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NMSU students, faculty, staff visit India for inspiring Women Economic Forum

Eight New Mexico State University students and four NMSU faculty and staff members traveled to New Delhi, India, at the end of April 2018 for the Women Economic Forum. The WEF is a week-long global conference, “to foster empowering conversations, connections and collaborations among women entrepreneurs and leaders from all spheres of life,” according to its website.


Group of women standing in front of building
New Mexico State University students and staff visited and learned about historical and cultural monuments and spaces in Agra and New Delhi, India, before the Women Economic Forum in April. (Pictured from left to right) Ana Garcia-Escalante, Emily Creegan, Claudia Trueblood, Kendra Wardon, Mary Catey, Vanaja Kankarla, Angelina Palumbo, Kynzi Creighton and Mikayla Allan visited the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. (Courtesy photo by Anita Rodriguez)
Photo collage of presenters
New Mexico State University delegates gave presentations on topics related to their areas of expertise at the Women Economic Forum in New Delhi, India. (Courtesy photo)
Man and boy in colorful outfits outside
A man and his son outside a gift shop in Rajasthan, India, made a great impact on graduate student Anita Rodriguez because of the joy and love they showed her. (Courtesy photo by Anita Rodriguez)

NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Dean Rolando Flores spoke at the conference and said it was a “transformational experience.

“There is a lot to learn from the people of India. They are extremely friendly, and they really value American education,” he said.

All of the NMSU delegates presented at the conference, and many gave up to three different presentations on diverse topics related to their areas of expertise. Flores gave three presentations at the WEF and discussed with leaders about possible student exchanges and linkages with India in the future.

“The goal is that all ACES undergraduates, by the time they graduate, have had an international experience beyond the immediate U.S.-Mexico border proximity,” Flores said.

About 2,000 women from more than 120 countries were at the WEF, making it an inspiring experience for NMSU students.

For NMSU graduate student Mary Catey, this experience fueled a new passion. Through hearing people’s stories about how they have made a positive impact in their communities by meeting others’ needs, Catey realized the importance of serving others.

“It’s easy to sit there and be inspired, but I’m holding myself accountable. I’m going to do something for my community,” she said.

Catey plans on serving the people of Las Cruces. She said it will be good for the community, but also for herself.

“So many people talked about their experiences helping and how it has changed them as a person, and I want to feel that, too,” she said.

NMSU graduate student Anita Rodriguez said this experience was life-changing because of the wonderful people she met.

“It was very empowering to hear many stories from the heart about obstacles in women’s lives and how they overcame them,” she said.

The students and staff had three pre-conference days of cultural awareness experiences and immersion. The group went to visit and learn about historical and cultural monuments and spaces in Agra and New Delhi.

Rodriguez’s favorite moment of the trip was when the group was at a rest area on their way to see the Taj Mahal. There was a father and son outside a gift shop on the side of the interstate. The father was playing an instrument while the son danced. They were dressed in bright colored outfits and looked very happy. Rodriguez reached out to give the boy a tip, but instead of grabbing the money, the boy clasped her wrist and led her to dance along with him.

“When the little boy grasped my wrist, it was as if his joy and love was passed on to me and I felt like it broke down walls that I had built up around my heart. That brief encounter changed me for the better, from that moment on,” Rodriguez said. “The tourist attractions were great, but there’s nothing like the people of India and the amazing women we met at the conference.”

This was NMSU’s first year participating in the conference. The trip was led by Flores, Manoj Shukla, professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Claudia Trueblood, operations officer for the College of ACES, and Angelina Palumbo, director of NMSU Education Abroad and Aggies Go Global.

Trueblood and Palumbo started working with the students in November 2017 and Trueblood will continue to work with them through the fall semester. As a group, they will be making several community presentations about the students’ experiences, what they learned and the importance of international opportunities to encourage other students to travel abroad and open their horizons.

“The College of ACES wants to provide participating students the opportunity to broaden their horizons, to share what they know and are passionate about, learn from others and strengthen their leadership skills,” Palumbo said.

The College of ACES, through its Aggies Go Global program, is beginning to plan the participation of another group of students in the 2019 WEF conference.