51 Years Of Fostering Diversity At NMSU

Hispanic Community November 2021 PREMIUM
Written by Judith Flores Carmona and Teresa Maria Linda Scholz New Mexico State University

The New Mexico State University (NMSU) main campus is located in Las Cruces, New Mexico and is approximately 50 miles from the El Paso, Texas-Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico border. NMSU’s geographical location is important because as a Hispanic-Serving/Minority-Serving, land grant institution NMSU is situated in a prime area to recruit, retain and serve Latinx students from the borderlands region. New Mexico is also home to 23 Native American tribes, pueblos and nations giving us great opportunity to recruit Indigenous students and to partner with and serve these communities. While we have a small number of African American/Black students, a notable alumni, Clara Belle Williams, was the first African American to graduate from the New Mexico College, now NMSU. NMSU’s overall Hispanic/Latinx undergraduate student population is 67%, and overall underrepresented Student of Color population is 70%. Although student enrollment places NMSU as a premier HSI/MSI, it is the students’ testimonios and cultural wealth that encourages the institution to continue to innovate to ensure social mobility and student success.

A legacy of support for Chicanx/Latinx students and other students of color

In 1989, NMSU was officially designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). At that time, at least 25 percent of undergraduate full-time students were identified as “Hispanic.” Chicano Programs was established 51 years ago. Chicano Programs, American Indian Program and Black Programs were established simultaneously. These offices were created as the immediate result of student protests and leaders being concerned with the lack of BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) faculty and administrators at NMSU. At that time, there were only two or three faculty members of “Hispanic” descent. The students expressed the need for Latinx/Hispanic/Chicanx, Black and Native American faculty and administrators who understood their lived experiences and issues faced by their communities. The NMSU administration responded by establishing these offices as part of student support services, not as academic units. With a strong student-centered focus, these offices provide educational programming to students, as well as staff and faculty.

New opportunities to strengthen equity, inclusion and diversity

With the Diversity Programs having a 50-plus year history on our campus and given the Yazzie/Martinez versus the State of New Mexico 2018 ruling that mandates culturally responsive teaching and learning for K-12, faculty experts in borderlands and ethnic studies research and curriculum are in the midst of petitioning for the creation of a Borderlands and Ethnic Studies (BEST) Department at NMSU. The ruling calls on the New Mexico Public Education Department to offer curriculum and equitable support to underserved and minoritized students. A 2017 Resolution in the Las Cruces Public Schools (serving over 25,000 students, of whom 75% are Students of Color) states that an Ethnic Studies curriculum will be implemented in grades K-12. Having the BEST Department at NMSU would allow us to respond to these local, statewide, or national needs for critical-thinking, culturally-sustaining curriculum and pedagogy--especially since the state is over 65% People of Color, with many communities and counties being over 95% Chicanx, Mexicanx, and/or Native American/Indigenous.

With the hiring of the inaugural Vice President for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, now more than ever, the Diversity Programs at NMSU are positioned to continue collaborating across units with Student Support/Success Services and with Academic Affairs. Following a national search, Dr. Teresa Maria Linda Scholz was selected as NMSU’s VP of EID. This is the first EID position that has been hired at the Vice President level, reporting directly to the President. Dr. Scholz started in her role on August 2, 2021. With the Diversity Programs as part of her purview, staff and students in these units, specifically those in Chicano Programs are working on rebranding our office. To be more inclusive, Hispanic Council, a group of “Hispanic” student organizations, has decided to rename/rebrand the office of Chicano Programs to honor, recognize and support the vast diversity that Latinx peoples represent and embody at NMSU and beyond. ​​

The diversity program offices, with Dr. Scholz's guidance, are also collaborating more intentionally and purposefully. This intentionality is reflected in their collaborative programming (along with LGBT+ Programs), which reaches both campus communities as well as local Las Cruces communities. The collaborative programming fosters understanding of the intersecting issues that BIPoC students experience, thus creating activities and curricula as tangible intersectional praxis. Here we are reminded of a powerful quote from Audre Lorde’s poem There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions (1983) because we believe that during these trying times we must work together for the betterment of all our peoples and our communities: “I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you” (n.p).

Indeed, there is no hierarchy of oppressions when it is about equity, inclusion, and diversity work. While we face challenges, we are also granted opportunities to strengthen our collaborative efforts to better serve students at NMSU, mind, body, and spirit.

Although Vice President​ Scholz is still relatively new to the NMSU system (including sister community colleges), she is impressed with the level of interest and commitment that has been expressed by the systemwide community in advancing the HSI/MSI mission. This mission centers equity-minded and inclusive practices and supports and responds with understanding to the lived experiences and assets that historically underrepresented communities bring to the NMSU system and to the state of New Mexico. Dr. Scholz and the team of Diversity Program directors will work with all NMSU partners on co-creating the Strategic Diversity Plan, which is part of NMSU’s Strategic Plan, Leads 2025. The development of initiatives is best co-created with system constituents. As such, some priorities that have already been identified include increasing representation of faculty and staff, which will involve analyzing and amending current search processes. Strongly interconnected with recruitment is retention or identifying support mechanisms to ensure the success of BIPoC students, faculty and staff, which can mitigate attrition rates, increase graduation rates, and contribute to research and teaching innovation. In short, while NMSU has much continued work ahead, this is an exciting time with ample opportunities that exemplify what an HSI/MSI is and can be.


Lorde, A. (1983). There is no hierarchy of oppressions. Bulletin: Homophobia and Education. Council on Interracial Books for Children.

About the authors:

Dr. Judith Flores Carmona is Associate Professor and Interim Director of Chicano Programs at New Mexico State University. She was born in Veracruz, Mexico, raised in Los Angeles and is a first-generation student and scholar. Her academic and community work is guided by a sense of responsibility and commitment to social justice.

Dr. Teresa Maria “Linda” Scholz is Vice President for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at NMSU. She was raised in Guatemala and the United States and is a first-generation college student. As a scholar-practitioner at an HSI/MSI, she calls on us to challenge, prevent, and resist all forms of oppression.

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