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NMSU alumni stories a powerful tool for recruiting, retaining students

Date: 06/01/2015

Crowd at Aggie football game
New Mexico State University cheer on the Aggies at football game in Aggie Memorial Stadium. Getting involved in activities outside the classroom helps students relieve stress and stay focused when they?re in class. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)


Whether it?s cheering on the Aggies to a last-second victory in the Pan American Center, studying until the wee hours of the morning at Zuhl Library or meeting a life partner on campus, every New Mexico State University alum has a personal story that can be shared with the next generation of NMSU students.

?When we use the word recruitment, most people think about high school seniors. It is so much more than that,? said Bernadette Montoya, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. ?Senior year in high school is an important year, a year when students are making choices and decisions. However, any time we can get the word out about this great institution, we want to take advantage of it.?

NMSU alumni living in every state in the country, the District of Columbia, and nearly 1,300 living abroad, can have a tremendous impact on recruitment and retention.

?One of the best things that community members and alums do for us, particularly our alums, is to share their positive experiences about New Mexico State University,? Montoya said. ?They can be some of our best recruiters.

?It?s better than any billboard or brochure we can put out there because it is a personal story,? she added. ?We know that those personal stories are very meaningful to prospective students and to their families.?

In addition to sharing their personal experiences when they were on campus, alumni can also bring family members, friends or neighbors to visit NMSU ? any of whom could become prospective students.

?The one thing that we know to be true is that getting students here to visit the campus is still the number one determining factor in their decision to attend NMSU,? Montoya said. ?Recruiters travel to many places both in and out of state. However, many times, the turning point for prospective students is the visit to campus.?

While alumni may be introducing prospective students to the NMSU campus for the first time, a visit to Las Cruces also allows alumni to see the changes happening on campus, including Pete V. Domenici Hall, which opened in fall 2014 and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and the renovation currently occurring on the Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center.

NMSU President and Aggie alum Garrey Carruthers often shares personal stories from his time as a student when he speaks to groups. He recalls events such as meeting his wife, Kathy, or hijinks with friends at Aggie football games.

?It has been great having a president who is an alum and who has deep-seated roots in the state. He understands more than anybody the merits of a land-grant institution and has really made many positive changes,? Montoya said.

In addition to helping recruit the next generation of NMSU students, alumni can assist with retention efforts. Currently, NMSU has a 73 percent retention rate, but an objective of the institution?s Vision 2020 strategic plan is to increase that to 80 percent. Montoya said alumni can serve as informal mentors to current students, and she hopes to one day formalize a program.

?We know that students who enter NMSU have the academic ability,? Montoya noted. ?Involving alumni to help students by motivating them, inspiring them or just sharing their stories about similar struggles that they may have had can often times be very effective.?

There are many programs on campus that support academic success, both inside and outside the classroom. Some of the effective programs outside the classroom include the TRiO programs, academic tutoring services, peer mentoring programs and early alert programs. In addition to special programs, it also is important that students become engaged on campus by getting involved in activities outside of the classroom, such as Greek life, intramurals, the Associated Students of NMSU or by joining one of approximately 250 chartered student organizations.

According to Montoya, one of the biggest obstacles to students completing a degree is the financial obligation. NMSU has tried to ease the burden for students by providing a single online scholarship application called Scholar Dollar$ that was developed for initial rollout in the 2010-11 academic year. Students have to apply and be admitted to NMSU prior to completing the Scholar Dollar$ application. Both incoming freshmen and current students are encouraged to apply each year, and the deadline every year is March 1, or the first business day thereafter.

?We have tried to make it as easy as possible for the student to apply, and we strive to ensure that every dollar that is donated is awarded to students. We know students are grateful to have the financial support,? Montoya said. ?Every generous donation, from a $500 book scholarship to an endowed scholarship that gives in perpetuity, is welcomed. We truly value the generosity of all donors to NMSU.?

Beginning fall of 2015, NMSU is reinstating the National Merit Scholars and National Hispanic Scholarship program.

?We are offering a very nice scholarship package to those students who come here as National Merit finalists or semifinalists as well as National Hispanic Scholars,? Montoya said.

Another change on the horizon will occur in fall 2016, when the new admission policies go into effect. With the grade-point average requirement increasing to 2.75 for undergraduate admission, students have three ways to attend NMSU: through the Las Cruces campus, through one of the community colleges or via the Aggie Pathway Program. Through the Aggie Pathway, students who achieve a minimum 2.5 GPA after completing 24 prescribed credit hours at one of the community colleges will be eligible for transfer enrollment at the Las Cruces campus.

Montoya said NMSU also is focusing on reverse transfers, which help students receive associate degrees. With a minimum of 66 credits required for an associate degree, students from the community colleges may transition to the Las Cruces campus before the associate degree is completed because they exhausted the needed classes at that location. With a reverse transfer, certain classes in Las Cruces can count toward the associate degree, and then it will be awarded to the student, which is a benefit to both the community college and student.

Montoya personally knows how effective a reverse transfer can be. She arrived at the Las Cruces campus after receiving an associate degree from NMSU Grants.

?We think that it helps get students a step closer and helps them feel successful, while it also awards a program degree to the community colleges,? she said.

Not only can alumni recruit students to NMSU, but they often recruit Aggies for employment.

?Many of our alums come back to visit campus each year to hire current NMSU graduates. Some have said they look first for NMSU graduates when they hire, which was really nice to hear,? Montoya said.

NMSU Career Services plays a key role in hosting a variety of career fairs to support this effort.

After graduating some of the largest classes in school history in the last few years, NMSU is working to increase the student population.

?Recruitment is a team effort,? Montoya said. ?We welcome the help and support of our alumni in recruiting students to our great university.?

Written by Tiffany Acosta



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