Wanted: Good, gregarious graduate students

Jan. 25, 2006 by Bob Nosbisch NMSU News Center

Linda Lacey, NMSU graduate school dean (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Linda Lacey, NMSU graduate school dean (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

“Can I bring my horse?”

This is one of the questions Linda Lacey, dean of New Mexico State University’s graduate school, hears when she or some of her staff travel throughout the U.S. to recruit students to NMSU. Lacey said this particular question is often asked at Colorado State University and the University of Nevada-Reno.

About 3,100 students were enrolled in graduate school at NMSU last fall, Lacey said, adding that 40 percent of them were not from New Mexico. Fifty-five percent were full-time students. Seventy-eight percent were pursuing master’s degrees while the rest worked on their doctoral degrees.

Lacey and some of her staff visit various college campuses in the U.S. and abroad and attend national conferences as part of their recruiting efforts. Texas, Arizona, California and Colorado are especially important to NMSU’s recruiters, Lacey said. While college campuses in some of these states may yield a variety of interest in different academic disciplines, other campuses are more specific. For example, the University of California-Berkeley is the best campus for recruiting students interested in astronomy, Lacey said. Such students are attracted to the Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, the observatory in Cloudcroft and the night skies over southern New Mexico.

But there’s another reason why that part of California is important to NMSU recruiters.

“One of the reasons we recruit in the San Francisco Bay area is because we want to increase our numbers of Asian-American students,” Lacey said.

NMSU is a magnet for students who are interested in social justice, too, Lacey said. Students who work with colonias or who continue their contact with nonprofit agencies in Juarez can do so while continuing their education at this university. Many have had a chance to see Las Cruces en route to Juarez as well as other cities and towns in Mexico.

Also, NMSU is one of the few universities with no decline in its international student body, Lacey said. Nearly 20 percent of NMSU’s graduate students come from more than 70 countries with Mexico, China and India leading the way. Lacey said most of these students are experts in computer science and engineering.

NMSU is working on developing a program that teaches English as a second language to international students who either do not speak English or who are not considered strong in English proficiency skills. The Graduate School is also working with the Center for International Programs to increase the number of students from Mexico and to build relationships with Mexican universities.

“We are also pleased to see the growth in distance learning programs,” Lacey said. “The provost, college deans and faculty have played a major role in expanding access to NMSU throughout the state. Our off-campus programs in Albuquerque, Los Alamos and, more recently, White Sands allow us to help meet the needs of the work force within the state.”

To keep up with continued growth, Lacey said the Graduate School is continuing to find new ways to collaborate with different departments and colleges on the NMSU campus, including distance education and the undergraduate recruitment staff. Also, the graduate school is focusing on building relationships with inquiries, applicants and admitted students.

“Recruitment is a team effort,” Lacey said. “We need the departments to reply to the information request cards that we collected from potential students at graduate fairs and conferences. We also need departments to develop recruitment and retention plans so we can attract and retain outstanding students.” Lacey said information about different departments should be submitted to her as these relationships are built.

“Students like to feel they’re wanted,” Lacey said. “The more potential and admitted students hear from the faculty and staff at NMSU, the more likely they will select NMSU for their graduate studies.”

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