Student success on the rise at NMSU

This semester began as a balancing act, with stress caused by fear and apprehension on one side and excitement and anticipation on the other. But as the stress subsides, excitement rises. We saw nearly 20,000 people come out for the first Aggie football game at the end of August. And around campus, students, faculty and staff have all told me how thrilled they are to be back.

One student’s story was illustrative. After a disappointing year of online education as a first-year student, the student told me he was considering dropping out but decided to return after reading we were holding classes in person. Faculty also have told me students are more likely than ever to stick around for a chat following classes. Several have said students often thank them after a class session.

Getting to this point took a lot of hard work. Faculty and staff have dedicated thousands of hours in addition to their usual duties on reimagining pedagogy, studying best practices and developing protocols to operate an educational institution during a pandemic. Our path back to this semester was deliberate and intentional and, so far, it has been successful.

We received news of other successes this week, with announcements from two major college rankings systems. NMSU jumped from 241 to 227 in U.S. News and World Report’s annual National Universities ranking. But the big news came from Forbes, which named NMSU as the top university in New Mexico.

The Forbes ranking better reflects our efforts aligned with Goal 1 of NMSU LEADS 2025. The rating methodology rewards student outcomes like graduation and retention rates, federal student loan debt levels, return on investment, etc. They also look at student success measures like early and mid-career salaries and graduates who earn doctorate degrees or receive prestigious awards like Fulbright scholarships. Forbes includes several measures related to Pell Grant recipients, directly aligning with NMSU’s vision on social mobility. In contrast, the ranking by US News and World Report relies heavily (50 percent)on legacy factors such as perceived reputation and measures associated with financial resources. In both ranking systems, we made significant progress, and credit should go to the tireless efforts from our faculty and staff, department heads, deans and all of our university leaders who have supported our LEADS 2025 strategic goals.

As we assess our annual progress toward LEADS 2025, we expect to see a drop in our enrollment this year, a trend likely evident across the nation. But research funding continues to grow, and our outreach and extension have taken advantage of the many opportunities provided by the pandemic. Look for a fuller accounting of these in a future communication.

Know that even as we make progress on LEADS 2025 and in national rankings, we will not rest. NMSU occupies a special place in higher education as a public, research, land-grant university, and a Hispanic and Minority-Serving Institution. We have much work to do to improve graduation rates and tackle the equity gap. Dedicating ourselves to this work is a fitting way to begin the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

My appreciation and gratitude to all who have worked hard to make NMSU a better place this past few years, even during the pandemic. You are building a better NMSU, a place for all to belong, and a place for our students to call home. This is not a small achievement. Thank you.

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