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NMSU to celebrate 1,442 fall grads at Dec. 15 commencement ceremony

New Mexico State University will honor 1,045 new bachelor's degree recipients and 397 advanced degree recipients at the fall 2012 commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 15. The total number is up 45 over last year, according to the Registrar's Office.

Students in caps and gowns march toward the camera with colorful flags can be seen behind them on the stage.
Graduating students in full regalia participate in last spring's 2012 commencement ceremony at New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo by Jay A. Rodman)
Students in their regalia are seated in rows. One woman student has a blue headscarf under her mortarboard.
Graduating students at New Mexico State University watch their fellows march across the stage at last spring's commencement ceremony. (NMSU photo by Jay A. Rodman)

Approximately 950 graduates, a few of whom actually finished their academic work last summer, are expected to attend the ceremony, along with family members, friends, the campus community and the general public.

The single ceremony, projected to last about two hours, begins promptly at 10 a.m. at the Pan American Center on the Las Cruces campus.

Interim Provost Jay Jordan will present the degree candidates to Interim President Manuel Pacheco, who will officially confer the degrees and diplomas.

Instrumental music will be provided by the NMSU Symphonic Band under the leadership of Director of Bands Christopher Hughes. NMSU undergraduate music major Danielle Turner will sing "America the Beautiful," accompanied by Laura Spitzer, NMSU's pianist in residence. The Rev. Dalene Fuller Rogers of Peace Lutheran Church will deliver the invocation.

The College of Arts and Sciences has the largest number of fall bachelor's graduates with 366, followed by Business with 171, Engineering with 150, ACES with 136, Education with 86, Extended Education with 68 and Health and Social Services with 68.

Master's degrees will be awarded to 320 students.

In addition to the 75 Ph.D.s being conferred, two students are receiving Doctorate of Nursing Practice degrees - the first NMSU students to earn this degree. One Doctor of Economic Development and six Doctor of Education degrees are also being awarded.

The road to graduation has been longer for some students than for others.

Stephanie Salway graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1996. She attended New Mexico Highlands University for two years, where she played soccer. A single mother of three daughters between the ages of four and 12, she has worked full time in retail for many years to support her family, pursuing her education part time along the way. She completed an associate degree at Dona Ana Community College in 2007 and has been chipping away steadily at her bachelor's degree in family and child science ever since.

She sees graduation as both an achievement in itself and a key to a future career.
"I'm passionate about helping people," she said. "I'm looking ahead toward a career helping families, children, perhaps pregnant teens, but in a job situation that gives me more time with my own family, too."
When she walks across the stage on Dec. 15, she will be cheered on by daughters Ashley, Andrea and Alexia, along with her fiance, her parents and several other family members.

Charlene Carr, who grew up in Laguna Pueblo west of Albuquerque, arrived at NMSU in 2004. During her sophomore year, her parents were simultaneously deployed overseas, and she found herself split between family and school obligations. With the support of faculty mentors, she managed to keep up with academics while making frequent trips home, a round trip of more than 500 miles.

As an undergraduate, she was chosen to be a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholar after participating in the university's RISE and MARC undergraduate research programs. In spring 2009 she finished her bachelor's degree in agriculture with an emphasis in soil science.

Carr is graduating this semester with a master's in plant and environmental science and a minor in applied statistics. As a graduate research assistant, she has continued to pursue her research interests and has participated in professional conferences.

After graduation, she wants to find a job in her field that will give her more practical experience, but eventually plans to come back for a doctorate.

"I would love to end up on the faculty of a university like NMSU someday where I could teach and mentor other Native American students pursuing natural science or agriculture degrees," she said.

She will be joined at commencement by her parents, other family members, and friends, including several she got to know as an undergraduate and who are in graduate programs elsewhere.

No tickets are required for guests to attend commencement; seating is available on a first come, first serve basis. Guests are encouraged to arrive early to avoid traffic congestion. Anyone requiring special assistance in the Pan American Center should call 575-646-4413.

For more information about NMSU commencement, go to http://www.nmsu.edu/commencement/.

The ceremony will also be streamed on the Internet. Details can be found at http://www.nmsu.edu/commencement/internet_broadcast.html.