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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Enrollment boost leading to more student options

The numbers of undergraduate and graduate students in the Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business department at the College of Agriculture and Home Economics are on the rise - with major improvements on the horizon for its students.

e past four years, the department has seen a 35 percent jump in undergraduate enrollment. During the same period, the number of graduate students has tripled, resulting in a nearly 50 percent increase in total enrollment.

Octavio Ramirez, academic department head, said a more focused and deliberate approach to recruitment keyed the surge in students.

"We needed to make a better effort to tell our story," Ramirez said. "Our teaching programs have always been excellent, but we used to just wait for the students to discover them and show up. That wasn't enough."

Ramirez, who has been at New Mexico State University since late spring 2003, said much of the recruitment and retention success can be directly attributed to the efforts of the faculty and the undergraduate and graduate recruitment teams, led by assistant professor Jerry Hawkes and professor Allen Torell, respectively.

"We expect more growth," he said, "and we are looking at every way that we can better serve the needs of our students."

Part of that, he added, is splitting and updating the majors offered through the department.

"Clearly, we have students with two different sets of interests: agri-business and agricultural/resource economics," Ramirez said.

As a result, the current major is being split into two, one in food and agricultural Business management, and another in natural resource economics and policy. Ramirez noted the work of professor Connie Falk, the undergraduate coordinator, in leading the transition from one major to two.

"Under the leadership of professor Jim Libbin, we are also working with the Economics Department to offer a doctoral program in economic development, that we hope will be available by the fall semester of 2007," he said. "We recently established a fully-accredited master's in business administration, specializing in agricultural business, offered in conjunction with the College of Business."

Ramirez added the work led by Torell in curricular revisions and upgrades, along with the recruitment and mentoring efforts of the graduate faculty, have resulted in the department's graduate programs now accounting for 25 percent of the college's total graduate students.

"There are significant changes in the horizon that will help us meet the needs of the students and employers of the state of New Mexico even better," Ramirez said. "It's an exciting time to be part of the department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business."

Victor Venegas
Sept. 26, 2006