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Aggie graduates will once again take center stage at the Pan American Center as New Mexico State University hosts commencement ceremonies this week to celebrate the classes of 2020 and 2021.
NMSU will first honor graduates who earned degrees in 2020 at a commencement ceremony set for 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 10. More than 300 Aggies plan to participate in the ceremony after the COVID-19 pandemic forced NMSU to cancel in-person graduations last year.
“Honoring our classes of 2020 and ensuring they have that transformative live moment with their family, friends and supporters is important. With cancelled events last year, they needed this event,” said Gabrielle Martinez, NMSU graduation and curriculum data specialist and commencement coordinator.
NMSU will then host two ceremonies to celebrate fall 2021 graduates.
NMSU’s graduate ceremony honoring doctoral and master’s degree candidates will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10. A total of 320 students completed course requirements to earn advanced degrees during the fall 2021 semester, and more than 200 will participate in the Friday evening ceremony.
NMSU will wrap up graduation festivities with its undergraduate ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 11. A total of 866 students completed course requirements to earn bachelor’s degrees during the fall 2021 semester, and more than 600 will participate in the Saturday morning ceremony.
NMSU will not have capacity restrictions or ticket requirements for guests at the upcoming ceremonies, Martinez said.
“With no ticket requirements, graduates need to be cautious of the guests they are inviting to the ceremony due to increases in COVID-19 cases across the nation and state and be mindful of other graduates’ guests,” Martinez said. “Guests should also practice social distancing, when possible. Masks will be required at all times for guests and graduates in the Pan American Center and any NMSU building.”
NMSU visitors are required to follow the visitor commitment pledge in the NMSU Now pandemic action plan, Martinez added.
Former NFL player and current NMSU visiting faculty member Siddeeq Shabazz, who earned a Ph.D. in marketing in 2020, plans to participate in the ceremony for 2020 graduates.
Shabazz said he had been looking forward to walking across the commencement stage to accept his Ph.D. last year and was disappointed after NMSU canceled in-person graduation ceremonies amid restrictions on gathering in public spaces.
Shabazz said he’s excited for the chance to experience graduation in person this year with his family watching.
“I have three older kids, three at home and one in the oven. My kids saw me as a professional football player, then they saw me making the transition to coaching and mentoring, and ultimately transitioning from my NFL days to the start of my Ph.D.,” he said. “There were a lot of odds stacked against me going into the Ph.D. program. My kids didn’t see what it took for me to get into the NFL, but they got to see what it took for me to be Dr. Shabazz.”
Shabazz, a native of Chaparral, New Mexico, who played in the NFL for three seasons after graduating from NMSU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2002, is currently in his first year as a visiting faculty member in the College of Business.
During his Ph.D. program, Shabazz said he experienced pivotal life changes: He found his faith, met and married his wife, and had two children. He also noted that he completed his dissertation last year as race-related turmoil and police brutality roiled the nation.
“It was also important for me to celebrate this accomplishment in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the growing political and social divide that has crept into our small community,” he said. “It was important for me to celebrate as a man of color who feels deeply committed and indebted to this community and heartbroken over the chasm we’ve let creep into our own homes, schools, churches and workplaces in Las Cruces.”
Like Shabazz, Rosemary Montañez will graduate this week with a full-time job on hand. Montanez, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies Saturday, said she started her career in broadcast journalism over the summer, working as a reporter at KVIA-TV – a job she will continue after leaving NMSU.
Montañez, who hails from El Paso, said her journey to NMSU started at El Paso Community College.
“I had no idea that NMSU offered a really good journalism program until I made it to EPCC,” she said. “All of my professors there were telling me to consider going to NMSU and enroll in the broadcast journalism program. I looked into it, and I realized that’s where I wanted to go.”
Montañez said the program gave her invaluable hands-on experience in reporting and producing news through NMSU’s student-run newscast, News 22.
“It gave me the experience I needed to get a job out in the real world,” she said.
Montañez said participating in Saturday’s commencement ceremony represents many years of hard work and determination.
“For me, it’s all about seeing the fruits of my labor,” she said. “It’s a moment of celebration – even more so now since we’re able to have an in-person commencement this year.”