New collaborative opportunities at NMSU Engineering


I’m very pleased to share with you news about two recent events that are of great significance to the College of Engineering.

Arrowhead Center welcomed Spaceport America as a new tenant this past week. At the same time, NMSU and Spaceport America signed a memorandum of agreement to form a collaborative effort to advance student success in the STEM fields, along with research, economic development and community outreach. This strengthened relationship expands the learning environment for our students through offering real-life engineering challenges, particularly for our aerospace engineering students. I’m looking forward to working with Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America and College of Engineering Advisory Council member, in forging new opportunities for our students.

Also this past week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a memorandum of understanding between the New Mexico Environment Department and New Mexico State University, which will create a produced water research consortium. Through this consortium, New Mexico will continue to lead the country in advancing scientific and technological solutions related to the treatment and reuse of produced water generated by the oil and gas industry. This provides a unique opportunity for our water researchers to develop new solutions to the treatment of produced water and at the same time, develop new source of usable water for communities experiencing water shortages. Faculty in the Colleges of Engineering and Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences are already working on collaborative research plans toward the development of novel solutions.

Education for Life and Work


In its efforts to shape development of transferable knowledge and skills, the National Research Council Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills made two important conclusions in 2012:

  1. Cognitive competencies have been more extensively studied than have intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies, showing consistent, positive correlations (of modest size) with desirable educational, career and health outcomes. Early academic competencies are also positively correlated with these outcomes.
  2. Among interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies, conscientiousness (staying organized, responsible and hardworking) is most highly correlated with desirable educational, career and health outcomes. Antisocial behavior, which has both intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions, is negatively correlated with these outcomes.

I consider this research-oriented study by the committee to be profoundly significant in shaping our collective views on student success. About two weeks ago, NMSU engineering had a kick-off meeting with the first student cohort of Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute having the primary goal of producing citizen engineers who will have demonstrated all three competencies to be successful in life and work (cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal). I am proud that we have support from Ron Seidel’s family to be doing this and to position NMSU engineering as a leader in its awareness of the need for, and operationalizing a framework to develop, these three sets of competencies.

NMSU Engineering welcomes AY 2019-20 with plenty of good news


The campus is full again and students and faculty are making the corridors of our buildings live again with all types of creative conversations. I’ve been particularly looking forward to welcoming our faculty and staff to this academic year because I have great news to share. We received final notification last week that all of our programs received full accreditation. Congratulations to our leadership team, and in particular to our Ex-Associate Dean Sonya Cooper, for a job well done. Alumni giving has increased by 42 percent, as measured by the number of first-time donors of more than $10K. FY 2019 research expenditures are 27 percent higher than in FY 2018. New funding awarded in FY 2019 is 52 percent higher. More importantly, several large-scale and group efforts are in the pipeline, making the next few years look very promising. Our faculty members across all departments have stepped up to increase our research productivity. The college has received funding for a major million-dollar endowed college-level chair and another is in progress. We have new members in our leadership team, which include Dr. Tony Garcia, Associate Dean of Academics, and we’re welcoming six new faculty members. This is indeed a great time to be at NMSU Engineering.

US-Israel Visit on Strategic Initiatives


Twitter Photo: “Meeting at Ben Gurion Negev Water Institute with Director Noam Weisbrod and Professor Jack Gilron (pictured here), Head, Dept. of Desalination and Water Treatment.” Dan Arvizu

I had a wonderful experience last week traveling to Israel with our Chancellor Dan Arvizu and the ACES Dean Rolando Flores, visiting with Israeli universities and researchers. With climate and water/energy challenges very similar to New Mexico, Israel universities offer ideal partnerships to establish joint initiatives and strategic projects. The Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research has its experts on water treatment processes interested in collaborations with our researchers. The Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva offers outstanding models for cybersecurity initiatives for us to emulate. Electrochemistry research at Bar Ilan University provides alternatives to how we approach brackish water treatment. The Volcani Center offers unparalleled opportunities for our researchers interested in food-water-energy nexus. And finally, Tel Aviv University researchers exemplify the numerous research opportunities at the interface of agriculture and engineering.


Aggie Innovation Space gets new funding from the State of New Mexico


Chancellor Dan Arvizu, center, and his wife, Sheryl Arvizu, center left, tour the Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center, talking with Luke Nogales, left, Engineering Technology associate professor. Thursday January 10, 2018

NMSU Engineering has done very well at the legislative session that has just ended in Santa Fe. The legislature has approved close to $860k of capital outlay funds toward modernizing equipment, and $150k of recurring funds toward personnel, in Aggie Innovation Space. These funds, along with the endowment established by Dan and Sheryl Arvizu, give AIS the jumpstart it badly needs. State Representative Micaela Lara Cadena (District 33) and Senator John Arthur Smith visited AIS during the holidays, and they were very helpful in championing our needs in the legislature. In addition, Senators Ron Griggs and Gregg Fulfer co-sponsored the bill, “Engineering and Surveying Scholarship,” which will provide funds for student scholarships.

We have a lot to be thankful for in this year’s legislature.


The case for “A Whole New Mind”


Even after two reads, Daniel Pink’s case for a whole new mind continues to be entertaining to me. This book must be a required reading for every STEM teacher/scholar/researcher. The book revolves around the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain and presents a compelling case for cultivating six senses to succeed in our times – Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. He writes,

“Today, the defining skills of the previous era – the “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age – are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous – the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning – increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. For individuals, families, and organizations, professional success and personal fulfillment now require a whole new mind.”

Hope the STEM readers of my blog will find time to read this book and challenge their “right-brains.”

Retention rate in engineering shows increase


It looks as though the student-centric initiatives that have been implemented in the College of Engineering are having some positive effects on our first-year retention rates. The college has regained, and in most categories has surpassed, some of the ground lost since 2014, particularly from 2017 to 2018. I believe that the efforts of our faculty, focused on student success, have played an important role in contributing to this gain. I’m pleased by this progress and eager to see what the next years bring with the added support of programs such as the Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities, Aggie Innovation Space and the Engineering Design Capstone Program. These programs are fairly new and still being developed, along with others like the Ron Seidel Leadership Institute. Let’s keep up the good work and continue to help our students be successful in their quest to become engineers.

NMSU Family of Engineering


NMSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors gather in the Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities in Engineering during the ribbon cutting of the space in EC III.

We celebrate family reunions in the College of Engineering two times a year: during National Engineers Week (E-Week) in the spring and Homecoming Week in the fall. Last week was E-Week, and we had the pleasure of having our Advisory Council meetings on campus and spending some time with our alumni. About 20 dignitaries came from out of town to be with us, and to contribute to the collective decisions on the direction and strategies of the college. This year’s meetings were special for me. We met in the new Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities in Engineers and Chancellor Arvizu joined us to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Approximately 10 donors among our visiting alumni and advisory council members contributed toward the completion of this beautiful facility. Students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni gathered as an extended family of NMSU engineering in celebration of a place entirely dedicated to student success. Other highlights of the week were the 44th Bromilow Lecture, “Engineering Education: A Story of Equity and Empowerment,” delivered by Dr. Allyson Yarbrough, one of our accomplished alums, and an awards banquet Friday evening to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our faculty and staff. We may gather as the larger College of Engineering family only twice a year, but there is cause for gratefulness and pride every day of the year.

Opportunity in Crisis


File Photo: Students learn the basics of Geomatics and Surveying on the Horse Shoe during class. March 2018

Looking back at Fall 2016, we were operating in a crisis mode when Surveying program was slated for elimination, a decision made due to low enrolments in that program. I remember collecting no less than a hundred letters from practicing surveyors all over New Mexico and beyond. What followed after that was a great example of how an opportunity could present itself in the guise of a crisis. The NMPS (New Mexico Professional Surveyors) and our faculty began a series of meetings to design a new curriculum, Geomatics, modernized and online, to attract enrolments and to reflect the evolving profession of Surveying. The industries have put in funding to the tune of about $110k/year during the last two years, and NMPS has helped us with aggressive recruiting efforts. NMSU upper administration has noticed the promising potential of the program and it has agreed to allocate two faculty lines back into the program, after the cuts made in 2016. The enrolment trend has reversed now, and the program is expected to take in 40 new students by 2020 (from a single digit enrolment in 2016). The newly-designed program has received NCEES innovation award, and it now serves as a classical example for an industry-engaged design of an academic program, recognized by many of our peers. I hope the discussion in State Legislature committees this week on the requirements of surveying education for licensure considers the progress our faculty and staff made in this important program.

Engineering dean appointed as roundtable member by NAS, NAE


Alfredo Zendejas Rodriguez, environmental engineering graduate student at NMSU, looks at a sample of water collected from a fracking plant.

I am pleased to be appointed by the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering (NAS and NAE) to serve as a member of the Roundtable on Linking Academic Engineering Research and Defense Basic Science for a two-year term. The roundtable will provide a forum for ongoing high-level strategic dialogue and information exchange between Department of Defense leaders of research activities and leaders of US engineering schools and research universities to substantively support the Department’s research goals. It will meet twice a year to discuss issues of research and engineering relevant to the mission of the Basic Research office of the Department of Defense. There are 30 members in the Roundtable, and they include Deans of engineering schools and University Vice Presidents/Provosts for Research, across the country.

I view this as a very timely opportunity to contribute to the development of research activities of strategic importance to NMSU.

Diversity is all about attitudes


I wrote these two newspaper articles in 2006 on diversity. I think they’re still relevant.

From Animatronics to Forensic Computing


Cover of the December 2018 ASEE magazine.

I have enjoyed reading the current issue of ASEE PRISM magazine; in particular, the article on Breakthroughs and Trends in the World of Technology pages 8 to 13 on the December 2018 issue. Animatronics – the Broadway making of King Kong, a 1939 classic movie; Liquid Sunshine – Swedish research on energy storage in a liquid form for up to 18 years!; Quantum Devices – British-defense funded research on developing navigation devices that do not rely on GPS; Targeted Medicine – Max Planck Institute’s research to deliver medicines to the retina using microscopic glass corkscrews and microscopic robots; Machine Learning – Creating artwork using artificial intelligence; Extraterrestrial Messaging – Sending signals to faraway corners into  deep space ( do we really need to expand our social network from what we have on planet earth?); Forensic Computing – machine-learning algorithms combing through Medicare datasets for potential fraud cases. 

These are exciting times, indeed, for engineering!



Wisdom of Crowds


File Photo: A group of NMSU industrial engineering students earned top honors for their personal urban mobility access device designs at the Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education Global Annual Forum. AUG18

Having recently completed reading two books on diversity, I am compelled to put together these thoughts. Our success in learning is dependent to a large extent on cognitive diversity, in addition to ethnic diversity. When faculty and students fully recognize that “collective diversity trumps individual ability,” as Scott Page puts it by way of decoding his research, diversity makes bigger sense. Consider the following simple conclusions from research on group intelligence (Len Fisher, The Perfect Swarm):

  1. When answering a state estimation question, the group as a whole will always outperform most of its individual members. Not sometimes. Always.
  2. If most of the group members are moderately well-informed about the facts surrounding a question to which there are several possible answers (but only one correct one), the majority opinion is almost always bound to be right. If each member of a group of one hundred people has a 60 percent chance of getting the right answer, for example, then a rigorous mathematical formulation proves that the answer of the majority has a better than 99 percent chance of being the correct one.
  3. Even when only a few people in a group are well-informed, this is usually sufficient for the majority opinion to be the right one.

In the areas of problem solving and prediction, our collective differences are as important as how good and able we are individual. These differences grouped under cognitive diversity are: knowledge – specifically, a range of different areas of relevant knowledge within the group; perspectives – different ways of viewing a problem; interpretations – different ways of categorizing a problem or partitioning perspectives; heuristics – different ways of generating solutions to problems; predictive models – different ways of inferring cause and effect (Len Fisher, The Perfect Swarm) .


14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century


I’m so glad that our Chancellor, Dr. Dan Arvizu (ME ‘73), highlighted the 14 grand challenges for engineering in his acceptance speech as the 2018 Ingeniero Eminente of NMSU Engineering. These grand challenges, which were identified by an international group of leading technological thinkers brought together by the National Academy of Engineering, fall into four cross-cutting themes of sustainability, health, security and joy of living. It’s important that all of us spend some time wondering if and where our expertise and interests fall among these disciplines:

1. Advance personalized learning      8. Secure cyberspace
2. Make solar energy economical 9. Provide access to clean water
3. Enhance virtual reality 10. Provide energy from fusion
4. Reverse-engineer the brain 11. Prevent nuclear terror
5. Engineer better medicines 12. Manage the nitrogen cycle
6. Advance health informatics 13. Develop carbon sequestration methods
7. Restore and improve urban infrastructure 14. Engineer the tools of scientific discovery




Wilson’s Consilience


Stock Photo: A field of red Poppies during golden hour.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” – EO Wilson

Two metaphors have helped me in trying to visualize the “Consilience” Wilson is championing. First, the metaphor of a rose flower in its natural state contrasted with all of its petals bound together by a rubber band. It is a powerful visual to suggest the difference between synergistic presentation and putting things together. Second, the metaphor of a chick breaking out of its enclosed world in a shell and entering a wider world of perceptions. Disciplinary identity and boundaries are needed in the early stages of comprehension and learning, like a shell is needed in the formative stages of a growing chick. However, just as the shell needs to be broken for further growth of the chick, the disciplinary boundaries need to be transcended by a learner to reach higher stages of learning.

Aggie Innovation Space Receives Support on Giving Tuesday


I am pleased and honored that NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, mechanical engineering alum, and his wife, Sheryl, have chosen the Aggie Innovation Space for their support. The $250,000 gift they pledged will help the Aggie Innovation Space in its efforts to engage students, not only from engineering but from all colleges, in experiential learning and allow them to interact with faculty researchers and industry professionals. By providing a community-style of engagement, Aggie Innovation Space activities are expected to improve student retention at NMSU. I am confident that this pledge will encourage other alumni and local industries to be engaged in the activities of this valued resource and provide further support.

NMSU Engineering Gains Visibility in South India


With our focus on increasing master’s-level students and establishing collaborations with key engineering colleges in South India, I have completed my week-long trip to Vijayawada, the new Capital City of Andhra Pradesh. Thanks to Dr. Kumar, our liaison and coordinator for Indian universities, NMSU engineering gained quite a bit of newspaper and TV coverage. Our signing of Memoranda of Understanding with eight colleges was televised to an audience of approximately 18 million people. All major Telugu (local language) newspapers and one national English (Hindu) newspaper covered the unique strengths and opportunities available at NMSU. In a 14-minute television interview, I was able to address Indian students and their parents about the degree and research programs available at NMSU and about their uniqueness and relevance to Indian students. I was accompanied by Dean Rolando Flores, College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and by Luis Cifuentes, vice president of research and graduate school dean, who focused on agricultural and other research collaboration opportunities. 

Where were your songs, my bird, when you spent your nights in the nest?


File Photo: Goddard Hall peeks through the autumn trees. 

There was a beautiful poem belonging to Mediaeval India, recited by Tagore, which not only describes function of poetry but also allows us to draw out an analogy with what a scientific mind creates.  The poem contains question and answer: 

Where were your songs, my bird, when you spent

          your nights in the nest?

Was not all your pleasure stored therein?

What makes you lose your heart to the sky, the

           sky that is limitless?

The bird answers:

I have my pleasure while I rested within bounds.

          When I soared into the limitless, I found my songs! 

Using this poem, Tagore describes the function of poetry as a detachment of an individual idea from its confinement of everyday facts and to give its soaring wings the freedom of the universal.  Isn’t this the purpose of creative interdisciplinary research as well? – detaching from the confines of disciplinary boundaries and allowing our imagination to soar into the limitless reality?

Virtues of Learning Community 


File Photo: Jessica Houston, New Mexico State University’s associate professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)

I have enjoyed reading about the virtues of a learning community presented by Parker Palmer in his The Heart of Higher Education:

  • We invite diversity into our community not because it is politically correct but because diverse viewpoints are demanded by the manifold mysteries of great things.
  • We embrace ambiguity not because we are confused or indecisive but because we understand the inadequacy of our concepts to embrace the vastness of great things.
  • We welcome creative conflict not because we are angry or hostile but because conflict is required to correct our biases and prejudices about the nature of great things.
  • We practice honesty not only because we owe it to one another but because to lie about what we have seen would be to betray the truth of great things.
  • We experience humility not because we have fought and lost but because humility is the only lens through which great things can be seen – and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.
  • We become free men and women through education not because we have privileged information but because tyranny in any form can be overcome only by invoking the grace of great things.

The great things Palmer was referring to in these virtues are the subjects around which truth-seekers gather to know, to teach, and to learn.

Engineering alum helps build student leadership

File Photo: Peer tutoring in the Learning Communities at New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering.


Engineering today is a team-based, multidisciplinary endeavor that requires skills beyond technical abilities, but also the ability to work with diverse groups of people, communicate effectively and develop entrepreneurial skills.

I am pleased to announce that a donation from engineering alum Ron Seidel, will help students develop those essential “soft skills” with the launch of the Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute this coming spring.

A group of 20 students will be selected to be the first cohort in the two-year, self-paced program that includes professional training in leadership, communication, wellbeing and time management, and community engagement. They will work with mentors and attend professional development, leadership and communication seminars and workshops. They will apply their skills through community service and recruiting projects. Seidel’s gift will provide participating students with stipends, funding for books and supplies and travel to conferences. It will also support distinguished lectures from well-known leaders in engineering fields.

Engineering isn’t just about numbers, designs, and materials—it’s about leadership. One of the key attributes to becoming a leader in engineering practice, is to bring together teams from various disciplines, communicate, make decisions, be self-directed, and ethical. We are grateful that Ron Seidel knows the importance of leadership in engineering and is generously supporting this critical focus for our students.


We’re proud of our distinguished alum, Ms. Dion Messer (BSEE, ’84)

Dion Messer holds her distinguished alumna award at the 26 Annual Scholarship Breakfast.


Dion’s career path started out as a communications engineer with a NASA contractor at White Sands Missile Range.  With a Master’s degree from UT Austin, Dion became recognized worldwide as a digital signal processing expert who co-invented nine U.S. patents and authored numerous peer-reviewed IEEE publications. 

What makes Dion unique is that she moved on to get a law degree at UT School of Law and has led a successful career defending a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning 9-0, while creating a patent portfolio of more than 150 patents in less than five years.  With her service on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors, and her philanthropic support to NMSU, Dion serves as an outstanding role model  for our students.


Remembering Dr. John W. Hernandez

File Photo: Dr. John W. Hernandez, former professor, department chair and dean of engineering at NMSU. 


Recently, the college held a celebration of life for John w. Hernandez. Hearing about his life deeply inspired me.  He was a professor, department chair and dean of engineering at NMSU, as well as an athlete, politician, EPA appointee under Ronald Regan.  He was also the embodiment of what we call student-centric: taking student calls at all hours for homework assistance, recruiting at high schools, editing student papers, etc.  There has been some amazing talent at this college: Hernandez, Dad Jett, Ralph Goddard, Frank Bromilow.  Their attributes are something that we should strive for today.



Leisure time is important to our mission


File Photo: Clock of Dreams sculpture adjacent to the Ed and Harold Foreman Engineering Complex on the NMSU campus (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Do you find leisure to do some real thinking?

Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet and Nobel Laureate of India, puts poetically the requirement of leisure for perception of truth:

“It [truth] has its atmosphere of infinity in a width of leisure across which come invisible messengers of life and light, bringing their silent voices of creation.” (Tagore, Selected Essays, Page 321). 

I have not seen anything more powerful than this to describe the need for leisure if we are to engage in creative and scholarly activities.  In a rush to produce, and get it over with’ we often miss golden opportunities to interact with the voices of creativity within and external.  

We have a lot going on in CoE at NMSU, but let’s find some leisure now and then, interact with each other, and have fun along the way.




Learning: The common denominator in everything we do on campus 

File Photo: Jessica Houston, associate professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering, teaches at the Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) classroom. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)


Seeking higher levels of learning in a community setting is an opportunity that is exclusive to land-grant institutions.  It is indeed the collective purpose of teaching, research, outreach and service, often presented as mutually exclusive activities. Both freshmen and advanced research faculty share the common ground of seeking higher levels of learning; it is perhaps no accident that we use comparative degrees to refer to our enterprise as higher education, and we don’t use its superlative – highest education.  This paradigm shift, from teaching versus research versus community engagement to the common denominator of collective learning, is needed to give all of these activities their rightful and non-conflicting place on campus.




NMSU to offer Master of Engineering degrees


File Photo: The colorful hoods of the academic regalia signify where the wearers received their masters or doctorate degrees.

I am excited to know our proposal for Master of Engineering degrees has been finally approved by the Higher Education Department of New Mexico.  We can now move quickly to develop the various educational programs including those online, and move our graduate enrollments to the next level. The timing couldn’t be better: we have completed initial round of discussions on the development of interdepartmental programs, ex. manufacturing, bioprocesses and bioengineering, aerospace engineering, etc.  Very soon, we will develop marketing and communication plans for our MEng degree programs and identify the interdepartmental program directors.

These are exciting times indeed, at NMSU Engineering. 


Engineering Dean’s Blog

Greetings Friends and Colleagues,

I’m very excited about the opportunities and positive things in the College of Engineering and would like to share with you news, plans and thoughts through this blog. I invite you to follow my postings. If there is anything which you think might be a good topic, please send me a note at