New Mexico’s legislature meets in a 60-day session in odd-numbered years (e.g., 2017) and a 30-day session in even-numbered years. Yet, legislative committees meet throughout the year to gather facts and allow input from citizens and institutions. NMSU frequently hosts these committee meetings, allowing the university to keep the legislature apprised of our activities, needs, and concerns.
Last week, one of the committees hosted by NMSU was the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee. During my welcome to the committee I had the opportunity to describe a variety of initiatives underway at NMSU, including: administrative restructuring; general education reform; the use of meta majors to guide undeclared students; and the Aggie Pathway to the Baccalaureate, an alternative pathway to a four-year degree that begins at one of our community colleges.
Perhaps more importantly, I provided a glimpse into the immense research activity at NMSU, describing three grants awarded to the university in the previous week. The first was a National Institutes of Health RO1 Award to Regents Professor Jeffrey Arterburn and Dr. Eric Prossnitz (from UNM) for cancer research that combines Dr. Arterburn’s expertise in medicinal chemistry with Dr. Prossnitz’s expertise in cancer biology.
The second was a National Science Foundation INCLUDES grant to Dr. Steve Stochaj, Associate Vice President Luis Vazquez, and Associate Dean Patricia Sullivan. The purpose of the INCLUDES program is to enhance the leadership of the United States in the STEM disciplines by broadening participation by groups underrepresented in the sciences. It is a massive new initiative and NMSU received the only award in the state.
The third award was an NSF infrastructure grant to Dr. Tanner Schaub, Dr. Nirmala Khandan, Dr. Emily Indriolo, Dr. Arterburn, and Dr. Omar Holguin to purchase a High Resolution/Accurate Orbitrap Mass Spectrometer, an instrument that will benefit multi-disciplinary research efforts across the state.
My presentation was followed by more in-depth presentations from a variety of researchers and educators at NMSU. These presentations provided deeper insights into NMSU’s basic and applied research activities, STEM outreach activities, and economic development efforts. The legislators on the committee clearly appreciated the quality of the presentations and the positive impact that NMSU’s research and outreach efforts have on the state.
I extend my personal thanks to all the presenters, as well as to our legislators, who must balance a bruising, year-round legislative agenda with work, home, and family. Receiving only expenses for their efforts, our legislators are public servants in the truest sense of the word. They deserve our respect and gratitude.
Provost Dan Howard