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NMSU's Ricardo Aguilar-Melantzon is New Mexico Professor of the Year

Ricardo Aguilar-Melantzon, a professor of Spanish at New Mexico State University, has been selected as the 2003 New Mexico Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.



Ricardo Aguilar-Melantzon, a professor of Spanish at New Mexico State University, has been selected as the 2003 New Mexico Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (New Mexico State University photo by Darren Phillips)


The award, which was announced today (Thursday, Nov. 13) in Washington, D.C., is recognized as one of the most prestigious awards honoring professors. It salutes outstanding faculty members who excel as teachers and influence the lives and careers of their undergraduate students.

This is the second year in a row an NMSU professor has received the New Mexico Professor of the Year award. Sherry K. Mills, an associate professor of accounting, was honored last year.

"I thought it was a mistake. I couldn't believe it," Aguilar said.

He said he was honored to receive the award because teaching is the most important part of what he does.

"As a faculty member there are a lot of committee and research responsibilities, but when I'm in the classroom I connect with students and forget about everything else. I can hardly wait to be in the classroom. It's the best time of the day," he said. "When I see a student using the material he or she has learned in my classroom it's like everything you've worked for and all the energy you have put in is paid back to you. If that's all I do - it's enough."

Aguilar said there are many challenges to keeping the material fresh and exciting for his students, but he said it is always a two-way street.

"They teach me. I grow every day because of what I learn and relearn from my students," he said. "Working with students is my fountain of youth."

Aguilar was named a Regents Professor at New Mexico State in 2002 for his outstanding contributions to the university's mission.

"Dr. Aguilar is a genuine example of a talented faculty member who really cares about and encourages the success of his students," said NMSU Interim President and Provost William V. Flores. "We are proud to have him as part of the NMSU family."

Aguilar has served as a professor in NMSU's Languages and Linguistics Department for more than a decade and is known internationally for his research in Chicano literature and his own creative writing. His creative works have been included in several anthologies of Chicano writing and he has won several writing awards, including the Jose Fuentes Mares Mexican National Prize for Literature for his novel "Madreselvas en Flor" and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Narrative in Spanish for his short story "Caminito."

In November, his trilogy, "Que es un soplo la vida," will be released. It includes a novel, short stories and essays previously released that had been out of print. All of the work included in the trilogy is about life on the border.

He has been recognized at NMSU for his teaching with the Donald C. Roush Award for Teaching Excellence and the Dennis W. Darnall Award for Faculty Achievement.

The U.S. Professors of the Year program, initiated by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), looks for candidates who have extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching demonstrated by excellence in the following areas: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contribution to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students.

Other NMSU professors who have received the New Mexico Professor of the Year award are G. Larry Mays, a professor of criminal justice, who was honored in 1997, and Wenda R. Trevathan, department head and professor of sociology and anthropology, who was honored in 1994.