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NMSU commencement ceremonies to recognize fall 2022 graduates

Jamie Rodriguez will step onto New Mexico State University’s Las Cruces campus for the first time this week when she collects her master’s degree in public health.

Rodriguez, who completed her degree remotely while working and living full-time in Colorado, is part of a class of more than 1,200 students who will graduate from NMSU this fall.

“I’ve seen pictures of campus, and it looks beautiful. I’m so excited to see it,” said Rodriguez, who plans to travel to Las Cruces to participate in NMSU’s commencement exercises.

NMSU will first recognize students like Rodriguez who’ve completed their master’s and doctoral degrees in a commencement ceremony set for 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9. The following day, NMSU will honor students who’ve earned their bachelor’s degrees in a separate ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. Both ceremonies will take place at the Pan American Center and are open to the public.

Between Friday and Saturday, NMSU will bestow 1,230 degrees from its academic colleges on the Las Cruces campus and another 472 degrees from its branch campuses across New Mexico.

For years, Rodriguez said she dreamt about getting a master’s degree in public health. But she wanted a program that would allow her to remain in Colorado, where she could raise her teenage son and keep her job in community health. She found that program in NMSU’s College of Health, Education and Social Transformation.

“I’m a single mom, so trying to relocate for a full-time MPH program would’ve been extremely hard,” she said. “NMSU consistently came up in searches as one of the best, most affordable MPH programs, and I applied because I thought it’d be a perfect fit.”

After starting the program, Rodriguez said she quickly discovered a supportive community of professors and peers who, despite being hundreds of miles away, helped her juggle school with full-time work and parenting. She completed the program in two and a half years – a semester earlier than expected.

“It was a lot of work – I didn’t have many free nights and weekends – but every teacher I had was genuinely helpful and interested in helping me succeed,” she said, adding, “I felt a strong sense of connection to the program and other students. I never felt I wasn’t part of the community even though I wasn’t in New Mexico.”

Rodriguez said one of the highlights of her time at NMSU was developing a COVID-19 vaccination training program for community health care workers as part of a field experience requirement. She said she’d like to continue working in community health care after graduation.

“Now that I’ll have my MPH, I plan to find a leadership position in a local public health agency,” she said. “NMSU has 100% prepared me for a career as a public health leader.”

Fellow NMSU students Yessica Marquina and Alondra Gonzalez will mark a milestone in their longstanding friendship on Saturday when they both receive bachelor’s degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences. The two are from small southern New Mexico communities and have known one another for most of their lives.

“It’s amazing we’re graduating together – we’re going to drive down together and sit next to each other,” said Gonzalez, a first-generation college student who double-majored in biochemistry and genetics.

Gonzalez and Marquina, who majored in anthropology and minored in medical anthropology, forensics and human biology, were both active in NMSU’s Chicano Programs, whose mission, in part, helps students from all ethnic and racial backgrounds navigate and succeed in the college environment.

Marquina said she became involved with Chicano Programs through a student organization called MAES: Latinos in Science and Engineering. She most recently served as the president of NMSU’s MAES chapter, which promotes science, math and engineering to school-age kids.

“I will miss my time with MAES and my peers. Here, in Chicano Programs, we’re all like family,” said Marquina, who is planning to pursue a graduate degree in anthropology. “It’s going to be sad leaving everyone, but I’m also excited about my future.”

During her time at NMSU, Gonzalez also participated in MAES and put in countless hours volunteering at Aggie Cupboard. She has worked as a medical scribe at an El Paso hospital for the past year and is currently applying to medical school. She said NMSU helped her discover a passion for learning.

“I want to keep on learning,” she added. “That’s part of why I want to be a doctor – because you never stop learning.”

The Pan American Center will open to the public one hour before each ceremony. Tickets are not required. Graduating students should also arrive one hour before the ceremonies start. NMSU continues to follow all public health orders from the state of New Mexico. Graduates and guests should visit the NMSU NOW safety plan before arriving at the Pan American Center.

The two ceremonies will also be livestreamed on NMSU’s YouTube channel. For more information, visit here.