policies

For the third time since 2018, NMSU has earned a gold-level New Mexico Family Friendly Business Award in recognition for its workplace policies. NMSU received the award from Family Friendly New Mexico, a statewide initiative developed to recognize businesses that have adopted family-friendly policies and practices. One of the most valuable benefits offered by NMSU is the Educational Assistance Program, a tuition waiver program available for eligible employees, their spouses or domestic partners, and their dependent children.

Posted by grel in Fall 2019, Spring 2020

Aggie Milestones

130 years

Fabian Garcia enrolled at New Mexico Agricultural College in 1890, and eventually became the college’s first Hispanic graduate and a member of its first graduating class in 1894. He is famous for his pioneering work in chile, onions and pecans.

110 years

A fire destroyed McFie Hall in 1910, better known as “Old Main,” 20 years after it was built. McFie Hall was named for John R. McFie, a judge, prominent Las Crucen and early supporter of New Mexico Agricultural College. McFie Hall’s cornerstone still stands on the NMSU Horseshoe, next to the flagpole.

100 years

On March 31, 1920, students stood on the tower of Goddard Hall to survey and layout the letter “A” on Tortugas Mountain, starting a tradition of Aggie pride. The “A” is located three miles east of campus, stands 300 feet tall by 80 feet wide, and forms a perfect east-west line with the International Mall, the NMSU Horseshoe and College Avenue.

65 years

Roger B. Corbett became president in 1955. During his tenure, New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was formally renamed New Mexico State University.

15 years

More than $250 million was raised during Doing What Counts, NMSU’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, which was launched in 2005. The funds supported the creation of 13 new academic chairs, 18 professorships, 323 scholarship endowments and 52 campuswide name designations of buildings, classrooms, laboratories and sports facilities.

McFie Hall

A Mountain

Roger B. Corbett

Posted by grel in Fall 2019, Spring 2020

TRIO Student Support Services peer mentor receives national award

As a four-year TRIO Student Support Services peer mentor at NMSU, Alicia Romero has changed the lives of many students – both academically and personally.

Alicia Romero (right) accepted the 2019 College Reading & Learning Association’s Outstanding Mentor award from Ashley Lewis, a CRLA representative, at the organization’s annual conference in New Orleans. Romero was honored for her work as a TRIO Student Support Services peer mentor at NMSU.

“She goes above and beyond to help her students accomplish goals and achievements they are unaware they are capable of. She spreads positivity and motivation to anyone who comes in contact with her on a daily basis,” says Bernadine Booky, NMSU TRIO Student Support Services mentor coordinator.

For her hard work and dedication, Romero was recognized as the 2019 College Reading & Learning Association’s Outstanding Mentor in November 2019 in New Orleans. A May 2020 graduate, Romero spent more than 400 hours mentoring students and more than 100 hours attending trainings while she pursued a bachelor’s degree in biology, wildlife management and conservation ecology.

“Mentoring is about empathy and using the skills that you are taught through trainings to help students in their endeavors,” the Roswell, New Mexico, native says. “It is about being a confidante and offering advice or resources when asked. It is about being a part of the support system for the student that helps them succeed.

“The biggest reward of mentoring that I have experienced is when the students share with you their accomplishments,” Romero says. “It’s the text messages that say, ‘I’ve made it into the program!’ or ‘I’ve passed the test!’ I enjoy celebrating in their accomplishments with them.”

Tiffany Acosta

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Award-winning business student lays groundwork for construction career

NMSU business student Sebastien Tapia was named the 2019 Construction Intern of the Year by HCSS, a construction software company. Tapia is an intern at Jaynes Corporation and is studying project and supply chain management.

Sebastien Tapia was in his second semester at NMSU when he took a chance to ask for an internship at one of the largest general contracting companies in New Mexico.

A first-generation college student, Tapia was visiting his father at Jaynes Corporation’s Albuquerque headquarters during spring break 2018. Armed with his résumé, he walked into an office and spoke to the first person he encountered, who happened to be a project manager.

“Luckily, the project manager saw something in me and interviewed me on the spot,” he says. “I later received a call from him saying that they could use me for the summer.”

By the end of his three-month internship, Tapia improved seven construction processes for a millwork subcontractor. His work ethic impressed Jaynes Corporation so much that he was asked – and agreed – to continue his internship in Las Cruces while completing his bachelor’s degree in project and supply chain management from NMSU’s College of Business.

Tapia is now serving as the project engineer for a $13 million facility that will house a helicopter hub for the New Mexico Army National Guard.

He was recognized for his achievements last year when he was named the 2019 Construction Intern of the Year by HCSS, a construction software company, and won a $10,000 scholarship.

“I firmly believe everything happened the way it did for a reason,” says Tapia, who expects to graduate in 2021.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

New art facility welcomes community with architectural grace, appreciation

With her wide-eyed windows open to University Avenue, Devasthali Hall introduced herself to the Las Cruces community Feb. 28, 2020, with music, performance art and words of praise and thanks, as NMSU leaders cut the ribbon on the new home to the Department of Art and University Art Museum.

NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu and President John Floros shared their gratitude to the community, while U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich sent representatives to share their congratulations on the grand opening of Devasthali Hall.

“This building is here because the voters of the state of New Mexico recognize the value of art and recognize the value of art in this particular community,” says Julia Barello, head of the Department of Art in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The new art facility supports a wide variety of media-based research in museum conservation, ceramics, drawing and painting, graphic design, jewelry, metalsmithing, photography, printmaking, sculpture and art history.

More than 1,600 people crowded together to see the architectural wonders of the building, take tours of the studios and classrooms, and honor the couple whose name the building bears.

Ammu and Rama Devasthali have devoted much of their lives to advancing arts in southern New Mexico. They have contributed just under $2.8 million to the arts at NMSU. The new art facility was years in the making with members of the community raising millions in funding for more than 10 years to support NMSU’s new art space, along with the $22.5 million general obligation bond approved by voters in November 2016.

“We know for a fact that in our great state of New Mexico, arts and culture are strong economic drivers,” says Ammu
Devasthali, the NMSU Regent who led local efforts to build the new art facility. “We are all vested in the arts, and that is the reason why this facility, more than any other built recently on campus, has captured the imagination, not only of our students, faculty and staff, but also of the community of Las Cruces.”

The grand opening continued Feb. 29, 2020, with art workshops open to the public. The celebration also included the opening reception for “Labor: Motherhood & Art in 2020,” the premier exhibition in the University Art Museum. However, the exhibition had to be converted into a series of virtual tours and workshops through May 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 related shutdown of campus.

“In the visual arts, we focus on research in materials and technologies to solve problems and express our ideas,” Barello says. “This need to express beliefs and construct self-identity runs deep in humans as evidenced by thousands of years of artistic expression. Art is a critical tool of communication, which never grows old and always remains relevant.”

Minerva Baumann ’13


NMSU Regent Ammu Devasthali spoke at the grand opening celebration for the newest building on campus, Devasthali Hall, which is home to the Department of Art and University Art Museum. Devasthali and her husband Rama are champions for the arts in southern New Mexico.

Guests toured Devasthali Hall during the grand opening celebration February 2020. Community support and a $22.5 million general obligation bond approved by New Mexico voters funded the project.

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Investment helps HRTM launch hospitality career development center

The School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at NMSU bolstered its commitment to fostering careers in the hospitality industry by establishing the Marriott Hospitality Futures Center, dedicated to hospitality career development and education.

HRTM, in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, received funding to develop the center from a four-year, $400,000 investment from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

Housed in Gerald Thomas Hall, the center opened in January 2020. It provides a designated area for students to research work and careers, hold meetings, receive career counseling, and take part in interviews with industry representatives for internships and employment.

HRTM program coordinator Andrea Arrigucci ’10, an HRTM alumna, oversees the center. With help from a grant-funded assistant, Arrigucci carries out the center’s initiatives to refine existing recruitment, outreach and professional development programs, and create career workshops for high school students, teachers, guidance counselors and community college students.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Posted by grel in Spring 2020