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Commencement Remarks: Spring 2014

2014 Spring Commencement

Remarks by President Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo

May 17, 2014

On behalf of the Board of Regents, the faculty and Staff of Northern New Mexico College, I would like to welcome all of you to our 2014 Spring Commencement! A special welcome and thank you goes to Representative Salazar who we will award an honorary degree to in a few moments and our Keynote speaker, Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez.

Today is about celebrating our students, and we extend our warm and enthusiastic congratulations to the Class of 2014 who have completed the requirements for their degrees and certificates. Each of you graduates should take great pride for accomplishing this important academic milestone in your life.

I want to thank everyone for the love and support you have provided our graduates in order for them to realize their academic achievements. Your ongoing presence as family, friends, mentors, speaks to your commitment and belief in the student you are honoring today.

Also, a special thank you goes out to the faculty and staff that provided the teaching, advising and daily support to insure the success of our students.

As I thought about what I might share this morning, I realized that I have something in common with our graduates today. In some ways, I feel I am graduating with you, because this marks my forth commencement ceremony at Northern. As I reflect on the last four years, I have seen many changes at Northern that brought us both opportunities and challenges. I know none of us here today took an easy path to get here. In addition to working hard, many of you have made personal sacrifices to participate in this moment.

In fact, I am reminded of three students in particular who have made such sacrifices and overcome challenges all to be able to walk across this stage today.

Jerry Griego has been a part of the Northern community since 2001. Not only is Jerry an accomplished student, but he has been an important member of the College’s facilities staff since 2004. You know, he even worked all week to set up for today’s ceremony. I often asked Jerry how he was able to manage a full-time job and still go to school…his response, a simple smile. In fact, I have never heard Jerry complain about anything. He just seems to do his work in spite of any barrier from increased tuition to working overtime and still having to do homework. Jerry was born and raised in Dixon, NM in a farming family. Despite having work to do on the farm, Jerry said his father made sure his homework was done every morning before school, no matter what.

Although he struggled to raise his son and daughter as a single parent he shared with me that they are the source of his motivation and he makes sure they understood the importance of education.  Today, Jerry’s children and his father are here to watch him accept his Associate’s degree in General Studies after thirteen years of school.

Jerry admits that going to college has not been easy and when math became difficult, he spent extra hours going to tutoring and meeting with his teachers in order to succeed.  All in all, he believes that Northern is opportunity that no one should pass up.

Crystal Roybal graduated with honors last year with her Associate’s degree and is now receiving her Bachelor’s in Integrated studies, again with Honors. Crystal is a single Hispanic mother of four children who has struggled with poverty and family hardships. Crystal decided that she didn’t want to become another statistic and decided to pursue her education. She has been inspired by her counselor Anna Gutierrez who she says has encouraged her to strive for her goals. Her experience at Northern has changed the life of her and her family for the better, and she hopes to pass on the story of her journey to others.

Speaking of journeys, I want to tell you about Suzanne Eliot who is graduating with her degree in Business. I used to see her walking all over town. I learned that she was a Northern student who walked to classes daily from as far away as the Theatre district, and it amazed me that she was walking in all kinds of weather to pursue an education. One day, I bumped into her at the College selling the SUN and learned that everyone called her the "SUN lady" Northern was her beat. At the recent CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) recognition dinner I learned that before coming to school, Suzanne worked on a farm and in fact began her studies through the Summer Bridge Program in 2011. In the last two years, she had two surgeries for cataracts and told me she had been seeing the world through blurry eyes and now she could see everyone clearly. What has struck me most about Suzanne is her courage and tenacity. She raised a son as a single mom but I never hear her talk about this from a point of despair but with pride. She represents the journey of many of our students who overcome adversity to achieve their goals without complaint. I would call her a role model. She really is a Sun Lady, brightening the halls with her presence each week.

Clearly, each of you has your own story about your educational journey at Northern that brings you to this ceremony, and stories that will become an important foundation for your futures. My hope is that as graduates you will continue to share your stories with us as you pursue your journeys through life. Most importantly, your stories are important for future students to know that they too can accomplish what you have done.

Since Northern has a mission of serving Native American and Hispano students, I am pleased to say that 12 percent of the graduating class of 2014 comes from the American Indian Community. Northern is still unique in that we provide opportunities to educate people from these communities right where they are and to educate others about the unique cultures that intersect our valley. A diverse group of international students, members of the local Sikh community, and students from all over our state and nation walk together today in achievement, something I know we can all be proud of.

I am also proud to announce that today we will honor our first cohort of students to receive their Masters degree in Educational Leadership though a partnership with New Mexico State University. These eight candidates will go on to serve the educational needs of northern New Mexico as credentialed educational administrators. Since its establishment, Northern has been an institution dedicated to preparing teachers and am pleased we have established the partnerships necessary to offer graduate programs to students in region.

There is much to say about all of our graduates but I will end by thanking you for all you did as students to make Northern a better place for those who follow you.

I wish each of you well and I hope that your experiences here will be warm thoughts in the years ahead as mine have been for me.

Thank you all for joining us in this very special celebration that allows us to come together in all our diversity to honor and recognize the class of 2014.

Also, I invite everyone to join us following the ceremony for a reception right outside the gym.

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez

I am honored to introduce our keynote speaker, Dr. Estevan Rael- Galvez who I first met when he was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. I remember telling colleagues throughout the Midwest that he was someone who was going to make a difference in the world, and he has. It is an honor for me to call him a colleague and dear friend. In fact, it has been rewarding and exciting to follow his career path since earning his doctorate degree from the University of Michigan. As a native New Mexican from Taos County, Estevan has done much to make the state proud.

With ancestral connections to both Hispano and indigenous communities, Dr. Rael-Galvez was raised working on a farm and ranch stewarded by his family for over seven generations. This upbringing profoundly shaped his work ethic, core values, an understanding and curiosity of the delicacy and strength of the human condition and unwavering belief in the transformative power of memory, knowledge and will.

Currently, Dr. Rael-Galvez is the Senior Vice President for Historic Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, responsible for leading the strategic direction across the portfolio of National Trust Historic Sites/museums. Serving as a key member of the National Trust's Executive Management Team, he holds responsibility over 759 historic sites located across the nation. In his position as Senior Vice President, Dr. Rael-Galvez also serves as an ex-officio member of all Historic Sites/museums councils and boards in the country.

Prior to the National Trust, Dr. Rael-Galvez served as Executive Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, the largest Latino/a cultural center in the United States. He also served nearly a decade as the State Historian of New Mexico, the leading advocate and authority on New Mexico history. During his tenure, he established several initiatives, including the Office of the State Historian's Scholars' Program; the Internship Program; and the New Mexico Digital History Project, which received the National Council on Public History's Best in the Nation award.

Throughout his career, Dr. Rael-Galvez has served on numerous commissions, boards, and legislative committees, most currently as a trustee for both the Santa Fe University of Arts and Design and the Santa Fe Art Institute.

Dr. Rael-Galvez is also the recipient of numerous fellowships, including the Ford Foundation, the School of American Research, the University of Michigan, the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Most importantly, Estevan is a giving, caring and humble human being who still has much to share and give to our state and nation.

Please extend a warm Northern New Mexico welcome to Dr. Rael-Galvez…


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Northern offers over 50 bachelor's, associate and certificate programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math); Nursing and Health Sciences; Liberal Arts and Humanities; Arts, Film & Media; Business Administration; Teacher Education and Technical Trades.
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