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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Faces of Today's Aggies Reflect Changing Makeup of NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

LAS CRUCES -- The graduates' faces tell the story. Profiling a typical student from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University isn't as straightforward as it was 40 years ago, when Pistol Pete exemplified the student body of mostly male, rural New Mexicans.


Today, students majoring in agriculture and home economics include both country and city kids, 18-year-old freshmen and returning students with families. A growing number of El Pasoans are taking advantage of in-state tuition and the opportunity to major in environmental science, hospitality and tourism or pre-veterinary medicine just 40 miles from home. International students come to NMSU from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Women usually comprise at least half the college's enrollment -- in 1994, the figure was 53 percent.

It's eye-opening to hear the new graduates' career plans announced during Sam Steel Society induction ceremonies each fall and spring. The society honors the memory of Sam Steel, who would have been the university's first graduate had he not been killed just months before his graduation in 1893.

El Pasoan Melissa Marie Garcia, among the 63 students attending Sam Steel ceremonies on Dec. 13, was considering management positions with Southwest Airlines or a retail store. Other students' plans included working as a wildlife biologist, teaching high school agriculture, joining a day care center staff, serving as an ag loan officer, attending veterinary medical school, returning to the family farm, working as a range conservation officer on the Jicarilla Apache reservation and doing vegetable research in Mexico.

Loralee Woods is one of a number of small-town students to shine at the college. She's a proud native of Grady, N.M., where she was among a graduating class of 16. Woods followed her agricultural roots and both her parents, 1971 graduates, to NMSU.

She said what's been most valuable about her college experience is the emphasis on job skills

"In my classes, there's a lot of hands-on experience. We've learned how to search for information on the World Wide Web, open email accounts, figure profit analysis statements that are used in the real world," she said.

After graduating in December, Woods' future aspirations include pursuing a master's degree in accounting and perhaps law school.

Wherever they're from or going next, most graduates leave praising the college's personal touch -- something that attracts new students.

Lucia Bond, and Arizona high school student body president active in 4-H and FFA, was taken with it. At a natural resources camp near Showlow, Ariz., she met one of the college's best recruiters.

Fellow Arizonan, Andy Smallhouse, fifth-generation member of a ranching family, also happened to be president of the Ag and Home Ec Council, an umbrella organization for the college's many student clubs.

After talking with Smallhouse, Bond came to campus for a tour and went to dinner with the associate dean. "It sold her," Smallhouse said with a smile.

A freshman majoring in general agriculture, Bond is now the newly elected president of the Ag and Home Ec Council, which happens to be an all-female group for 1997.

The college's willingness to meet personal needs attracts worldly wise students, too. After a 15-year career with White Sands Missile Range and NASA, Robert Quintana returned to school in the agricultural and Extension education department.

Rewarding experiences as a volunteer coach for nearly 20 years convinced him to switch from high-energy lasers and space shuttle support to molding young minds.

"I found that I had a passion for working with kids and for teaching them," Quintana said. He though his real-world experience would enhance his ability in the classroom. But when Quintana looked into becoming a certified teacher, it seemed almost none of his previous education or experience would count, until he discovered the advanced technology education option with the College's AXED department. In two and a half years, Quintana was able to gain the teaching credentials he needed to be effective in the classroom.

"As a returning student with family and obligations, for me to start over with a five-year plan, after having so much invested in my education already, would have been hard," he said.

Quintana graduated in May 1996 and took a teaching job with Vista Middle School in Las Cruces.

Before moving on, students in the college have the chance to have the last word on their experiences at NMSU during exit interviews.

"I think students appreciate our asking for their input. It allows us to pass along praise and suggestions for improvement," said Bill Capener, a retired agricultural economics professor who conducts the exit interviews. "They nearly always say the college is friendly and personable, that people here know your name."

For more information about academic programs offered by NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics, call toll-free 1-888-700-NMSU.