LAS CRUCES – It was either fate or good timing, or some combination of the two, coupled with years of hard work and determination, that led three sisters down a path in which they each graduated from New Mexico State University this weekend, earning undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees.
“It was a little bit of both,” Marissa Fowler said when asked last week if she and her sisters, Adriana and Mirabella Macias, had planned to graduate at the same time, or if it happened by coincidence. “Mirabella was due to graduate (this spring), and I was close and kind of hustled at the end.”
“I was a happy accident,” Adriana said, laughing. She added, “(Marissa) literally called me one day and was like, ‘I was just looking at things and I think you can graduate with Mirabella and I.’ And I was like, ‘OK, yes, let’s do it!'”
So, they hit the books to accomplish something that may be rare: It’s not every day that three siblings graduate from the same university — all at the same time — earning degrees at each academic level.
The sisters participated in three separate commencement ceremonies this weekend.
Marissa, one of 79 doctoral candidates who participated in a hooding ceremony on Friday night at the Pan American Center, earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership and administration. The next morning, Mirabella, one of 485 students who earned master’s degrees, received a Master of Science, with an emphasis in nutrition and dietetics. And that afternoon, Adriana, one 1,459 students awarded a bachelor’s degree, took home a Bachelor of Art in psychology.
Adriana took a staggering 19 credit hours this semester in order graduate this weekend, and had to pass seven finals last week, she said. It was challenging to say the least, she admitted. “I think some days I had doubts,” she said, “but in the end, it was worth it.”
At her commencement ceremony, Adriana wore a cap that she decorated with flowers and an image of herself with her grandmother, Flora Montoya.
“Our grandmother was — to say a big part of our lives is minimizing it,” she said, “and we lost her last May. All of us participated in taking care of her when she lived with us.”
Mirabella added: “We know that she will be there with us on graduation day.”
While in school, the sisters treasured their time at NMSU, they said. They forged lasting friendships, faced academic challenges head-on with help from dedicated professors and leaned on one another for support.
“It was critically important to have them here,” Adriana said, pointing to her sisters. “It’s nice going through a stressful week with exams and then meeting your sisters for lunch.”
It was especially nice having a sister who worked on campus, Mirabella said, referring to Marissa, who is the associate director of NMSU’s Center for Academic Advising and Student Support. “We usually just call Marissa and say we’re coming to your office — hope you’re not busy,” Mirabella said.
The sisters are the daughters of Doña Ana County Manager Fernando Macias, a 1975 graduate of NMSU, and his wife, Claudia.
“Since they were children, we stressed that education was the path to becoming self-sufficient, having a rewarding career and contributing in a meaningful manner to the community,” they said in a statement. “They are honest, kind with a very strong work ethic. We are very proud of their commitment to advancing their education. It is only a beginning and are excited about what they will accomplish in the future.”
As for their future plans, Mirabella plans to become a registered dietitian in the coming months and later start a Ph.D. program, she said. Adriana also said she wants to continue her education, in the hopes of earning a master’s degree in counseling, but she wants to work for at least a year before starting school again.
As for Marissa, she said, “I am very much done (with school).” She plans to stay in her current position at NMSU, she said.