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College of ACES Dean Rolando A. Flores, center, has conducted listening sessions with ag science center advisory boards across the state, seeking feedback on how they can become more self-sufficient. (Jane Moorman – NMSU)

Public concern regarding New Mexico State University potentially closing two agricultural science centers has stimulated the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) to conduct a self-evaluation of the 12 centers around the state.

“At this time we are not closing any centers; that would be the last recourse, but it is on the table,” said College of ACES Dean Rolando A. Flores. “In a time of low budgets, we need to rationalize and properly manage our resources.”

During visits with the advisory boards at each agricultural science center, Flores explained the evaluation process the college has begun.

“We have formed a committee to determine ways we can operate the research centers more efficiently as a whole, while reaching our goal of providing applied science that the agricultural producers may use in their operations to position themselves for success,” Flores said.

The committee includes individuals from the private industry, some agricultural science center superintendents, college department heads and faculty members.

“Our agricultural science centers need to be as self-sufficient as possible; research is not free,” Flores said. “It is critical that faculty members submit grant proposals, and they are doing it. However, at the national level, funding sources have decreased while the amount of people applying for funding has increased.”

The alternative for the College of ACES is to do as other universities have done – turn to the private sector for partnerships.

“We need to start looking at different approaches as to how we fund research,” he said. “We need more involvement with private industry participating in research, sponsoring research.”

Under Flores’ leadership the entire college is conducting an extensive self-evaluation to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each department and program, including the Cooperative Extension Service within each county and the 12 agricultural science centers around the state.

“As with any organization involving 700 employees, we are finding issues and we are working to solve them,” Flores said. “As an engine for the economic and community development of New Mexico, we are committed to use efficient systems with considerable positive impact in the state.”