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New Mexico State University

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Women, Hispanics Establish Firm Foothold in NMSU's Agriculture College

LAS CRUCES - Women and minority students have found a home on the range. This fall 6 in 10 students enrolled in New Mexico State University's College of Agriculture and Home Economics are female, and a third of all the agriculture students categorize themselves as Hispanic.



New Mexico State University senior Amanda Valerio, 22, is part of a growing number of women enrolled at NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics. This fall more than 60 percent of the 1,700 students in the college were female, and a third of all the agriculture students categorized themselves as Hispanic, report university officials. J. Victor Espinoza (10/10/2003) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

For the fall semester, the college's graduate and undergraduate enrollment was 1,703 students of whom 1,045 are women, said Judy Bosland, associate director of NMSU's Office of Institutional Research and Planning. In terms of cultural diversity, this year's class included 564 Hispanic, 56 American Indian, 23 Asian American and 36 African American students, she said. Undergraduate enrollment was 1,462 and the graduate enrollment was 241.

This semester's final numbers follow a decade long trend for the college in which female enrollment has climbed from 52 percent in 1993 to 61 percent this year, and the Hispanic enrollment rose to 33 percent from 25 percent a decade ago.

"More and more women are entering the workplace, and agriculture is no exception," said Jerry Schickedanz, dean of NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics. "Also we've tried very hard to make these students feel accepted and comfortable within our college."

Senior Megan Duff, an animal science major from Las Cruces, chose NMSU and agriculture for two reasons: opportunities for scholarships and proximity to her horses. "This is such a friendly place and animal science seemed such a natural place for me," she said. "My goal is to manage a ranch someday because I like the business end of science."

One of the college's more traditional departments, animal and range sciences, has seen a steady increase in the number of women and minorities in the classroom. Sixty-two percent or 175 of the 282 students in the department are women. "A lot of our entering freshmen are pre-vet students, and there has been a tendency for more females to look at going to vet school than in years past," said Mark Wise head of NMSU's animal and range sciences department. In terms of diversity, the department has 94 Hispanic and 23 American Indian students.

"I came from a farming community and I always wanted to be able to help sick animals," said senior Charlin Vasquez, a 21-year-old pre-vet major from Loving. "I thought New Mexico State would be a good place to start."

The college's largest female enrollment was in the family and consumer sciences department with 87 percent or 343 women out of 391 students. "The growth and the stability of enrollment in our department can probably be attributed to society as a whole paying more attention to families," said department head Ann Vail. While her department has traditionally had a high female enrollment, she has also seen an increase in male students.

The department also has 159 Hispanic students across its four degree programs. "For many of our multicultural students, serving the family is an important part of their decision to come here," Vail said.

Next in line was NMSU's hotel, restaurant and tourism management department, which has 59 percent or 177 women among 297 students. "Women were in this industry early and have been able to move up into top management positions," said Janet Green, interim head of NMSU's hotel, restaurant and tourism management department. "It's become a very good field to pursue as a career path."

In addition, the department is home to a number of minorities, including 123 Hispanic students. "We're finding that tourism in New Mexico offers our students a chance to help retool the economic health of their communities," she said.

Amanda Valerio, a Taos native with an interest in hotel management, came to NMSU following the lead of her grandfather, Candido, who graduated in 1951. "I'm a people-oriented person and I love the idea of being able to travel," said the 22-year-old senior, who plans to graduate next spring.

Another department with a large female contingent was entomology, plant pathology and weed science with 66 percent or 50 females out of 75 students. The department also has 20 Hispanic students.

"We are continually seeing more student interest in our applied biology option, which is a strong science degree that equips students with almost unlimited options for post-graduate work," said department head Grant Kinzer.

Enrollment at the NMSU's main campus in Las Cruces and the university's four branch campuses this year was 23,578 students. The enrollment at the main campus was 16,174 students, passing the 16,000 mark for the first time in the university's 115-year history.