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NMSU to break ground on new learning facility in Corona

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CORONA, N.M. – New Mexico State University will soon break ground on a facility in Corona that, when completed, will provide a richer learning environment for students through distance education, field trips and support for graduate research projects.

The first phase of the Southwest Center for Rangeland Sustainability, located on the Corona Range and Livestock Research Center, is expected to be completed in May 2011.

“The long-term vision for the new facility is to attract prominent researchers, improve student success, enhance onsite ungulate hunting programs, and lead the way in rangeland research in the United States,” said Mark Gladden, director of development for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

When completed, the $1.5 million state-funded first phase will consist of indoor and outdoor multi-use meeting/exhibit areas; library/meeting room for outreach activities and student use; offices for the Corona research center, visiting faculty, staff and students; and a kitchen/meal preparation facility. Because the new facility is centrally located in New Mexico, it has garnered support from many statewide organizations, legislators and local governments, as well as the executive branches of the State of New Mexico. The new facility will facilitate centralized meetings for statewide interests, as well as host exciting new outreach activities in a secluded, picturesque, rangeland setting.

“The new facility will offer a structured and convenient environment dedicated to education and outreach,” said Shad Cox, ranch manager for the Corona center. “A dedicated, all-weather forum will allow more flexibility in scheduling with the opportunity to address issues in a more timely manner. We are already planning for increased outreach activities and events at the new center.”

Students will truly get hands-on experience as they will be able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it right outside the front doors of the facility. And, with computer technology that brings students and researchers information in real time, they will be able to do such things as monitor livestock on the ranch through an electronic collar that is relayed to nodes placed around the ranch and then sent to the sustainability center.

Cox said that with distance education, students at the ranch will be able to take courses without having to drive three hours to the main campus.

People at the rural facility will be able to interact with anyone in the world with the technology available. Whatever the needs of the students are, workshops or classes will be assembled to meet them.

The center will be located one and one quarter miles northeast of the ranch headquarters and will offer students a view of the Gallinas Mountains from where the facility sits. This first phase includes 3,450 square feet of enclosed space with an additional 2,800 square feet of covered porch area.

The project was initiated by CRLRC Advisory Committee members, who spearheaded the legislative action, which resulted in $500,000 in appropriation, said Tim Ross, interim department head of the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. In 2008, NMSU set the center as a legislative priority and worked with the CRLRC Advisory Committee to acquire an additional $1 million for the facility.

“The advisory committee recognized a need for a facility centralized in New Mexico to meet the needs of ranchers in the state, but also to address the needs of people moving into rural areas who may not be engaged in traditional ranching activities,” Ross said.

Because of this, the center will have a strong role in rural development. Ross said they hoped to investigate quality of life issues, such as alternative and renewable energy, and water quality systems that are applicable and affordable at a ranch or homestead. The center will also help educate people in rural New Mexico in the areas of rangeland, livestock and wildlife management, with the potential to study alternative energy topics, from solar pumps to big wind.

“The first phase of this vision is being accomplished through the dedication of the State of New Mexico and a handful of invigorated NMSU alumni,” Gladden said. “Additional support is critically needed to furnish the facility and to complete phase two, which involves the construction of overnight accommodation pods for faculty, researchers, students and guests.”