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The official title is College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, or ACES for short.
But for a land-grant university once known as New Mexico A&M -- with the A standing for Agriculture – the college is still commonly referred to as “the ag school.”
The current leader of the college -- whatever you call it -- is Rolando A. (no, the A does not stand for Agriculture) Flores Galarza, who has been dean since 2016.
“New Mexico has a very different beauty,” Flores said. “And, agriculturally, it’s challenged from beginning to end.”
Flores, a native of Costa Rica, earned his master’s degree in agricultural engineering from Iowa State University, where he also earned his PhD in grain sciences.
And while he sees New Mexico as challenged agriculturally, that’s also why he finds running the ag school so appealing.
The difficulties encourage great research and innovation.
“The soil is fragile, and the land is dry,” Flores said. “With those challenges, the importance of producing food is very critical.
“Where I was educated in the Midwest, agriculture is very different,” Flores said. “Anything grows. You just throw out seeds. It’s totally irrigated. There, you can have 25 cows on one acre. Here, you have to have 60 acres for one cow.”
To Flores, those things others might see as problems create opportunities for NMSU.
“We DO agriculture,” Flores said. “We are the agricultural school of New Mexico.”
Flores also sees great opportunity in the students and staff at NMSU.
He said the number of first-generation college students on campus helps students stay hard-working and humble.
“We have students taking a full load of 18 credits and still working part-time jobs to help take care of their families,” Flores said. “A high percentage are bilingual, which the food industry is looking for. We have an opportunity to make an impact on the state. Every time a student graduates, they gain social mobility.”
To help foster students’ energy and initiative, are the new facilities coming together on campus as a result of New Mexico voters passing GO bonds in 2018 and 2020.
Building 1 is a food safety center and pilot plant. Building 2, built as a barn, is a food meal facility. Those two will be completed as vital equipment arrives and is expected to be installed by the end of this year. Building 3, a biomedical facility, will take longer, as other combination dollars are needed.
“These new facilities are a game changer,” Flores said. “We’ll be able to process cattle, and students can have hands-on experience as cattle producers and working to create tiny niche markets. We will be processing a lot of new byproducts. It’s all very promising, but most important, it will bring a big impact on giving students knowledge and a chance to do highly important research.”
Because of NMSU’s extension program, which has an office in each of New Mexico’s 33 counties, ACES has an impact on potential students well before they get to campus.
“We have 35,000 students in 4H, that’s a big impact on New Mexico’s youth,” Flores said. “Those programs help keep kids out of trouble. Anyone who’s been in 4H knows the good things that come out of those programs.”
Of course, it’s not just agriculture in Flores’ college; that’s how the name expanded to ACES.
There are eight academic departments in the ACES college:
Flores said each department offers something unique and of great value.
“We have individuals training high school teachers in agriculture, and HRTM, people love to come to their functions,” Flores said.
“People don’t know this college has the largest amount of grants, and brings in the largest amount of money,” Flores said.
“In all of our colleges, we have highly qualified individuals who are going to help solve problems,” Flores said. “We have a bright future at NMSU, although not without challenges. Our students are graduating, getting outstanding jobs and going all over the nation.”