New engineering associate dean of academics joins NMSU

Antonio GarcĂ­a, newly appointed associate dean of academics for the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University, brings more than 30 years of experience in academia with him, and the desire to do something to benefit the greater good.

Antonio GarcĂ­a was recently appointed associate dean of academics for the NMSU College of Engineering. (NMSU photo by Vladimir Avina)

GarcĂ­a comes from Arizona State University where he launched his academic career as an assistant professor in chemical and bioengineering in 1989. His interest in chemical engineering was sparked as a young boy who liked to read science fiction by author and biochemist Isaac Asimov. Living in New Jersey near a large refinery and pharmaceutical companies added to his interest in chemical engineering as a field in which you could apply knowledge to make products from substances found in nature.

Following his graduation with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rutgers University, he worked for Exxon Research and Engineering Company and developed a passion for research.

“I worked with a lot of Ph.Ds. who mentored me and encouraged me to continue my education and work at a research institution where I could make discoveries that apply to the real world,” said García who went on to earn his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in 1988.

García began his teaching career in 1989 at ASU and over the years, he began looking at academic issues such as how to retain nontraditional students and the role of the academic system in meeting the greater need. He decided to go “beyond the bench” and move into administration.

“Chemical engineering is about solving difficult problems that are not easily understood. You have to study the problem and find a way to resolve it more effectively. So, it was pretty natural for me to move into administration where I could solve problems,” he said. “I was interested in what I could do to understand how to help engineering students become better engineers in the 21st century.”

GarcĂ­a served as associate director of the Hispanic Research Center, interim dean of academic affairs and director of the Biological Design Graduate Program at ASU.

He began collaborating with faculty at NMSU in 1992 through the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program and was drawn to New Mexico’s scenic diversity. Further, García saw great opportunity to develop healthy borders, economic strength and social mobility for students. He also recognized the strength of NMSU’s science and engineering programs and valuable ties to the national laboratories.

As associate dean he has already focused on three initial goals.

First, he wants to assist faculty members as scholars and in their mission to mentor students.

“It’s easy to say, not easy to do. There are a lot of nuances to it, but you can’t help people unless you really understand them. This is very important to get to the next level of success,” he said.

Second, he wants to leverage the college’s assets and facilities to accelerate students’ social mobility. The college relationships with alumni, industry and the national laboratories are key to this, as are college programs such as the Learning Communities and hands-on learning opportunities.

Third, he wants to make academic systems robust and more efficient with the intent to help students.

“It’s the charter of NMSU as a land-grant institution to ensure that the resources provided by the citizens of the state are used more effectively to foster the success of students.”

GarcĂ­a replaces Sonya Cooper, now serving as interim dean of the NMSU College of Health and Social Services. Cooper was a faculty member with the College of Engineering since 1994. She served as department head for engineering technology and surveying engineering from 2005-2010.

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