The Aug. 3, 1962 edition of the Carlsbad Current-Argus announced that registration for the New Mexico State University Carlsbad branch would open Aug. 12.

The article quoted director of the Carlsbad branch Paul J. Johnson who said those interested could sign up at “west wing of the Mid-High School” and that credits were transferable to four-year colleges, but those interested could complete a two-year full time program to receive an Arts and Sciences certificate.

In the article Johnson goes on to highlight courses in biology, business, accounting and chemistry as well as English, history and mathematics, and urged members of the community to consider participation in night courses offered at the branch.

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On Oct. 2, New Mexico State University (NMSU) Carlsbad celebrates its 70th anniversary by commemorating its long history beginning with its humble start as the Carlsbad Instructional Center, first registering students at what is now P.R. Leyva Middle School in the 1950s and 1960s.

New Mexico State University celebrates its 70th anniversary on Oct. 2. (Photo: New Mexico State University Carlsbad)

“We know that 70 years is a very long period and not all institutions survive such a long time,” said Dr. Andrew Nwanne, Interim president of NMSU Carlsbad.

“We want to embrace not only what we’ve achieved, but what the community has done in support of the college. They have supported us and help make sure we are the envy of education in Carlsbad and Eddy county.”

A virtual celebrations

A virtual celebration is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 2.

The public can join by signing on via Zoom. The link to the meeting can be found on the college’s website at https://carlsbad.nmsu.edu/.

That event will also be shared as a live stream via NMSU Carlsbad’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nmsucarlsbad.

The event will feature a slideshow of historical photos, a timeline of important moments in the community college’s history and videos of former and current students sharing their NMSU Carlsbad memories.

The event will also feature Carlsbad mayor Dale Janway’s proclamation declaring Oct. 2 as New Mexico State University Carlsbad Day.

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From night courses to high education prep, college culture

NMSU Carlsbad moved from the P.R. Leyva Building into what is now the Freshman Academy at Carlsbad High School around 1967.

Samantha Villa, NMSU Carlsbad Library Director said she has spent weeks collecting testimonials and stories from past and present students, faculty and staff as part of the anniversary celebration.

“What people are saying, what I’m hearing most, is the word camaraderie,” Villa said.

Black and white photos of students and staff abound on NMSU Carlsbad’s Facebook page and inside the college library’s archive.

New Mexico State University celebrates its 70th anniversary on Oct. 2. (Photo: New Mexico State University Carlsbad)

Dr. Mark Buckholz, Interim CAO/Provost of the college said it was difficult to pin down a standout moment in the campus’ history, rather its 70s years were better defined by a dedication to its mission.

“I think one of the things to really understand is the mission of the college,” he said. 

“We’ve always been proud to be the college of the Carlsbad community. The college was established by drawing from the energy of the community and serving this community, and allowing opportunities and change to take place. I don’t think that can be stressed too much.” 

We are celebrating NMSU Carlsbad’s 70th Birthday! Have a memory, story, or photo you would like to share with us? Send…

Posted by NMSU Carlsbad on Monday, September 7, 2020

Today, NMSU Carlsbad offers students the opportunity to gain certification or an associate’s degree via a two-year program in various fields. Credits are transferable to aid students interested in continuing their education to earn a bachelor’s degree at the university’s main campus in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“You have a faculty of 40 to 50 people and they’re covering the waterfront and they’re doing it well and they’re doing it year in, year out,” Buckholz said.

NMSU Carlsbad offers programs of study in health, business, digital media, education, manufacturing development, social studies, science and engineering.

Buckholz also praised the campus’ nursing program which since 2018 had a 100 percent licensure pass rate among graduates.

Landmark moments & continual innovation

Nwanne said an innovative partnership with the area’s potash industry helped launch the community campus, but the college’s dedication to fulfill the educational and professional development needs of Carlsbad and Eddy County meant it continued to innovate.

NMSU partnered with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) to provide a leadership academy which has graduated 22 cohorts, Nwanne said.

He pointed to the recent award of the Displaced Workers Grant which provided $50,000 to cover tuition free education for workers, including in-depth training and internships.

Dr. Karla Volpi, Vice President of Business and Finance said the campus’ innovation goes beyond education to creating a culture which changes lives.

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“We have people who go to a four year college who because they’re just a number not a name don’t do well,” she said. “We help them, we heal them, and we get them ready to get back out into the world.

New Mexico State University celebrates its 70th anniversary on Oct. 2. (Photo: New Mexico State University Carlsbad)

“That’s what we’re in the business of doing. We change people’s lives everyday.”

Judith Cox Tindol- HR Operations Unit Coordinator, NMSU Carlsbad’s role in helping implement the Carlsbad Early College High School in 2014 was a perfect example of its willingness to partner with the community to improve educational opportunities.

Her son graduated from the school which provides students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma while also earning an associates degree and dual credits for college.

And the campus’ impact stretches into the economy of Carlsbad and Eddy County, Nwanne said, providing a well trained workforce who fill local job needs, contribute to local economies and act as community leaders and innovators.

He pointed to the nursing program whose graduates often work within the health care system of Eddy County, at local hospitals or other health care industries. 

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Another 70 years

Rebecca Silva, Business Manager, described NMSU Carlsbad as a family.

“We’re diverse because we are from all different cultures, but we’re family,” she said. “That’s what I like about this campus, is that we’re so close we can call each other by name.”

She’s confident it’s one of the strengths that will help carry the community college into another 70 years of excellence.

Though the 2020-2021 educational year was challenged by the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus throughout the state of New Mexico, forcing educational institutions at all levels to go to virtual or hybrid educational models.

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New Mexico State University Carlsbad is a two-year program university located in north Carlsbad. (Photo: DeJanay Booth/Current-Argus)

Juanita Garcia, Vice President of Student Services said that coronavirus and changes inside the New Mexico State University system have forced the campus and its administrators to adapt.

“There are some changes happening at the NMSU system level that affect the Carlsbad system,” she said.

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“Because we are dealing with the unknown we are not really sure where we’re going. But what we do know is that we are going to continue to to serve the Carlsbad community we are going to continue to put in our work and effort and to continue to meet the needs of the community.”

Sky Klaus, Director of Marketing and Publications was once a student at NMSU Carlsbad. She said the digital media program allowed her to explore her options and find a career direction.

“I don’t think I would be where I am without NMSU Carlsbad, ” Klaus said. “It’s something that I want everyone to have the chance to experience.” 

Jessica Onsurez can be reached at [email protected], @JussGREAT on Twitter at by phone at 575-628-5531.

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