WRITER: Daphne Griffin
The New Mexico State University Foundation has received a two-year, $200,000 gift from PNM Resources Foundation to enhance the Geomatics program in the College of Engineering. The gift was a result of the New Mexico Professional Surveyors partnership to increase enrollment, and subsequently, the number of employable NMSU graduates for companies and services in need of professionally licensed surveyors in New Mexico.
“There are a lot of people who need the service of a licensed surveyor,” said Thomas Jenkins, head of the Department of Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering. “(NMPS’) concern was making sure there was a greater opportunity for NMSU to service that need for both the industry and our graduates.”
Conrad Roybal, president of NMPS, estimates the average age of a land surveyor to be 58. Currently, NMSU has nearly 100 percent placement in the field, mostly in New Mexico. With the expectation that in five to 10 years the demand for land surveyors will increase tenfold, NMPS believes the energy spent to strengthen the program is crucial.
With input from NMPS, NMSU revamped the Geomatics program to bolster technology and modify curriculum to better meet the needs of the geospatial industry, which also included expanding the program’s reach to a greater population of students. A degree in Geomatics is now available to distance learners as a two-year completion program. Students can take their general education and geomatics pre-requisite classes online and finish the remaining two years at NMSU.
“Through our new online degree offering, we’re reaching out to students and current professionals to increase their skill sets and marketability,” Jenkins said.
NMSU’s Geomatics program is one of only a handful of four-year degree programs in the nation accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology. Graduates meet the educational requirements for registration as a professional land surveyor, which is required for most positions within New Mexico.
In July 2016, meetings between leadership of NMPS and NMSU outlined changes to the program considered essential to the profession, especially in New Mexico, and fundraising efforts began. NMPS then met with the PNM Foundation, and in December 2017, the PNM Foundation awarded NMSU’s Geomatics program a total of $200,000 for the years 2018 and 2019. Portions of the gift will create a senior faculty position to manage the program’s curriculum, keeping it relevant with current technology and survey methods. The remaining portion will support student scholarships to aid in recruitment.
NMPS has had a vested interest in students from NMSU for many years. From funding student travel for professional conferences and providing program support for a variety of needs, to mentorship and networking opportunities, NMPS sees NMSU graduates as the future of their profession.
Lakshmi Reddi, dean of the College of Engineering, describes the partnership and the efforts of all involved as the perfect example of an industry-university collaboration to implement what will be a very successful program to meet employment demands.
“Collaboration is so key in our communities here in New Mexico,” said Becky Teague, vice president of External Affairs with PNM. “We were really inspired by the collaborative atmosphere and passion for the surveying industry between NMPS and NMSU.”