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New Mexico State University

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NMSU's ASSURED program gives migrant students a better shot at college success

While many New Mexico State University students are just now getting ready to head back to class, one group got a 10-week head start - taking part in the Agricultural Science Summer Undergraduate Research, Education and Development (ASSURED) program, which helps students from migrant families learn how to conduct research and guides them toward careers in science.

Pedro Castillo presents the research he conducted while taking part in NMSU's ASSURED program, which helps students from migrant families learn how to conduct research and guides them toward careers in science. (NMSU photo by Minerva Baumann)

The program, funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute, pairs 10 students with faculty mentors to work on research projects each summer. Students must be incoming freshmen, continuing freshmen or sophomores. They must also be from first- or second-generation migrant farm labor families and should be interested in learning about science, research, agriculture and chile peppers.

"These are students who typically haven't even done a science experiment before and we immerse them into the research environment," said Danise Coon, a senior research specialist for NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute. "They really are doing graduate-level work, coming up with objectives, hypotheses and results."

ASSURED's goal is to give students a greater understanding of agricultural research and science. The program helps build self-esteem, gives students the opportunity to pursue new ideas, build friendships and support groups, and generates greater graduation rates among the students.

"This has really helped me out a lot," said Pedro Castillo, one of 12 children in his family and a student in this summer's program. "When I started, I really didn't know anything about research papers and I really didn't even like computers. It's like a head start for college with the writing and homework you have every day. You also get to know a lot of people who can help you and encourage you. They let you know that you're not alone and that you can make it."

Students receive a $4,000 stipend to work one-on-one with their mentor in a research environment, create their own research project, and learn about the entire research process through agriculture. Students also receive funds for meals and housing on the NMSU campus for the duration of the program.

At the end of the program, students present their research and findings in poster format and deliver an oral presentation. Students are also encouraged to write papers for consideration in the Journal of Young Investigators.

Since its inception in 2003, 70 students have completed the program. One of its first students is now working on her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.

Broadcast Advisory: Watch this video on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49IMDjkRSuQ. Video and sound bites for broadcast are available under the title ASSURED Program at the following ftp site: ftp://aggievision:goaggies@aggievision.nmsu.edu. Use the following information if you are using a download client: Host: aggievision.nmsu.edu Username: aggievision Password: goaggies. To download these files you must have Quicktime Pro software. For questions on problems with downloading, contact Minerva Baumann (575) 646-7566.