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Las Cruces surveyor becomes teacher, mentor, industry advocate


Editor’s note: Photos accompanying this story were taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Las Cruces surveyor has found a new way to measure success.

Las Cruces High School and New Mexico State University graduate David Acosta is a licensed surveyor, co-owner of a respected Las Cruces-based surveying company and member of the nonprofit New Mexico Professional Surveyors (NMPS). He also is personally committed to increasing diversity in the surveying profession and educating the community about the important work surveyors do and the high-paying jobs that are available to them.

As NMPS president in 2016, Acosta helped save NMSU’s Geomatics and Surveying Engineering (GSE) program from elimination. Has since become a teacher and mentor to students in the program, helping them learn about the research, construction-site and other field work, connection with clients and governmental entities and hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology like ground-penetrating radar, drones and 3D laser scanners that are part of the surveying profession.

“The value of a surveyor has never been higher,” said Acosta, 39, “and technology has created ways to be more valuable.”

The industry offers a “nice balance” of between time spent in the office and working outside, and because there aren’t a lot of licensed surveyors available, “there’s a lot of work,” Acosta said. There’s a huge opportunity, a huge need.”

Three of the four presidents enshrined at Mount Rushmore were surveyors, Acosta said, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in surveying engineering in 2007, Acosta worked for Wilson & Company until 2012.  He then became city surveyor for the City of Albuquerque before moving back to Las Cruces to join John Gallegos at Construction Survey Technology, Inc., the company he co-owns, which he said is one of the top surveying companies in the state, working throughout New Mexico and in west Texas.

Four years ago, Acosta and other NMPS members worked with NMSU to ensure the continuation of GSE within the College of Engineering. Because of low student enrollment, Acosta said, the university had targeted it for elimination.

After meeting with college officials, he and other NMPS members “accepted the challenge” of helping to save the program, including raising $300,000 during the next three years. PNM donated $200,000, and surveyors raised the rest.

The near elimination of GSE might have been “a blessing in disguise,” Acosta said, because it renewed surveyors’ interest and participation and helped make the program better. It’s now accredited by the national Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc., has stronger ties with Doña Ana Community College and “enrollment’s steadily going up,” Acosta said.

His personal involvement with GSE has included reaching out to middle- and high school students to “let them know what a surveyor does, who we are,” Acosta said, and to stimulate their interest in pursuing engineering degrees and attending Doña Ana Community College and NMSU. (NMPS has both an NMSU chapter and a young surveyors committee.)

Acosta said he never imagined being a college instructor, although he comes by it naturally: His mother had a 37-year career as a teacher.

“It was part of who I am and what I was meant to do,” Acosta said.

“I found David’s interest in introducing and encouraging students to consider a career in surveying to be an excellent example of how the private and public sectors can work together to enable young people to develop much needed skills in our community,” said Steve Litts, a retired Las Cruces educator.

In addition to his knowledge and experience of surveying, Acosta shares his own personal struggles with his students.

“I overcame a lot,” he said. “I didn’t give up. I kept fighting.”

David Acosta