The optimism of learning and educating

The energy that came back to campus on Move-In Day three weeks ago has grown as we have moved through the semester. We continue to live in unique times, and now, we have the opportunity to watch our spaces become reinvigorated with activity as NMSU re-emerges as a vibrant campus.

This energy is in our classrooms, laboratories and studios, where Round Up staff writer Ernesto Cisneros described some of the perks of being back on campus as “seeing professors during office hours, being able to have in-class discussions and being around people.” I am delighted to hear about attendance increasing and students being more engaged in classes.

Dr. Erik Lehnhoff, an ACES faculty member, told me that he was excited to be back in the classroom and conducting research with students, even as he acknowledged apprehension regarding COVID-19. Other faculty members also report that students, for the first time, have introduced themselves after class and expressed excitement and gratitude to be back in the classroom.

We saw the energy last week at the Aggie Carnival, where hundreds of students strolled around tables to learn about opportunities to connect with others. This vital part of college life did not happen last year face-to-face, but remotely, where connecting to others is difficult over Zoom or other forms of electronic communication.

There was a lot of energy at last week’s opening football game against the UTEP Miners. Over 19,000 people came out for the big game, and if the score was disappointing, the Pride of New Mexico Marching Band was uplifting, and the weather was beautiful.

We are moving forward, and we are enjoying opportunities that we did not have a year ago. With every opportunity, we learn and grow our ability to deal with a world that sometimes looks remarkably like 2019, but it can also feel so different.

That difference is rooted in fear, tension and anxiety, but every time we step toward the new world, we control that anxiety a little more. Those steps might be small, like wearing a mask, or stepping aside to let another pass at a comfortable distance, or talking to someone you know about vaccines. But each step helps us assert that we care about each other and support each other in our effort to keep our community safe.

My communication two weeks ago recommended optimism as a strategy, and I stand by that optimism. Learning and education are inherently powerful expressions of optimism for the future. All the teaching and learning that happens in the academy is to support a better future. As educators, we believe our discipline is of value and that learning about our discipline is not just possible but will help bring about that better future. Let’s keep learning, educating, researching and working together to better NMSU and our future.

Join our next town hall at 3 p.m. Sept. 14 via Zoom or Panopto to learn more about NMSU’s COVID-19 response, the tracing process and how you can upload your vaccine or testing information. Special guests will talk about dealing with pandemic stress in the classroom and the workplace. As usual, you can submit any questions in advance.

Feedback is always welcomed at

Be Bold. Be Kind. Be Safe.

Go Aggies!


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