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Brown leaves strong legacy in education at NMSU, statewide

Release Date: 25 Jan 2021
Brown leaves strong legacy in education at NMSU, statewide

A woman who has had one of the strongest impacts on STEM education in New Mexico has retired from New Mexico State University, but shows no signs of slowing down her efforts to create better educational opportunities for New Mexico’s children.

In November, Susan Brown retired as interim dean of NMSU’s College of Education. Previously, Brown served as the college’s associate dean of research and director of the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU, which she helped establish. As interim dean, Brown also helped oversee the creation of an autism diagnostic clinic at the college, and the Glass Family Research Institute for Early Childhood Studies, both of which are expected to make significant impacts on New Mexico’s K-12 education.

“I am passionate about education in New Mexico because every child needs to have a chance to succeed,” Brown said. “My parents were high school graduates and, without encouragement from my teachers, I never would have gone to college and definitely not have majored in the sciences.”

Brown earned a doctorate and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from NMSU. She has received several professional awards including the NASA Innovation Program Award, NMSU Research Achievement Award, NASA Trailblazer Award, NASA Pipeline Award, NASA Partnership and Sustainability Award, Outstanding Science Engineering Mathematics and Aerospace Academy Presidential Star Award, and the NASA Explorer Award. Brown has also been recognized as Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and is a Fulbright Scholar. She received the Outstanding Teacher Achievement Award from the New Mexico Legislature in 1996 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching in 1994.

During her 25-plus years at NMSU, Brown was awarded nearly $23 million in research grants. In 2016, the STEM Outreach Center received a nearly $12 million four-year grant to fund out-of-school time STEM programs in the Las Cruces, Hatch and Gadsden school districts. The grant was awarded by the New Mexico Public Education Department’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. Her grants over the years have included working with the National Science Foundation, NASA, countless private foundations, and state and federal programs.

“My proudest achievement would be providing a high-quality STEM after-school program for thousands of K-8th grade students mainly in southern New Mexico,” Brown said. “I did not do it alone. I am so proud of our team at the STEM Outreach Center who all work together to provide the best for the students.”

A 2017 study found the STEM Outreach Center had an overall economic output of $15 million since 2009, generating more than 200 jobs and contributing positively to Doña Ana County.

“Susan was a delight to work with simply because of dedication and devotion to NMSU,” said Henrietta Williams Pichon, interim dean of the College of Education. “In watching her work, you knew she was most interested in what was best for NMSU and the College of Education. Her work with STEM education in the state is legendary and I am so delighted to have had an opportunity to work with her. It was evident that her work with STEM education was designed to provide young learners with opportunities of a lifetime.”

Karen Trujillo, superintendent of Las Cruces Public Schools and former College of Education research faculty, has known Brown for 35 years and called her “amazing.”

“If I had to name one person in New Mexico who has had the greatest impact on STEM education in New Mexico, it would be Susan Brown,” Trujillo said. “Tens of thousands of students have access to after-school programs across New Mexico because of her. She is a consummate educator, and I respect her as a professional and I love her as a friend. She has influenced an army of STEM educators and researchers, mostly women. At one point all of the STEM outreach leaders at NMSU were women. Every one of us had a link to Susan.”

Brown said for now, her focus is on her family and continuing to find funding opportunities for New Mexico students through the STEM Outreach Center.

“New Mexico needs our youth to know that there are many STEM jobs available in our state, and not all require a four-year degree. Awareness for our students of the many possibilities is so important,” Brown said.

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