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NMSU engineering students give new life to community garden


“For engineers, the only difference between a job and community service is … not getting paid for it,” said Emeritus Engineering Professor Kenny Stevens. “It’s kind of cool,” he added.

Stevens was addressing a group of students participating in the Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute (SELI) who were about to embark on their own community service project: helping to revitalize the New Mexico State University Community Garden. The garden was officially established as a chartered Associated Students of NMSU organization in 2017. The group installed 15 raised garden beds with drip irrigation. Unfortunately, the garden languished during the time campus was closed due to COVID-19.

SELI began in 2019 with a donation from engineering alum Ron Seidel and his wife, Janice, to provide students with the skills needed to become successful leaders in engineering careers. The institute curriculum requires community service. Options were discussed and the students, all juniors and seniors, elected to pursue the community garden as their spring semester project.

“It is my strong belief that engineers serve society and that service goes beyond the workplace,” said College of Engineering Dean Lakshmi N. Reddi, who envisioned and leads the institute.

Reddi selected Stevens, founder of Aggies Without Limits, recognized this past fall with the first-ever NMSU Community Engagement, Extension and Outreach Award, as the person to lead the service effort.

Using a real-world approach, students analyzed the project by applying engineering process principles. They then responded to a formal request for proposal with their implementation plans, graphics, labor and materials requirements, budgets, timelines and plans for sustainability.

The result led to three teams, each to address two specific projects. The students made progress on all projects, successfully completing some, but not all. The experience was an important learning process that goes beyond engineering skills.

Before the group’s involvement, NMSU Community Garden Organization President Jonathan Alaniz and Vice-President Alexi Bernard-Weiner had already set to work, getting five of the plots prepared and planted. They also procured a donation of 12-cubic yards of garden soil from Sunland Nursery.

The NMSU Sign Shop has since installed signs posting community garden guidelines provided by the group at the site.

The NMSU Community Garden is located at the corner of Standley Drive and Fabian Garcia Avenue. For more information about the NMSU Community Garden Organization, contact: Jonathan Alaniz, president, at jlalaniz@nmsu.edu; Alexi Bernard-Weiner, vice-president, at alexib@nmsu.edu; and Jack Kirby, staff adviser and assistant director of NMSU Environmental Health Safety and Risk, jfkirby@nmsu.edu. Also visit https://m.facebook.com/CommunityGardenNMSU/ or Instagram @communitygardennmsu.

New Mexico State University Community Garden