When Chief Information Officer Norma Grijalva retires from New Mexico State University at the end of June, 10 other directors, managers and staff of the Information, Communication and Technology services unit she leads also will be retiring. The group will celebrate with a reception honoring their service from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, July 1, in the Corbett Center Student Union ballrooms.
Altogether, this group, which has served NMSU’s technology services over the last 30-plus years, has dedicated more than 300 years of service to NMSU and led the university through a massive world-wide technology revolution.
Here is some of what they’ve accomplished over more than three decades:
Grijalva, chief information officer, 34 years of service
Grijalva is an alumna, who started at NMSU in 1981 as a student in the College of Engineering, where she also worked as a tutor and grad assistant as she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She later also earned her Ph.D. at NMSU. Her first “real job” was at the Physical Science Lab, where she was project manager of the Long Duration Ballooning Program and received a commendation from NASA. In 1992, she went to work in the Computer Center as a network engineer.
“The World Wide Web did not exist, and I recall assigning a student to analyze the first web browser for possible future impact,” Grijalva said. “In 1992, we had about 1,200 connected devices, and today, we have more than 185,000. NMSU relies on information technology to run almost every aspect of the university from teaching, learning and registration to email, administration and research, using more than 100 applications. Back then, I had to convince people to allow cloud applications. I am proud of the innovations ICT has implemented over the years like bringing cloud applications such as Canvas, the MyNMSU portal and live@edu email to NMSU.”
Grijalva is also proud of ICT’s partnership with state government and other higher education institutions that resulted in CHECS-NET, an education network managed by NMSU and the Rio Grande Optical Network. This high-speed network along the Rio Grande corridor allows NMSU to access services and entities in El Paso, Socorro, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Recent work has elevated the university’s access to high-performance computing resources and increased the number of users by more than 20 times and has helped increase grant income to NMSU. Through the work on NMSU’s emergency planning committee, ICT implemented the Everbridge Emergency Notification system in 2009 to keep the NMSU community safe and informed.
“I am really proud of ICT employees for all of their efforts supporting this university through the pandemic and in various ways from communication, equipment check out, help desk support and remote teaching and learning support," Grijalva said. "Many of our staff came to campus on a regular basis to ensure consistent operations and several units never closed to the public, including our computer labs, network support and business services.”
John Roberts, chief information security officer, 29.5 years of service
Roberts began as a mainframe programmer, moving to systems administration in 2003. He was instrumental in migrating NMSU from mainframe applications to Banner and all the underlying servers. In 2004, he was the director of computer systems, where he oversaw system administration, database administration and data center and production control. Roberts was appointed chief information security officer in 2013 in addition to his director duties. He began establishing a risk-based information security program, and in 2019, he became NMSU’s first dedicated CISO.
“He is passionate about security and has been instrumental in keeping NMSU safe from hackers and raising the information security awareness at NMSU,” Grijalva said. “The latest security measure he implemented is multifactor authentication (2FA), which is currently being rolled out.”
“A few of the many things I am most proud of are the strides ICT has made to familiarize, engage, inform and empower all employees and students about their role of being the first line of defense in IT security and the ownership they have ultimately taken,” Roberts said. “Also, I am proud of how available, approachable and accessible ICT remains, despite the incredible demands placed on the department.”
Piyasat Nilkaew, director of ICT Computing and Communication Infrastructure, 25 years of service
Nilkaew led efforts in ICT networking, CHECS-Net, telecom, financial operations, help desk, technology support, classroom technology, and systems and database administration.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work alongside these dedicated and talented people and make impactful contributions to our university and our students,” Nilkaew said. “I have made many lifelong friends though my journey. Most of all, it is so gratifying to be able to mentor many students, who have flourished and gone on to live a successful life — many of whom continue on their professional career at ICT or at the university. I’m eternally grateful to the people and the institution. It had been a blessing and wonderful journey.”
Siiri Rogers, director of Enterprise Information Technology, 30.5 years of service
Rogers led the effort to move the Scholar Dollar$ application on NMSU’s main campus from 46 separate applications into one single scholarship application. The system matched applications against donor criteria using the Banner student system to verify criteria, facilitated approval routing, feed awards into the Banner Financial Aid system for payment and collected thank-you letters from students for stewardship communications to donors. Rogers and her team also created several web applications to assist with recruitment and retention, includling AWO, or Aggie Welcome Orientation, which allows admitted students to registration for a required orientation sessions. Her team also automated the NMSU grading process, shortening it from two days to two hours.
Danny Bosch, manager of Enterprise Network Engineering and Planning, 25 years of service
Bosch started at NMSU in 1996 as a network engineer and became a manager in 2013. He has been instrumental in many areas, including the most-used service on campus — Wi-Fi. “He was responsible for the first Wi-Fi installation in Corbett Center in 1997,” Grijalva said. “As of June 2020, NMSU had 2,776 access points and the standards have been updated six times. He is also instrumental for growing NMSU’s fiber plant and the Rio Grande Optical Network.”
Julie Cadena, manager of Enterprise PC, 34 years of service
When Cadena started at NMSU in 1987, email accounts were reserved for only those faculty doing research and collaboration with other universities. Now NMSU supports more than 80,000 email accounts, Office 365 applications, Banner, myNMSU services, software installation and support, VPN, passphrase changes and 2FA. Cadena has been involved in customer service and/or technology support for all of them. During the pandemic in 2020, Cadena was instrumental in overseeing actions to create the ICT Virtual Help Desk on the Zoom platform.
“When I started at NMSU, physically all services were then performed on mainframe terminals the size of boat anchors,” she said. “Thirty-four years ago, our primary way of assisting our clients was to take a telephone call in my office. From that technology, the ICT Help Desk was born in the 90s and became a staple source to many needing assistance face-to-face assistance on campus until the pandemic hit, and we had to find a new way to help and created the ICT Virtual Help Desk. I have loved every minute of my time here at NMSU and will miss supporting the many different users, especially the faculty, staff and students, whom I call my 'work friends.' I am deeply grateful for NMSU and all the opportunities my career has afforded me.”
Ray Cadena, manager of Telecom & Networking Operations, 29 years of service
Cadena was involved in a number of NMSU phone system changes from the replacement of the Western Electric AT&T phone system in 1992 with the Ericsson PBX system to its replacement 20 years later with the CISCO Internet Protocol telephone system.
“These accomplishments were achieved with the assistance of a great staff and support from other entities within our organization,” Cadena said. “I am proud of where we were and where we are today. It has been an amazing time of accomplishments here at New Mexico State. I will miss it but know that it will remain in great hands with those that continue to support NMSU in this capacity.”
Alan Lambeth, technology support tech, 28 years of service
Lambeth has been involved in NMSU technology systems from the DOS 3.3 WordStar days to Microsoft Windows 10, Mac OSX and Linux systems of today.
“My life-long job description has been 'Hey Alan can you fix this?' and the spectrum of projects is too incredible to list,” Lambeth said. “For nearly 30 years, I have enjoyed working with a special team of over 100 people with many diverse skills, talents and different nationalities, all with a love to accomplish difficult tasks while helping and teaching others. The camaraderie we shared is unequaled in any industry setting.”
Terry King, senior systems analyst, 15 years of service
King worked daily with customers, scheduling Automic (aka UC4/Apworx) jobs, performing Banner security access management and taking calls.
“This work required being customer-friendly and detail-oriented, and Terry excelled in both areas,” Roberts said.
Shwu-Ping (Crystal) Wang, lead enterprise programmer analyst, 20 years of service
Wang has been instrumental in many university-wide ICT projects, among them the conversion from the WebCT learning management system to the Blackboard Learning Management system.
“Crystal was critical to the conversion and ongoing support,” Grijalva said. “She worked many late nights to ensure faculty and staff had access. She also was able to create an automatic account purge process, incorporating the many NMSU business rules. But the best thing about Crystal is her willingness to work with the many different stakeholders to get a problem solved. Her people skills as well as her technical skills earned her the respect of many units who requested her as a technical resource for their projects. Crystal has been involved in countless efforts that help NMSU realize its potential: Banner implementation, Solaris to Linux, Blackboard, Purge and many others. Over the years, Crystal provided guidance, leadership, and innovative thinking, all while being positive and supportive of her coworkers."
Chingder Yeh, lead systems developer, 31.5 years of service
For over the past decade, Yeh has been the primary person responsible for managing all of NMSU's centralized storage. All of NMSU’s Banner data flows through machines and storage networks that Yeh designed and maintained. He has had a hand in every grade, every paycheck and most all other data ICT manages.
“Under his watch, NMSU never lost a single byte of data,” Grijalva said. “Chingder managed to get NMSU through multiple unplanned complete power outages and an accidental triggering of the fire suppression system. Imagine every computer in the datacenter having its power instantly disconnected — then having to power everything back up and still not lose any data. That is not easy or stress-free. He worked with vendors in multiple languages, at all hours of the night, without ever complaining, or even demonstrating much in the way of stress.”
Curtis Ewing, Yeh’s supervisor, said, “I can honestly say that, on several occasions Chingder is directly responsible for keeping NMSU running and bringing NMSU IT back to life. He deserves every ounce of rest he gets during retirement, and we're going to miss him very much.”