Psychology Major Grows By Leaving Her Comfort Zone

Psychology major Jazmin Castillo applied for a summer research experience thinking it would boost her application to graduate school. “Plus, it was a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone,” said the Silver City native. As part of the BUILDing Scholars program in El Paso, she researched addiction psychology in animal models, focusing on how dietary intake impacts drug sensitivity. “We focused on a diet similar to the ketogenic diet,” she said. “On experiment days, we administered morphine in 15-minute increments. Then we’d put the rats’ tails in warm water and see how long they’d leave their tail in the water.” It was her responsibility to feed the rats daily, weighing them and their food to see how much they consumed. “I didn’t want to work with animal models but I met with my mentor and she said it could be a good experience for me,” she said. “I’d didn’t expect to pick it up so quickly.” At the closing symposium, she presented...

WNMU Student Presenting at National Diversity in STEM Conference

One of the first Western New Mexico University students ever accepted into the selective Undergraduate Pipeline Network paid summer internship, Devon Hatcher studied traumatic brain injuries in mouse models at UNM between the spring and fall semesters. The senior cell/molecular biology major’s research was awarded as the top project of the summer. As a result, Hachter was invited to present at the National Diversity in STEM Conference in Puerto Rico this month. They also won a full travel scholarship to attend. Mentored by Dr. Jennifer Johnston in the WNMU psychology program and Dr. Tres Camacho in the WNMU cell/molecular biology program, Hatcher wants to pursue biomedical research in neuroscience. “I’ve always liked psychology and biology and I’ve tried to find a way that would create a degree plan that would allow me to do both and look at psychology from a biological perspective,” they said. So when Dr. Camacho mentioned to Hatcher the research opportunity in...

WNMU is a Child Care and Teacher Prep Program Influencer Statewide

By Dr. Cindy Martinez, Associate Dean in WNMU College of Education, Associate Professor of Early Childhood In 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham advocated for and the NM Legislature designated four Centers of Excellence at New Mexico higher education institutions. The Centers of Excellence would be charged with collaborating across public and private entities to innovate in job creation, business development and advancement of the field. Then, the COVID 19 pandemic hit and there were no more designations, until now. In 2022, the New Mexico Legislature designated a new Center of Excellence for the state at Western New Mexico University focusing on early childhood. Unlike other self-designated early childhood centers, the WNMU Center of Excellence in Early Childhood has received this legislative designation for having developed a full-service center that has been providing early childhood and family services for decades. With the embedded Family Counseling Center, the WNMU...

Hantavirus Research Expands Pre-Med Student’s Skills

WNMU cell and molecular biology major Vera Layton is minoring in chemistry and aiming for medical school. The senior from Tucson, Arizona, said she wants to become a doctor to help people, even though that sounds—in her mind—cliché. “I’m good with people interactions and good with medicine.” She spent June and July studying hantaviruses. The Undergraduate Pipeline Network summer research experience, essentially a paid internship in STEM, confirmed that Layton would rather be face-to-face with a patient than alone in a laboratory. “We were looking at molecular pathways for hantavirus. We know what it causes but not why it causes it,” Layton said. “Hantaviruses aren’t very well known. There’s no treatment. We’re trying to find ways to reduce hospitalization.” Working with one strain, Layton worked to extract all the components of the virus. “The only one I was able to successfully extract was the nucleocapsid. I was able to extract and synthesize...

WNMU Staff Member Selected for International Educator Fellowship

Western New Mexico University is pleased to announce that NAFSA Association of International Educators has selected WNMU International Program Coordinator Brenda Díaz-Nuñez as one of 10 international education professionals across the United States to receive the prestigious NAFSA RISE Fellowship starting in 2023. NAFSA’s flagship diversity, equity and inclusion program, the NAFSA RISE Fellowship is designed as a two-year, fully funded professional development opportunity for international educators from underrepresented minority backgrounds. During their first year, fellows will participate in the prestigious NAFSA Academy for International Education, where they will be mentored through an individualized learning plan. During their second year, fellows will apply their learning to impact their respective campus or community. “NAFSA believes that diversity in our classrooms, our communities, and our workplaces is our strength,” said Esther Brimmer, NAFSA executive...

WNMU “Catapulted” Aspiring Social Worker to Grad School

WNMU alumnus Samuel Davenport is the only WNMU student, maybe the only person ever, to be awarded three BUILDing Scholar summer internships in a row. This most recent go-around, he evaluated the effectiveness of mobile health fairs for people who are homeless and created templates to share with other cities to assist homeless populations. This fall, he started a master’s degree in social work with a full scholarship. Davenport said the BUILDing Scholars program provided experiential learning through engagement with research. Students benefit from working with professionals who are most intimate with their fields. “My BUILDing Scholars mentor was a professor in social work. She’d engaged in different ways to advocate for underserved populations, focusing on individuals experiencing homelessness," he said. “My mentor helped me understand better what advocacy is all about and the role of a social worker to ensure a positive difference in the communities.” And it was his...

Board of Regents Extends President’s Contract by Four Years

In an unanimous decision Thursday morning, the Western New Mexico University Board of Regents extended the university president’s contract by four years, citing Dr. Joseph Shepard’s seniority among other New Mexico university presidents and his leadership statewide as valuable. With Regent Chair Dr. Mary Hotvedt, Vice Chair Janice Baca Argabright and Secretary/Treasurer Dr. Lyndon Haviland present but member Dr. Daniel H. Lopez absent from the meeting, which was conducted virtually, the board praised Dr. Joseph Shepard’s efforts to improve the university’s relationship with the town and expand programs since he was hired as WNMU President in 2011. Dr. Haviland advised she and Dr. Lopez had been tasked with developing the new contract by reviewing background information; which included comprehensive compensation and salary data of all other current and potential presidents of other universities in New Mexico, including the president’s current compensation and his...

WNMU Senior Eyes Ph.D./M.D. After Undergraduate Research Experiences

The highlight of Brenda Prieto’s summer was seeing a mouse get dissected and performing a dissection of her own. “This summer, I researched a tuberous sclerosis complex disease. It’s an autosomal disease that causes cysts in kidneys which can cause kidney failure. We looked at ways to stop it and pathways it could attack,” she said. Through the Undergraduate Pipeline Network paid summer research experience at UNM, Prieto—a WNMU senior double majoring in cell/molecular biology and chemistry—studied the kidneys of mice. “What I focused on was focused on extracellular vesicles derived from the cystic kidneys. We did electron microscopy to see the vessels and make sure they were purified correctly. At the end, we were able to see the effect on cell growth.” The experiment wasn’t her first. I addition to her coursework at WNMU, she has spent the past three summers conducting research. Now, she’s dreaming up a hands-in senior project in the...