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PNM endowment will help maintain, improve New Mexico State University program

With a $750,000 endowment, the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) has established a professorship in utility management at New Mexico State University.

William H. Kersting, who founded the Electric Utility Management master's program at New Mexico State University in 1968, was named the first PNM Professor in Utility Management in ceremonies at Oct. 12. (NMSU photo by Pamela Porter)

The professorship, called the PNM Professorship in Utility Management, will help maintain and improve an existing master's degree program in utility management, said Professor William H. Kersting, the program's founder.

Kersting, who founded the Electric Utility Management Program at New Mexico State's Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1968, was named the first PNM Professor in Utility Management in ceremonies Oct. 12.

Kersting said at current interest rates, proceeds from the endowment represent about a third of what it takes to run the utility management program for a year. The university, with the support of PNM, plans to ask the state government for matching funds to bring the endowment to $1.5 million, he said.

He said the university plans to use the proceeds to enhance the salary of the professorship's holder and to pay for expenses related to the program, such as travel, new equipment and support for students.

"I will retire in July and we will begin looking for a new director. This endowment will help ensure we can provide a competitive salary to attract a high-quality person for the position," he said.

PNM's endowment also guarantees that the program will be able to continue and provides a base of support for helping it improve, Kersting said.

"Every year since the program's creation, I have had to approach utility companies and solicit annual membership fees. While we are still dependent on those companies' continuing support, PNM's endowment means we now have a base of money that will ensure the long-term viability of the program," he said.

Since the program's creation, its students have taken courses in economics, utility regulation, management and marketing, as well as advanced courses in electric power engineering. Kersting said the university now plans to expand the program to include the study of other utility-related engineering subjects, such as telephones, the Internet, gas and wastewater treatment.

"This will be an even more strongly interdisciplinary program, incorporating other university departments beyond the Klipsch School," he said.

Since 1968, 220 students have graduated from the Utility Management Program, and many have gone on to important positions in utility companies around the country, he added.

"With the increasing complexity of issues surrounding the various utility industries, the need for highly qualified individuals has never been higher," said Steve Castillo, head of the Klipsch School. "PNM has recognized this and has made the first step to ensure that New Mexico State can continue to provide these individuals. We are very excited about PNM's support and the growth in the program that will result from it."

Students in the program also carry out research projects, most of which are related to issues of power quality in the electric utility industry, Kersting said.

Among the research projects recently carried out by students in the program are a study correlating lightning strikes with power outages on transmission lines, a project monitoring load on feeder lines in Albuquerque to better understand power variance, and a project monitoring long-range power lines in Saudi Arabia to identify and solve power problems with quality of supply, he said.