WRITER: Tiffany Acosta
After spending eight years in the U.S. Army, Danielle Bustos wasn’t sure what the next step in her life would be. With a little help from a local surveying engineer in her hometown, the 29-year-old discovered a profession.
Following her military service that included a 2010 deployment, Bustos returned home to Chimayo, New Mexico, and attended classes at Northern New Mexico College. She arrived at New Mexico State University in spring 2016.
“I was a combat engineer, so when I came back from Afghanistan I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I needed some time to decompress. I found surveying or I should say surveying found me,” Bustos said.
As a non-traditional student, Bustos said adjusting to university life was a challenge. The surveying
engineering junior was encouraged in spring 2017 when she was awarded a Daniels Fund Boundless Opportunity Scholarship. After an initial grant in 2015, NMSU recently received a $45,000 grant from the Daniels Fund to provide Boundless Opportunity Scholarships to non-traditional students, which will fund scholarships for 20 students for two years.
The scholarships help students with expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies and transportation and commuting costs. Scholarship recipients will be selected this summer and awarded for the fall 2017 semester. Students can apply for the scholarships by May 31 through the NMSU Scholar Dollar$ program at https://scholarships.nmsu.edu/.
“I was really fortunate to be selected for this scholarship, and it has helped tremendously throughout the semester,” Bustos said.
The scholarship helps Bustos focus on academics without having to work a part-time job to cover school expenses and living expenses such as utilities for her off-campus housing.
“It’s much more than providing financial aid, it is providing key academic support. We’re here to assist students in navigating the institution,” said Anthony Marin, director of student affairs. “The need is there. There are over 600 students who are eligible. It provides a foundation to know there is a lot more need out there and what can we do as an institution to reach a very important and determined student population.”
In addition to financial assistance, NMSU developed the Daniels Fund Boundless Opportunity Scholarship Program, which was established in 2015. The program helps the scholarship cohort with activities such as workshops, one-on-one mentoring and financial literacy training.
“It’s very difficult being a non-traditional student, but I feel like the end result will be more gratifying than anything because of those life experiences,” said Bustos, who hopes to graduate in fall 2019. “Having a support system is huge, because coming from a military background where you have your squad and then I came here and I was my squad. Finding people that are able to take you under their wing that can help you through this, it means a lot.”
Bustos said she hopes to return home to work with her mentor Clyde R. Vigil and help her local communities after graduation.
“I want to take care of my people up there,” she said. “I want to guide them in the right direction so they can divide their land and grant it to their children when they pass.”
The Daniels Fund is a private charitable foundation that continues the legacy of generosity established by its founder Bill Daniels, through grant and scholarship programs and other initiatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.