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San Juan College and New Mexico State University launch chemical engineering partnership


The New Mexico State University College of Engineering and San Juan College, in Farmington, NM, have launched a partnership to offer an Associate of Science degree in chemical engineering that can lead to a bachelor’s degree.

“The program was approved by HED in June 2019 and launched in fall 2019,” said Michael Ottinger, San Juan College Vice President of Learning who at the time was dean of the Science Math and Engineering School. “The program was developed through a collaboration with David Rockstraw, then department head of Chemical and Materials Engineering at NMSU, as a way to help our students prepare to transfer into the NMSU CHME program as juniors.  The program has students take courses offered at SJC to fill most of their requirements, and then take the remaining chemical engineering courses remotely through NMSU. The program was designed to mirror the same sequence of courses as they are offered at NMSU.”

Upon completion of an associate degree, SJC students can transfer to NMSU to earn a bachelor’s of science degree.

This unique partnership provides students an opportunity to study close to home, with more affordable tuition rates and smaller classes in preparation for the next phase of advanced classes at NMSU in Las Cruces.

“My hopes are that it provides a pathway for students to start working on the ChE degree at a local college. Not all students are ready to move to Las Cruces and start at a university right out of high school. Some students need the comfort of their local or home community to help with the transition,” said current NMSU Chemical and Materials Engineering Department Head Joseph Holles. 

One such student is Chelsea Largo, now a senior at NMSU who plans to graduate in spring 2025. She plans to contribute to the environment by developing equipment or methods to enhance environmental protection. She aims to be a process engineer, developing new methods or modifying designs efficiently to reduce emission of carbon footprint.

“The program helps the student transition to the university from the community college without feeling overwhelmed. I was worried that taking online live courses with NMSU professors was going to be a challenge, but I was wrong,” said Largo. “The professors at NMSU were helpful and always made sure I was understanding the course work. They constantly communicated to me and made me feel like I was there in person. It is a challenging major like any other engineering major but it's also very rewarding. Pursuing this program made me think it was possible that I could one day be a chemical engineer.” 

“Chelsea Largo meets the above descriptions of typical students very well.  She is a great example of students starting at SJC and seamlessly transitioning to NMSU.  The combined program allows the SJC students to build a relationship not only with the CHE instructors here on campus at NMSU, but also with their classmates since they are taking courses directly with their peers.”

Eric Miller, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Department Chair at SJC urged Largo to pursue the transfer program. Miller, a 30-year veteran at SJC who also has an industry background, teaches general chemistry, organic chemistry and analytical chemistry and has led undergraduate research for years.

“I work extensively with New Mexico INBRE which is headquartered at NMSU. My research focuses on materials, analytical and electrochemistry,” said Miller. “We have a well-equipped laboratory for a two-year school including a clean room, electron microscopy, chromatography and various spectroscopies. Students get to use this equipment for instruction and research.”

INBRE, New Mexico IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research, champions biomedical and community-based research through the development of innovative, supportive and sustainable research environments, while building a network of lead scientists and educators.

“Chemical engineering is an excellence career path. They work in diverse fields that impact everyday life, such as medicine, computer chips, energy and water purification,” said Holles. “Additionally, chemical engineering is a high-demand, high-paying career. And, there are a number of employers of chemical engineers right here in New Mexico.”

“The program is a great opportunity for students who want to start out at a community college then transition to a university. The transfer process from SJC to NMSU was convenient in many aspects. I didn't have to worry about my credits not transferring, as soon as I got accepted into NMSU, I was halfway done with my bachelors,” said Largo. “The environment from the CHME department is very welcoming from the students to the professors. Once I was able to transfer, I felt confident and ready to move on to the next big step in my life, and it was because this program prepared me for it. At NMSU, I knew some of the teachers and students from the live online classes I previously took; it was comforting knowing I knew some of the faculty and students. encouraging many of the students to take advantage of them. …I like this program because it has given me infinite opportunities to grow as a person and in my future career.” 

Learn more about about this program at San Juan College and NMSU Chemical and Materials Engineering.