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NMSU career track program nationally recognized by USDA magazine

As a first-generation college student at New Mexico State University, Alexa Martinez was lost when it came to picking a major. She started off as an engineering major, but later found her way to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology. Through the department in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Martinez had the opportunity to be in the Southwest Natural Resource Career Track program, where she found her new home.


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Recent New Mexico State University graduate, Alexa Martinez, was in the Natural Resource Career Track Program. The experience she gained helped her get a job as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Courtesy photo)
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New Mexico State University's National Career Track program was recognized by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s publication, Fresh from the Field. The Southwest NRCT met in Albuquerque in February for a conference on workforce diversity. (Courtesy photo)
Group of people standing next to a sign
The Natural Resource Career Track program at New Mexico State University opens up many job opportunities for underrepresented students. Principal investigator for the program, Martha Desmond, third from right, is pictured with some NRCT students and some recent graduates during an on-site hiring event at the annual meeting of the Society of American Foresters in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Courtesy photo)

“They gave me that extra support and that sense of family. I didn’t feel alone,” Martinez said.

She graduated in May 2016 and now works as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Princeton, Oregon. She gives credit to the NRCT for helping her get that job.

The Southwest NRCT is a collaboration among Hispanic Serving Institutions in the southwest United States. It includes NMSU, New Mexico Highlands University, Northern New Mexico College and Sul Ross State University. It is such a successful program that it caught the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s eye.

The impacts made by NMSU’s NRCT program received recognition in the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s publication, Fresh from the Field. Fresh from the Field is a weekly newsletter highlighting impacts made by grantees funded by the NIFA. Their Oct. 12 edition focused on NIFA’s Hispanic Serving Institutions and their research impacts, and it featured NMSU’s NRCT program.

The program helps underrepresented students find internships and hosts trainings and workshops. It also sends students to conferences around the country and helps them get involved in research mentorships, where they get to work with a faculty member or graduate student.

Martha Desmond, principal investigator for the NRCT and Regents professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology, said, “The overall goal is to diversify the workforce. We're looking for students who are serious about their academics and their careers, who are really motivated and want to get the most they can out of their education.”

“It’s really nice to see diversity in this field. I am the only Hispanic female at my workplace,” Martinez said. “I wouldn’t have the position I have now without NRCT. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

This year, the program has 68 students, 32 of them from NMSU. They will be doing their annual recruitment at the end of November.