Writer: Angela Simental, (575) 646-6861, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abdel Mesbah sits across his desk ¬from a visitor. "I think I'm supposed to be managing the science center," he said jokingly. He separates loose papers on his desk and organizes them into folders, while e-mails and reminders pop up on his computer screen. Mesbah, who became the new superintendent at New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Clovis in May, is spending his first day on the job catching up with administrative duties and learning the ins and outs of the center.
Throughout his professional and academic careers, Mesbah learned that growth could only be achieved through collaboration and communication. That's what he plans to implement at the science center in Clovis.
"I know that wherever I go there are people who think differently than I do, and I know that the way to solve differences is to sit down and talk," he said. "It is important to address questions and concerns in a manner that solves problems. We are all part of this station - if the station is doing well, that means we are all doing our jobs. Even if one person is not doing his or her job, it reflects on all of us."
The Morocco native came from Wyoming, where he managed a science center similar to the one in Clovis. Although the climate in New Mexico, he said, is not that different from certain parts of Morocco, the heat did startle him after living 20 years in Wyoming.
"It is my first time in New Mexico," Mesbah said. "It's a little bit hot, but my wife and kids like it. And, if they are happy, I will be happy for sure!"
He walks through the mazes of offices, and he already knows everyone by first and last name.
"So far it looks good because we have a good team. We have a farm manager, technicians, laborers and an office associate. I feel that they have a good relationship with each other, and that is very important to the environment and progress of the center," he added.
He opens the back door that leads to a storage house and runs his gaze through a green house, a trailer home for graduate students and a myriad of storage units.
"I would like to fix the green house," he said pointing to the back of the building. "We need to upgrade the look of the entire station."
He said "cleaning up" will help attract ranchers, producers and the Clovis community as well as more graduate students wanting to do research.
On his way to a storage unit, he stops to pick up trash and inspects the surrounding area for misplaced items.
Even though the appearance of the station is one of his priorities, it is not number one.
"I would like to answer the questions of our growers first. They are our clients and we need to take care of them first," he said. "I want them to know that we are a resource for them."
When he arrives at the safflower research field, surrounded by bright yellow flowers, he takes one in his hand and explains that growers in the region have significant problems with soil erosion, drought and weed management.
"If you lose your soil, you lose everything," he said. "This is a major problem and needs to be taken care of first. We need to find the best cover crop for this."
As a weed management expert, he wants to research the types of weeds that affect the area and find out the best way to deal with them. He explained that some weeds can survive in the soil, depending on the species, for as long as 10 years, and that affects growers in many ways.
"Weeds compete with the crops for water, which we really need. Weeds also compete for fertilizer, which is really expensive, and for light," he added.
As far as drought, he said, "We need rain, but that one I'm sure I won't have any control over."
Mesbah plans to have several outreach events at the center. The scientific and academic communities, growers, producers and ranchers had a chance to meet the new superintendent at the science center's annual field day Aug. 7.
"This is the first event I host as the new superintendent, and I'm really looking forward to meeting people from our community. I want them to know our doors are open," he said.
Most of the presentations at the field day were based on research conducted before Mesbah became in charge of the center. Although he will not be able to begin research of his own for another year, he wants to begin with the areas that will have the most impact on existing problems, even those that could be outside his expertise.
"Since I am still new I would like to have a meeting with the advisory board members, and hopefully they can give me some ideas. I also want to meet with the growers here and listen to what they need."
Sharing research is part of his strategy to establish an open communication with the Clovis community, academia and industry. This includes participating in regional, national and international events.
As part of his goals, Mesbah also plans to start a master gardener program in Clovis and host community workshops, tours of the facility and collaborate with other science centers and experts from NMSU and other universities.
"Hopefully by doing this, we will be able to represent the science center and NMSU," he said.
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