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NMSU's College of Arts and Sciences shines in first spring celebration

Students, faculty, staff and alumni of New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences saw a different side of the faculty during a unique night of entertainment, music and performances highlighting the talents, research and achievements of all 24 departments of the university's largest college.

New Mexico State University sociology and women's studies professor Mary Benanti performs a monologue she prepared explaining her journey and inspiration that led her to academia at the College of Arts and Sciences' "Shine On: Shining Stars of the Past, Present and Future" celebration (NMSU photo by Robert Yee)

"Shine On: Shining Stars of the Past, Present and Future" was held Friday, April 8 at the Las Cruces Convention Center. The fundraiser, produced by NMSU Creative Media Institute's Mark Medoff, A Tony Award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter, took months of preparation and commitment from faculty representatives from each of the college's departments.

"Shine On was a celebration of the extraordinary talent and dedication of the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences," said Christa Slaton, dean of the college. "The program featured the personal journeys of faculty throughout the college--how they were inspired by their own professors and mentors in life and how they chose to dedicate themselves to helping New Mexico State University students reach for the stars and achieve their dreams. It was inspiring."

The evening began with a reception during which guests browsed photo and personal remembrance displays of College of Arts and Sciences faculty who have retired or passed away. NMSU students who make up the Crimson Quartet opened the night's entertainment, singing their rendition of the "Aggie Fight Song."
A dinner followed with entertainment provided between courses. Twenty-four faculty members from each department in the college presented personal monologues or demonstrations to share with the audience.

"Shine On was an extraordinary evening," Geological Sciences Department Head Nancy McMillan said. "I was unprepared for the emotional and intellectual impact of the testimonies from my colleagues in the college."

McMillan was one the many representatives who provided insight into their journey to academia and the people and events in their lives who shaped their careers.

"Many of the presenters are people I know well, and yet I saw much more deeply into their lives than I have in all the years I've known them. Each presentation was significant, funny, poignant and revealing. Together, the presentations expressed perfectly the essence of the College of Arts and Sciences--together we explore creativity in a thousand different ways."

Also featured during the dinner was the animated short "The Way to the Stars," created by CMI faculty and students, as well as a documentary short featuring faculty interviews and focusing on the research and projects taking place within the college.

"I was amazed at the talent, dedication and expertise represented by the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences," said Associate Dean Kenneth Van Winkle, who co-coordinated the event. "Their personal stories described what the College of Arts and Sciences offers to the students of this region and beyond."

The evening concluded with musical entertainment from the NMSU Choir accompanied by the Rio Grande High School choir and led by NMSU music professor Jerry Alt. The performance included a song, "Mars and Venus," composed by NMSU alumnus Justin Raines.

The celebration also provided an opportunity to share with the entire university and community the unique role that the college plays in the lives of every student who graduates from NMSU. Those in attendance included NMSU President Barbara Couture and Provost Wendy Wilkins, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima and NMSU Board of Regents Chair Laura Conniff, member Mike Cheney and student member Chris Dulany.

Proceeds from the dinner will fund the Dean's Fund For Excellence, which in addition to helping students also will provide support for faculty and researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences.