Newswise — Spend just a few minutes with Dan Arvizu and you’ll see he isn’t a guy who likes to stand around. He’s full of energy – and in a hurry to get some big things done. For Arvizu, those traits will definitely come in handy. As New Mexico State University’s new chancellor, he is working to position the university to address some of the grand challenges of our time.

“We are fortunate,” Arvizu says. “NMSU faculty, staff and students are tremendously talented. We are bold in our thinking and in our work. I am confident this university is well-positioned to tackle the challenges ahead, and to shape the future.”

Arvizu graduated from NMSU’s College of Engineering in 1973 and went on to have a long, distinguished career in advanced energy research and development, materials and process sciences and technology commercialization. He worked for Bell Labs, Sandia National Labs and eventually went on to serve as the eighth director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Most recently, he served in various roles at Emerson Collective, including chief technology officer, STEM evangelist and senior adviser.

On the job with NMSU since June 2018, Arvizu has begun to outline top-level priorities for the university and learn how those priorities relate to a number of grand challenges NMSU will begin to address. Those priorities are to improve student success, elevate research and creativity and to amplify outreach and economic development.

“All of us, working together, must ensure we have the highest quality instruction and degree programs,” he says. “Our students must complete their academic studies on time and become highly qualified leaders ready for the work of tomorrow. We must align our research with the most pressing challenges of our region and the world. We are a catalyst for change, and we will partner with businesses, agencies and communities to further economic development.”

With these priorities in mind, NMSU will address the challenges of fortifying K-16 education, creating healthy borders and modernizing critical infrastructure.NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu chats with Luis Garcia (right) and Jacob Martinez (left), participants in the NMSU Verizon Innovation Learning program, a three-week, summer camp in July 2018 that focused on STEM activities for minority middle school boys.

“As a state, we have a K-12 system that needs a lot of help,” Arvizu says. “This is something where I believe a university has a role to play. It’s incumbent upon us to provide training to help students come better prepared to enter college. This also includes reaching into the middle schools and working with our programs that train teachers. We must take ownership of this.”

Arvizu says NMSU benefits from its geographic location near the U.S./Mexico border, and he feels there are opportunities to shape the discussion on how international trade should occur. “When it comes to the border, it won’t be just changing the tone of the conversation, it will be us demonstrating and showing the way,” he says.

In the area of modernizing critical infrastructure, Arvizu wants to focus on water, food, energy, information technology and agriculture. He says NMSU has an opportunity to build on existing partnerships and make NMSU students more relevant in the workplace over the coming decades. Those partnerships can also aid in economic development.

“There’s a growing interest for NMSU to be engaged, not just with our local communities, but to strengthen our partnerships with business and industry everywhere, and that’s exactly what we are going to do,” he says. “Moving forward, we are going to be bold, and we are not going to be afraid to shape the future and deliver solutions that will create positive change.”