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Corwyn Shaughnessy embarked on his educational journey at New Mexico State University more than 20 years ago. Early on, he grappled with personal challenges that greatly impacted his academic performance and put his education on hold.
Yet, Shaughnessy’s passion for engineering never waned. Three years ago, he resolved to complete his bachelor’s degree with a “commitment to do things right this time around.” In a dramatic turnaround, he will graduate this week among the top students in the College of Engineering as part of NMSU’s fall 2023 class.
NMSU will award nearly 1,200 degrees this fall and recognize graduates during commencement ceremonies at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, and 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at the Pan American Center. The Friday ceremony will honor students receiving master’s degrees and Ph.D.s, while the Saturday ceremony will celebrate those earning bachelor’s degrees.
“I’ve not only redeemed my past but transformed it into a story of triumph,” said Shaughnessy, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology.
Shaughnessy said he reached this point in his life through tenacity – and plenty of help from his mentors at NMSU.
“As I stand on the precipice of graduation, I am not only proud of my accomplishments but also profoundly grateful for the opportunities that this education has afforded me,” he said. “My long journey is a testament to the transformative power of determination, and I strive to continue inspiring others to reach for their highest potential.”
He added, “I’m looking forward to being in a position where I can give back and have the means to not only take care of myself but help others who are struggling.”
Molly Kaiser, a guard on the women’s basketball team, will also graduate on Saturday, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Kaiser joined the team during a trying time – the first year of the pandemic – but quickly found a system of support on and off the court. During the 2022-23 season, she played and started in all 35 games, totaling 1,014 minutes of floor time with an average of 29 minutes per game. In the current season, she’s the team’s top scorer.
“Although my time at NMSU started challenging, it helped me grow as a person and become the athlete I am now,” she said. “I’m grateful for that experience and having the opportunity to play basketball while being surrounded by people who pushed me to be my best.”
Born in Liberia, Kaiser’s first love was soccer, but she honed her talents in basketball while growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. She played in high school and later caught the eyes of NMSU recruiters. She committed to playing for NMSU, a place she said has allowed her to spread her wings and forge her own path in life.
“The support from Aggie Nation has meant everything to me,” she said. “I’m very blessed and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Kaiser plans to continue her education at NMSU and work toward a graduate degree as part of the Master’s Accelerated Program in the College of Business.
Ayana Pai has spent the past six years at NMSU, laying the groundwork for a career in biotechnology. She became an Aggie at age 17 and earned two bachelor’s degrees (one in biology and another in genetics and biotechnology) by age 21. On Friday, at age 22, she will earn her third degree from NMSU, a master’s in biology.
Pai, who grew up in Las Cruces, knew early on that she wanted to stay close to home while going to college. When the time came, she applied to NMSU and the University of New Mexico.
“I got waitlisted for the BA-MD program at UNM,” she said. “And honestly, it was the best thing that happened to me. I feel so much more prepared going on to a Ph.D. program at another university having two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree under my belt.”
As an undergraduate, Pai worked as a teaching assistant in the Honors College, mentoring first-year students. It was a role she took to heart as the first person in her family to attend college in the United States.
“College can be hard to navigate, especially for some first-generation students,” she said. “I know I would’ve appreciated an older sister or something like that. So, I was very determined to help these students.”
Pai credited her family with inspiring her to do as much as she can to help others in her community. Earlier this semester, she became the only student to serve on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council.
When Pai walks across the Pan American Center later this week, it will be the start of a new chapter in her life.
“I grew up at NMSU, and I am a proud Aggie,” she said. “It’s exciting and scary at the same time, but overall, it’s very cool to see your hard work pay off. My family and the mentors in my life, such as Provost Alan Shoho, Dr. Kathryn Hanley and Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, have helped and prepared me for this next phase of my life.”
The Pan American Center will open to the public one hour before each ceremony. Tickets are not required. Graduating students should also arrive one hour before the ceremonies start.
The three ceremonies will also be livestreamed on NMSU’s YouTube channel. For more information, visit https://commencement.nmsu.edu.