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Lois Stanford (left), associate professor of anthropology at NMSU, is the recipient of the 2016 Community Engagement Faculty Award. Stanford serves communities of southern New Mexico as president of the board of directors for La Semilla Food Center. She is pictured here with La Semilla staff member Rebecca Munoz (middle) and Olga Pedroza, a Las Cruces council representative and La Semilla board member. (Submitted photo) JAN16

NMSU’s Partnership with La Semilla Project Earns National Recognition

New Mexico State University is again being nationally recognized for its institutional commitment to community engagement. The university is one of five schools that were designated “exemplary awardees” by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities during its selection process for the 2016 C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

The award, established in partnership with the Engagement Scholarship Consortium and with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, recognizes programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery and engagement missions to become even more involved with their communities.

Earlier this year, NMSU’s Lois Stanford, an associate professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, was the recipient of the university’s first Community Engagement Faculty Award for her work with La Semilla Food Center, a non-profit organization founded by some of her former students.

01/19/2016: NMSU president Garrey Carruthers, left, presents Lois Stanford with a Faculty Community Engagement Award. (NMSU Photo)
01/19/2016: NMSU president Garrey Carruthers, left, presents Lois Stanford with a Faculty Community Engagement Award. (NMSU Photo)

As the Community Engagement Faculty Award winner, Stanford was chosen to represent NMSU as a candidate for the 2016 C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

La Semilla was established in 2010 with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Over six years, La Semilla has taught hundreds of elementary and middle school students how to grow and cook fresh food while establishing a 14-acre education and demonstration farm in Anthony, New Mexico. La Semilla also works with youth and families to create community gardens, construct greenhouses and launch educational projects and community food assessments in the El Paso del Norte region.

Stanford serves the area as president of the board of directors for La Semilla Food Center. She provides lectures, teaches in some of the youth programs, helps write grant proposals and assists the center in its efforts to work with different community organizations. The partnership between NMSU and La Semilla also involves graduate and undergraduate research projects and employment placement for anthropology graduates.

In partnership with NMSU’s College of Agriculture, Stanford is also investigating the conservation and revival of traditional Navajo gardening along the San Juan River, and has begun a collaborative project with Albuquerque’s Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute’s culinary program.

Finalists for the Magrath Award are East Carolina University, Pennsylvania State University, Portland State University and Purdue University. A winner will be announced in November.

This year’s award also includes an inaugural class of five “exemplary awardees” – including New Mexico State – that were named in recognition of their outstanding efforts. Those institutions, which also include Cornell University; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of Missouri Extension; and University of Nebraska at Omaha — will be recognized at the Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Annual Conference.

“It is an honor for both La Semilla Food Center and New Mexico State University to receive this recognition from the APLU,” Stanford said. “For NMSU, as a Hispanic-serving, land-grant institution, this credit reflects growing efforts to support sustainable agriculture and build collaborative partnerships in minority communities. For me, personally, it is always a pleasure to participate in these efforts and use my position as a cultural anthropologist to build collaborative partnerships between NMSU and local residents through community engagement projects.”

La Semilla was founded by NMSU alumni Aaron Sharratt and Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard, as well as Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, former coordinator of NMSU’s Frontier Interdisciplinary Experiences program. It was an outgrowth of the trio’s efforts with the Colonias Development Council, where they worked with youth and their families in Vado, Anthony and Chaparral, New Mexico, to build community gardens, construct greenhouses and create youth development and educational projects.

“For La Semilla,” Stanford said, “this recognition serves to acknowledge the important contribution that this non-profit organization and its staff make to the local community and region through concerted efforts to promote local foodsheds, improve youth education for healthy lifeways, and develop regional food policy that supports local food production.”

NMSU Vice President for Economic Development Kevin Boberg, who co-chairs NMSU’s Community Engagement Council along with Cooperative Extension Service Director Jon Boren, said the partnership truly exemplifies community engagement, because it’s a collaboration between an institution of higher education and the communities that it serves, creating an exchange of knowledge and resources that benefits everyone.

“This is what we are about as a land-grant institution,” Boberg said. “This collaboration crosses from students to faculty and back again – likewise between community and campus. Together, they provide the ingredients for sustainability in our region.”

In 2015, NMSU was designated an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the APLU and its Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity. The designation acknowledges universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.

NMSU also received a 2015 Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. NMSU is one of 361 colleges and universities nationwide – and the only one in New Mexico – to carry the Community Engagement Classification, which recognizes institutional commitment to programs and partnerships with community impact.

For more about NMSU’s commitment to community engagement, visit http://engagement.nmsu.edu

Author: Amanda Bradford – NMSU

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