Commencement 2006

Commencement 2006

by Kathy Hedges

Fidel Center

Right: Fidel Center

SOCORRO, N.M., May 13, 2006 – New Mexico Tech held commencement ceremonies today for a record-setting 309 graduates, followed by a dedication of the new Joseph A. Fidel Center. The state-supported research university granted 186 bachelor’s degrees, 104 master’s, and 19 Ph.D.’s.

Congratulations to December 2005 graduates and May 2006 graduates.


Left: The ribbon is officially cut by an explosive.

In addition, the university granted an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Sen. Ben D. Altamirano and paid recognition to Sen. Joseph A. Fidel, after whom the new student center is named. Fidel Center was officially dedicated with a ribbon-cutting accomplished with a small explosive rather than low-tech scissors.

Tara Mayeau

Tara Mayeau

The top student award to an undergraduate, the Brown Award, went to Tara Mayeau, who earned a bachelor’s degree in geophysics with highest honors. Mayeau has compiled a catalog of Socorro and New Mexico earthquakes which is leading to a better understanding of the Rio Grande Rift and the magma body that underlies Socorro. Mayeau is headed to Yale University for graduate work.

Mayeau is a 2002 graduate of Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash.

Mayeau was highly involved in the organization and analysis of micro-earthquake data from the Socorro and General New Mexico Regions. Her works allows scientists to quickly access and analyze data through a highly organized database.

“Her work is a crucial component for spurring new research and understanding of earthquake activity, especially ongoing work to further understand the dynamics of the inflating Socorro Magma Body underlying the central Rio Grande rift,” says Harold Tobin, an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

In addition to her work on-campus, Mayeau also worked as an intern for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), a university research consortium dedicated to exploring the Earth's interior through the collection of seismic data, at Washington University in St. Louis. During her internship, she performed cutting-edge research in imaging the core-mantle boundary and presented her work at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) fall meeting in 2005.

In her spare time, Mayeau enjoyed playing viola for the New Mexico Tech Orchestra in numerous musicals and concerts.

George Schmaltz

George Schmaltz

The top award to a graduate student, the Founder’s Award, was presented to George Schmaltz, who also received a master’s in engineering management degree. Schmaltz was known to everyone as a person who volunteers for everything. He has been active in the Graduate Student Association, Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society), and the Newman Association of Catholic College Students.

Schmaltz, son of John and Patti Schmaltz of Gallup, is an alumnus of Gallup High School. In 2004, he received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering with a minor in mathematics as well as a bachelor of science degree in computer science from New Mexico Tech. He stayed on at Tech to earn his master’s degree in engineering management in May of this year.

Schmaltz was an extremely active member of the New Mexico Tech student body. He was a member of the High-Tech Ambassador Program; the New Mexico Tech Club and Club Macey Planning Board; the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society chief advisor; a founding member of the institute’s chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; the St. Patrick’s Catholic Newman Center president; a member of the National Catholic Student Coalition; and the Graduate Student Association student grants officer.

In addition to his recent Founder’s Award, Schmaltz was also the youngest recipient ever of the New Mexico Tech President’s Club Alumni Award. He also received the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Young Adult Appreciation Award, and was a Macey Scholar, a member of the Scholarship for Service Cyber Corps-Federal Information Assurance Development Program, and a New Mexico Tech Scholar.

When Schmaltz was not busy with volunteer work or school-related projects, he could be found working on research on analyzing intrusion detections systems and computer network traffic with cluster analysis. He was also a research assistant for New Mexico Tech computer science professor Lorrie Liebrock for two years, as well as an intern for the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Inspection Service in Athens, Georgia during the summer of 2005.

“New Mexico Tech provided me with many amazing opportunities over the past seven years,” Schmaltz says. “The small town and small school atmosphere allowed me to get involved in campus and community activities on a wide variety of levels. Overall, the environment was very supportive of education in and outside the classroom. The professors and administrators are truly involved in ensuring that all students are able to achieve the goals they set.”

Schmaltz plans on moving to the Washington, D.C. area and working for the federal government’s ongoing research in information security management.

Cheyenne Hollow Horn
Cheyenne D. Hollow Horn

The Cramer Award for the woman engineering student who ranks highest in scholarship went to Cheyenne D. Hollow Horn of Gallup, N.M. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and was a member of the prestigious Scholarship for Service program, a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation through Tech’s Computer Science Department. Hollow Horn also held several very impressive summer internships: at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, General Electric Healthcare Information Technologies, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. After graduation, she will work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hollow Horn is the daughter of Murlee S. Hollow Horn of Gallup. She is a 2002 graduate of Gallup High School.

According to Dr. Lorrie Liebrock, assistant professor of computer science, “Not only is Cheyenne Hollow Horn an exceptional student, but she is also a member of the Cyber Corporation. Cheyenne has been a Scholarship for Service Recipient for the last two years. This program is funded by the National Science Foundation to train information assurance professionals who in turn make a commitment to federal civil service in Information Assurance. Cheyenne starts her service on May 30 with the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Hollow Horn is also the recipient of the Chief Manuelito Scholarship, the Scholarship for Service Award, the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship, and the Alumni Scholastic Award for the highest grade point average in Electrical Engineering.

While a student at New Mexico Tech, Hollow Horn was an active member of the university’s Golf Club for two years and served as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s treasurer for three years.

Hollow Horn has had internships at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington, Va., the General Electric Healthcare Information Technologies in Milwaukee, Wisc., and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. She now plans to work for the United States Army Corps of Engineers in Albuquerque.

William Shuter

The Cramer Award for top male engineering student went to William Shuter, who is one of the first graduates of Tech’s new civil engineering program. Shuter was instrumental in establishing a student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was also a key member of the team that recently participated in the ASCE’s annual bridge-building contest.

Shuter, the son of Brian and Marian Shuter of Angel Fire, was a 2002 graduate of Cimarron High School.

Shuter was a founding member and president of the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a key member of an award-winning bridge-building team that participated in ASCE’s annual bridge-building contest, and a teaching assistant for two lab courses taught at New Mexico Tech.

In addition to his on-campus work, Shuter has worked as a carpenter for Sierra Bonita Builders during the summer of 2004 and a sales associate and clerk for Raton Builders’ Supply during the summers of 2000-2004.

In his spare time, Shuter enjoys skiing and snow boarding with the New Mexico Tech Board and Ski club.

Huade Guan

Dr. Huade Guan

The Langmuir Award for best research paper by a recent graduate of the university went to Dr. Huade Guan, who earned his Ph.D. in hydrology last year and is now a postdoctoral student at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Guan was author of a paper on the effects of ocean cycles on precipitation in northern New Mexico.
Al Smoake

Dr. Al Smoake

Dr. James "Al" Smoake was named recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award for 2006. Smoake is retiring this year after 33 years of teaching at New Mexico Tech. During that time, he has not only chaired the biology department for many years, but also served as Graduate Dean for 11 years. In addition to this, he has served as advisor to most, if not all, of Tech's pre-med students.

Many of these students remember Al fondly and they wrote in to nominate him. One alumna said, "I just recently spoke to an alumnus who smiled at the mere mention of Dr. Smoake, a sign that he has touched many lives in a positive manner." Another recalled "The wonderful thing about having Dr. Smoake as your advisor was that, if you would allow him, he became, not only your teacher and advisor, but also your mentor, research director, and friend."

Students commented that Al Smoake truly cared that they learn how to think analytically and design experiments well. One student remarked, "He has an amazing ability to make a personal connection with every student, and he can turn a normal physiology lecture into an exciting hour of enthusiastic learning. He engages students during lectures by asking critical thinking question and points out controversial issues that arise in the field of biology." His students commented on his passion for biology, especially physiology. One student said, "We showed up for Physiology Lab and stayed late because we were learning so much, even though it was Friday afternoon."

Al has been known to show up for class on Halloween dressed as Mr. Clean, although no one mentioned whether he ever came as the King of Siam. Several years ago, Al Smoake played that role in THE KING AND I, a New Mexico Tech spring musical. His was a virtuoso performance, and one he and his audience clearly relished.

One alumna summed up, "Dr. Smoake gave me the role model of a teacher who cares passionately about biology, learning, research, and students, and combined that with being an incredibly honest, ethical, and joyful person. That role model is with me, demanding excellence. When my students ask me why I stay late to help them, even though I won.t be paid any extra, I say, 'I'm only passing on what was given to me. Let me tell you about Dr. Smoake.'" Dr. Robert Bowman

Dr. Robert Bowman

Dr. Robert Bowman, professor of hydrology, was chosen as recipient of New Mexico Tech's Distinguished Research Award for 2006. Bowman joined New Mexico Tech's hydrology program in 1987, having earned his bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley and his doctorate at New Mexico State University. During his time at New Mexico Tech, Dr. Bowman has achieved an exceptional record of innovation in soil and water-related environmental research. He has almost 70 peer-reviewed publications, many of them in the most prominent and highly cited venues in his field.

One of his major early contributions was the development of a new class of water tracers, called FBAs, which are now used by soil physicists, chemists, and hydrologists worldwide.

Dr. Bowman has also pioneered important new applications of natural minerals called zeolites for removing chemical contaminants and toxic organisms from contaminated water. He made the surprising observation that surfactant-modified zeolites immobilize viruses and bacteria, which could have a major impact on public health in developing areas of the world.

Dr. Bowman's group has pioneered another remediation strategy which uses electric currents to decontaminate soils, a method which is being widely adopted. For the U.S. Army, Dr. Bowman has worked on models to improve the detection of landmines. For the state of New Mexico, he is leading studies of stream-aquifer interaction for the Rio Grande basin, with significant implications for the water balance of our region. In addition, Dr. Bowman is the primary investigator of the water portion of New Mexico's new EPSCoR project, recently funded by the National Science Foundation.

Rob Bowman has had a lifelong commitment to encouraging young people to participate in science. New Mexico Tech's Master's of Science Teaching Program, Science Olympiad, and Science Fair have all benefited from his work. He has also provided service in the region, with the Socorro Soil and Water Conservation District, the Middle Rio Grande Water Supply Study, and the Socorro-Sierra Regional Water Plan.