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Aggie Capstone Graduation Challenge helps students cross the finish line

In spring 2014, New Mexico State University launched a new program to help seniors who left without graduating return to complete their degrees.


Woman sits at a desk and talks with a student.
Aggie Capstone Graduation Challenge cross-campus adviser Marissa Macias meets with a student in her office. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Aggie Capstone Graduation Challenge, or ACGC, is geared toward students who have completed 94 credit hours or more and haven?t attended classes for at least one semester.

?I think reaching out to students who have attended NMSU and are not enrolled, especially at the senior level, speaks to the commitment we have for our students? success,? said Terry Cook, assistant vice president for student engagement. ?These students have invested in NMSU and have, for a variety of reasons, been unable to cross the finish line and complete their degree. I think this goes to President Carruthers? idea of a caring community. We want to find out what has stopped our students from achieving their goals and, if possible, help them re-enter and achieve their personal and career goals.?

Cross-campus adviser Marissa Macias directs the program and works with students one-on-one.

?The majority of my students are non-traditional students, so they have been in college for quite some time. They have families, they had a job opportunity, life just kind of happened, and they took a break that turned out much longer than they anticipated and they needed help getting back into the university,? Macias said.

?There is a mentorship component so it?s not just getting you in the door and wishing you the best,? she said. ?It?s helping students overcome any barriers, and they stick with me until graduation.?

Once students are accepted into ACGC, they sign contracts, which are unique to each student. The contracts outline the requirements of the program including once-a-month meetings.

?I firmly believe that many of these students would not have made the effort without this type of service,? Cook said. ?It?s pretty daunting when there are so many challenges to overcome, so we are their cheerleaders, too.?

While Macias has an on-campus office, many ACGC students currently live out-of-state, so she utilizes Skype as a way to connect to the students, who are taking online classes.

More than 400 students were invited to participate in the program. Currently, 40 students are enrolled in ACGC for spring 2015. Macias said eight students graduated in December 2014, and she expects 15 to graduate in May 2015.

?Having students come back, having them graduate, having them become alumni and feeling what they should feel about the institution again brings me a lot of pride,? Macias says. ?I?m a two-time Aggie graduate, so it does mean a lot to me that they are getting to graduate from here and love it the way we hope that they do.?

In mid-October, NMSU?s Cross Campus Advising office hosted a ?Come Back and Complete? information session. The event was geared at helping former students learn how many credits they need to complete their bachelor?s degree, what they need to do to re-enroll at NMSU and options for possible financial assistance.

Macias said she was pleased with the first-time event. About 20 potential students attended the event and about half are possible ACGC students. If students didn?t qualify for the ACGC program, they were given individual plans on how to return to NMSU.