Las Vegas, N.M. — Outstanding New Mexico Highlands University forestry major Juan Jauregui received a $45,000 scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This is the first scholarship awarded at Highlands as part of a $300,000 USDA grant the university garnered in 2012 to establish a cutting-edge geospatial technology lab for advanced map making. The lab opened in January.
Jauergui, 20, grew up on a ranch in Sapello, N.M. north of Las Vegas. As a student at Robertson High School, he explored forestry as a potential career that would combine his desire to help preserve the environment with working outdoors.
His decision to study forestry solidified when he participated in Highlands University’s Science and Agriculture Summer Experience program, and met forestry professor Craig Conley.
“Dr. Conley has so much enthusiasm and passion for forestry, which strengthened my interest and inspired me to major in forestry,” Jauregui said. “The forestry professors at Highlands are extremely knowledgeable and experienced. They’re also so good at working one to one with students to help you succeed. Highlands has offered me many outstanding learning opportunities.”
Jauregui is a research assistant in Conley’s greenhouse and has worked as a Student Instructional Leader for Conley through the university’s Achieving in Research Math and Science, or ARMAS, program.
“I have a great deal of respect for Juan’s dedication and commitment to learning,” Conley said. “He is the kind of student every teacher wishes for: smart, hard-working, motivated and fun. He’s an exceptional young man, and I’m confident he’ll succeed in his forestry career.
“Juan is a meticulous, valued research assistant who is learning to apply science to new challenges. He was an outstanding SIL with the ability to help other students be comfortable with math,” Conley said.
Jauregui has also distinguished himself as a leader outside the classroom and lab. He the president of the university’s Conservation Club and serves on the board for the Friends of the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, and is also an active volunteer for the organization.
The junior has already completed several forestry internships. His current long-term internship with the U.S. Forest Service in the Carson National Forest of northeastern New Mexico will convert to a full-time career position when Jauregui graduates.
“I’m interested in working with different forest management techniques that help restore a more natural cycle to the forest,” Jauregui said.
Jennifer Lindline cowrote the USDA grant with fellow geology professor Michael Petronis. They named it Geospatial Applications in Natural Sciences, or GAINS.
Lindline said an independent faculty committee selected Jauregui for the GAINS scholarship from a pool of strong applicants.
“Juan is not just an outstanding student academically — he’s a role model for other students because of his strong drive to pursue opportunities at Highlands,” Lindline said. “Our main goal with this grant is to graduate students who are practiced and proficient in 21st century geospatial technology, and are poised to address natural resource management issues. Juan exemplifies what we’re trying to accomplish, and is prepared to dive in and learn the new technology tools.”
Geospatial technology includes a wide variety of mapping applications including 3-D terrain modeling, geographic information systems, or GIS, and high-precision global positioning.
Highlands’ new geospatial technology instruments are being used for student and faculty research that focuses on natural resource management topics like soil erosion, water quality, vegetation, contaminants in the environment, and more.