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NMSU spring commencement ceremonies recognize graduates


On Saturday, May 7, Madrid will finally walk across the Pan American Center to collect her bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University – a long-held dream she put on hold for more than two decades.

Madrid joins a class of more than 1,900 students who will graduate from NMSU this week, marking the end of a journey that began 22 years ago.

NMSU will host three commencement ceremonies for spring 2022 graduates at the Pan American Center starting Friday, May 6. A ceremony for graduate degree candidates will start at 6 p.m. Friday, and two separate ceremonies for undergraduate degree candidates will take place at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Madrid’s path to graduation had a conventional beginning. She started her freshman year at NMSU immediately after high school, but soon she realized she “wasn’t in the right mindset to appreciate the education for what it was.” Feeling “lost,” she left NMSU.

Fast forward to 2016, and Madrid found herself back in the classroom.

Determined to complete her college education, she took classes at Doña Ana Community College and then at NMSU. She juggled school work with a full-time job, weathering stress and tears, but overcame the challenges of being a non-traditional student to earn a bachelor’s degree in applied studies as one of the top students from the College of Health, Education and Social Transformation.

“This means I can accomplish the things I set my mind to,” she said. “It may take me longer than most – but that’s OK. I’ve proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Madrid will participate in the Saturday morning ceremony for undergraduates from the College of HEST, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the College of Business. NMSU will later recognize undergraduates from the College of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences during the Saturday afternoon ceremony.

“I’m so grateful that things are kind of back to normal, and I can have that experience that I’ve been thinking about since ’98,” Madrid said. “I tell my husband I’m going to cry so much – but these will be happy tears. I’m so ready, and I can’t wait.”

Hunter Pirkle will also graduate this week, earning a bachelor’s of business administration in information systems. Pirkle, a first-generation college student from Albuquerque, completed his degree in three years.

 “Neither of my parents graduated from college, nor did my grandparents or their parents, or anyone from my family,” Pirkle said. “So, it’s really like uncharted waters, and they’re really proud of me. It’s exciting to show that no matter where you’ve come from and what’s happened before, you really chart your own path, and you can make anything really happen.”

 Pirkle has plans to move to Florida in the coming weeks to work for Verizon as a payment analyst.

 At NMSU, Pirkle helped establish several student organizations, including the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Supply Chain NMSU, a supply chain club. He also served as the president of the Financial Management Association, was active in Aggies for Christ and Christian Challenge, and worked as a greenhouse assistant for the NMSU Chile Pepper Institute.

 “I really value all the friendships and connections I made at NMSU,” he said. “I was very blessed to have such great mentors who were always looking out for the best for me.”

 Another graduate, Victoria Martinez, will receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing and plans to become a flight nurse in the United States Air Force.

 Following her father’s footsteps, Martinez enlisted in NMSU’s Air Force ROTC as a freshman and completed the program while pursuing her nursing degree.

 “My father served in the Air Force for 20 years, so I lived that lifestyle, and I loved it,” she said. “I made a lot of friends in the program – it’s really like a family.”

 Martinez will be commissioned into the Air Force the day before she accepts her nursing degree – and she won’t be the only member of her family to do so. Her younger sister and fellow Aggie, Elena Martinez, will also be commissioned into the Air Force and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

 Victoria Martinez said she knew little about the nursing profession until she came to NMSU. But when the time came to pick a major, she decided to try nursing, and she quickly found her passion.

 She said the program was challenging but rewarding – especially during the pandemic. On top of school work, clinicals and the ROTC program, she also worked as a nursing assistant at Memorial Medical Center, a job she said helped her hone her nursing skills.

 “I’m really proud of myself,” she said, “and I’ll be able to walk with my sister, so that will be nice.”

 NMSU will award a total of 1,963 degrees between Friday and Saturday.

 For the first time since 2019, the NMSU Bands will play at the commencement ceremonies.

 “We are excited to be back inside the Pan American Center again this semester and have the NMSU Bands help us celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates,” said Gabrielle Martinez, NMSU graduation and curriculum data specialist and commencement coordinator. “We have missed live and in-person musical performances by the band.”

 The Pan American Center will open one hour early for guests. Tickets are not required. Guests should enter through the south, east and west entrances as renovations are underway on the North Concourse. Handicap parking and accessibility seating will be available on the south side.

 NMSU follows all public health orders from the state of New Mexico, Martinez said. She added that graduates and their guests should visit the NMSU NOW safety plan before arriving at the Pan American Center.

 All three ceremonies will be livestreamed on NMSU’s YouTube channel. For more information, visit https://commencement.nmsu.edu.

NMSU, spring commencement ceremonies