NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center




State AMP program shows promising results

The number of science, math, engineering and technology degrees awarded to minorities in New Mexico has increased by 87 percent since 1993, thanks in part to the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation, headquartered at New Mexico State University.



New Mexico AMP student Kimberly Nelson, right, shows local middle and high school students how to build and program robots during a summer program. The students are, from left, Nick Mendoza, ninth grade, Las Cruces High School; Chris Simpson, tenth grade, Onate High School; Aaron Rodriguez, seventh grade, Vista Middle School; and Jeffrey Evans, ninth grade, Las Cruces High School. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan)

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, New Mexico AMP is designed to help historically underrepresented minorities excel in science, math, engineering and technology fields. This includes undergraduate students in a wide range of majors, such as chemistry, engineering, microbiology and wildlife sciences. It is a statewide partnership of 21 two-year colleges and six four- year universities, and one of 27 AMP programs in the nation.

"The focus of AMP as a whole is to recruit, retain and graduate students with the expertise the country needs to contribute to the technical workforce, and to groom future faculty," said Ricardo Jacquez, AMP director. "The program is geared to increase the pool of qualified individuals to be considered for leadership positions in academia, industry and entrepreneurship."

"When we began the New Mexico AMP program in 1993, our goal was to double the number of minorities receiving SMET (science, math, engineering and technology) degrees," said Rudi Schoenmackers, AMP co-director. "We're almost there."

The number of SMET degrees awarded to minorities increased from 253 in 1992-93, to 474 in 1998-99, an 87 percent increase. More than 35 percent of all SMET degrees in 1998-99 were awarded to minorities, compared with less than 24 percent in 1992-93.

To reach these goals AMP offers students scholarships, tutoring, bridge programs, mentoring and opportunities to conduct research and present at conferences.

Leonard Lowe, a former AMP student from Fruitland, N.M., who received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from NMSU in 1999, participated in the undergraduate research assistantship program through AMP. He said it helped him learn technical writing and communication skills, which prepared him for his job with Honeywell.

"It was more than just taking classes," he said. "I would strongly recommend it to others because I know a lot of students going to school that have no job experience. Going through AMP gets your foot in the door to find out what it might be like on the other side."

Another way the AMP program helps prepare participants for jobs or graduate school is through the SMET 101 course. It gives students an introduction to SMET fields, helps them develop teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving skills and encourages them to explore career options.

The course is taught via distance learning at many of the state AMP institutions. It is important to note that AMP is a statewide program, Jacquez stressed. It is partially funded by state money and works with the Commission on Higher Education to contribute to the state's priorities, he said.

That includes developing curricula and course modules to help transfer students from two-year institutions take courses in which their credits are guaranteed to be transferred to a state four-year university.

Each partner institution may tailor the available AMP programs to best meet the needs of its students. One goal is to "help students take advantage of on-campus resources to help them find their places," said Michele Buntain, AMP program manager and SMET 101 instructor at NMSU. "We try to teach them how to ask the right questions and to become self-sufficient, self-directed and self-motivated. We want to help make the students more successful by taking the potential and helping to make it real."

Kimberly Nelson, an NMSU electrical engineering technology major and AMP student, transferred from Dine College. An American Indian student from Shiprock, N.M., she found out about AMP from an adviser at Dine.

She decided on her major after taking the SMET 101 course. This summer she is working with her faculty mentor, learning how to build and program light- and heat-seeking robots, then teaching area middle and high school students how to do the same thing.

"I really like AMP," she said. "The summer programs are hands-on, applying what you learn in school. It's a good program because whatever you learn, you get to teach other people."

Photo is available at http://kiernan.nmsu.edu/newsphoto.
For a print, call (505) 646-3221.
PHOTO: kimberly_nelson.jpg
CUTLINE: New Mexico AMP student Kimberly Nelson, right, shows local middle and high school students how to build and program robots during a summer program. The students are, from left, Nick Mendoza, ninth grade, Las Cruces High School; Chris Simpson, tenth grade, Onate High School; Aaron Rodriguez, seventh grade, Vista Middle School; and Jeffrey Evans, ninth grade, Las Cruces High School. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan)

Rachel Kendall
July 24, 2000