Five educators and an influential chile researcher from New Mexico State University were honored Tuesday, Aug. 16, as hundreds of Aggies gathered in-person and virtually to kick off the new academic year.
NMSU bestowed several teaching and outreach awards during its fall 2022 convocation at Atkinson Recital Hall on the Las Cruces campus. The biannual ceremony brings together staff and faculty from across the university system each fall and spring for a spirited celebration of scholarly excellence.
“Convocation is a wonderful event,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said. “We celebrate the achievements of individuals across the NMSU system who are making a difference in the lives of our students and the communities we serve. I want to extend a special thank you to each of our faculty members. It’s because of your efforts in teaching, research, creativity and outreach that NMSU is continuously recognized as a top-tier university.”
Before Arvizu and other NMSU leaders presented the awards, they unveiled a new convocation tradition to recognize new and recently promoted faculty. NMSU has 127 new or newly promoted faculty members on the Las Cruces campus, as well as 16 new or newly promoted faculty members across its community colleges.
“We are here to help new faculty at NMSU start their journey. It’s really going to be exciting to have them here,” NMSU interim Provost Dorothy “Dee Dee” Campbell said. “Many faculty are here for a lifetime – they can be here 30 and 40 years – and they will touch the lives of thousands of students. So, it is an important situation to have wonderful faculty come here.”
The first two teaching awards went to Matthew Sievert and Kathryn Olszowy, who received the Patricia Christmore Awards for Teaching Excellence. Named after Patricia Christmore, a former department head for the Accounting Department, the awards honor junior tenure-track faculty members for engaging, inclusive and research-led teaching.
Sievert, an assistant professor of physics who joined NMSU in 2020, teaches undergraduate mathematical methods and advanced graduate quantum mechanics. Students have praised Sievert for designing a novel exam system aimed at reducing test anxiety by providing pathways to correct mistakes and earn back lost points.
Olszowy, an assistant professor of anthropology who joined NMSU in 2019, has taught at the college level for more than 10 years and has mentored more than 20 undergraduate and graduate students, including several who have presented at international conferences.
The next three teaching awards went to Marija Dimitrijevic, Derek Chase and Jiming Chu, who received the Donald C. Roush Awards for Teaching Excellence.
NMSU bestows the Roush awards – named after a former NMSU executive vice president in recognition of his efforts to improve teaching in New Mexico – based on information from students, department heads, deans and community campus directors.
Dimitrijevic, a college associate professor of criminal justice, uses her experience as a former criminal investigator to create a learning environment that is both exciting and rigorous. In addition to teaching criminal justice courses at NMSU, Dimitrijevic is a human trafficking advocate and conducts training for federal law enforcement agencies and other organizations.
Chase, a college assistant professor of animation and visual effects in NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, teaches narrative-based, visual problem-solving through varied courses. Chase, who serves as CMI’s head of animation, considers himself a digital artist and 3D generalist captivated by all things creative.
Chu, a professor and chair of the Science Department at Doña Ana Community College, has been a full-time faculty member for more than 24 years, teaching general biology, human anatomy, physiology and microbiology. Chu believes in creating a student-centered environment to help train students for success in an ever-changing world. This was Chu’s second time receiving a Roush award for teaching excellence.
The final award – NMSU’s Community Engagement, Outreach and Extension Award – went to Stephanie Walker. The honor recognizes work that amplifies outreach and extension – the third goal in the university’s strategic plan, NMSU LEADS 2025.
Walker, a vegetable specialist with NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service, has been working to bolster New Mexico’s chile industry through breeding research. To stem a crisis driven by imported chile and labor issues, Walker helped develop new chile varieties that would tolerate machine-picking.
Working in collaboration with Paul Bosland and Marisa Wall, Walker released a red chile-cultivated variety that could withstand mechanical harvesting at a commercial scale in 2004. Green chile proved much more difficult to destem by machine. But 15 years later, Walker and several collaborators, including mechanical engineers at NMSU, developed NuMex Odyssey, a green chile-cultivated variety that could tolerate machine-picking.
All award winners received a plaque and a stipend.