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NMSU faculty member, students participate in MATC Scholars Program Conference

New Mexico State University Associate Vice President for Research Luis Vazquez and six students from the College of Engineering recently attended the Mid-America Transportation Center Scholars Program Conference at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Seven Aggies pose in front of a building on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. The group attended the MATC Scholars Conference there earlier this month.
NMSU Associate Vice President for Research Luis Vazquez (center) and six NMSU students attended the 2012 MATC Scholars Conference at University of Nebraska-Lincoln earlier this month. (courtesy photo)

The MATC Scholars Program focuses on providing underrepresented students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math with support skills for pursuing higher-level degrees and research interests with session topics such as finding a faculty mentor, understanding the research funding process and how to choose a graduate program. The NMSU students were six of the approximately 40 students who attended from around the nation.

Vazquez presented a keynote address about the importance of "our messages" in higher education. From teaching students to battle the imposter syndrome - the belief that you do not belong to the group you are in or aspire to be in, to reminding faculty members to be an example to students and to be a healing presence for one another and students on campus, he made the point that our messages, verbal and nonverbal are important to success.

Vazquez's message was one of many designed to help students underrepresented in STEM fields make educated, well-thought out decisions about graduate school.

Conference presentation topics varied from getting students to think about how to choose a graduate school and program that fits their needs, to thinking about budgeting and funding their graduate studies and research.

"This was an experience unlike anything I have ever had the opportunity to participate in," said Brendan P. Sullivan, an NMSU student studying electrical engineering, history and government. "MATC's commitment to identifying the needs of students was truly inspirational and has reinvigorated my outlook on research and higher ed."

Joshua Uzueta, NMSU civil engineering junior, had not given graduate school much thought before attending the conference.

"I wanted to finish my bachelor's in civil engineering and go straight out to industry and begin working," Uzueta said. "After the trip to UNL, I realized the importance of obtaining a master's degree, along with how many different opportunities that would arise with that degree."

While some NMSU students would like to go to graduate school, many are unaware of the resources and faculty support available to assist in the process. Vazquez stressed that this conference was consistent with his strong beliefs of "paying it forward."

"Many of these students are first-generation college students and until this conference, hadn't even considered going to graduate school," Vazquez said. "We have great minds at NMSU. Our students can perform anywhere if we help them achieve their full potential."

To learn more about the MATC Scholars Program visit http://matc.unl.edu/education/scholars-program2012.php.