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Students delve into agricultural topics, majors, careers

Tiffany Acosta, NMSU nmsu-academy-students.jpg
Nathaniel Moreno, left, TRIO Upward Bound student assistant at New Mexico State University, watches Gadsden High School senior Natalie Fraire conduct a food science lesson during the Aggie Academy Mini College.
Summer academy introduces New Mexico students to food science and technology.

From entomology to food science and several subjects in between, Aggie Academy Mini College participants spent two weeks discovering various agricultural-related majors and careers at New Mexico State University.

Aggie Academy participants from the TRIO Upward Bound Gadsden Independent School District/Las Cruces Public Schools Program also attended sessions on horticulture; hotel, restaurant and tourism management; and life skills.

 “I want each participant to be a well-educated, well-rounded person who is interested and knowledgeable in many areas,” said Rosa De La Torre-Burmeister, TRIO Upward Bound GISD/LCPS program director. “This summer’s collaboration combined with years past has ensured that all my TRIO Upward Bound participants see the world through a different lens.”

During a week of food science lessons, Aggie Academy participants toured local food processing facilities and conducted hands-on activities such as gluten extraction and making cheese.

“The activities and lessons presented were an introduction to food science and technology. Playing with food is fun and encompasses use of all STEM fields: biology, chemistry and engineering,” said Nancy Flores, Extension Food Technology specialist.

“Food science is a field of study not usually considered as a STEM field,” Flores said. “However, the food  industry is in high demand for well-educated employees and offers long-term careers. Even if you are an accountant, engineer, nurse, etc., there is a job in the food industry. The TRIO high school students were disciplined and serious about their participation in the summer program. It was fun and enjoyable to work with them.”

For entomology day, Aggie Academy participants took a walking tour of campus, practiced using various nets and traps to catch insects, made an insect collection and held live arthropods that are part of the Insect Zoo at the NMSU Arthropod Museum. 

“Most Aggie Academy students were not aware of entomology as a career beforehand, and we talked about all the different types of settings and careers entomologists can have,” said Kristen Bowers, Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Weed Science postdoctoral researcher. “Students learned about careers in urban entomology, economic entomology, taxonomy and museum collections, pollinator ecology and biological control.

“Entomology at NMSU is composed of a vibrant group of students and researchers, and I think our enthusiasm for insects really engaged the students,” Bowers said. “I hope the Aggie Academy students have a better appreciation for the diversity of insects around them and that they take at least one entomology class in college.”

The lessons also covered life skills with Beatriz G. Favela, Doña Ana County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent.

“My hope is that students learned skills to be better equipped to handle challenges,” Favela said. “I hope they realize that the life skills topics covered will provide them with new ways of thinking, problem solving and managing time but most importantly that attitudes can really impact us both positively or negatively. I hope they remember at least one thing that can help build their confidence in their education and life.”

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