The week of April 6th-10th marks an occasion that the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) acknowledges each year. Student Employee Appreciation Week gives us a chance to recognize and thank our student employees for the outstanding contributions they perform in the department. Usually gift cards for coffee and small treats are shared with student employees throughout the week and we throw a pizza party on a day when all the student employees can gather for a lunch with the department members. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, these dedicated student employees now are learning their new mode of attending online classes, while also teleworking to help make our collections more accessible. Since we are not able to physically host our annual gathering as a department to honor our students, we feel it is only right to recognize their efforts, express our gratitude, and let you see for yourself how much they do for us.
The ASC department employs six part-time students who assist in a variety of tasks that are essential to the workplace. When a student is first hired by ASC, it is quite common for them to be overwhelmed by the vast amount of material housed in the repository. As they become acquainted with the department and the different units, they are amazed with the variety and amount of content available to researchers. Not long ago, we had a student employee sorting through the Aggie Sports Archive when he came across a photo of his mother when she was a NMSU Sun Dancer. That goes to show you never know what piece of history you will uncover when going through archival collections. Every aisle in the ASC has rich information and one could get lost in all the historical material located in the archives!
Our student employees work throughout the four different units in the department and are assigned to tasks such as creating inventories, retrieving and shelving materials for researchers, fulfilling duplication requests, and digitizing photographs, just to point out a few day-to-day tasks.
Each day is different in the archives and our students play a major role in all the work we do. Students have the opportunity to take a look back in history and explore the deep well of archival information while processing a collection or completing a duplication request. Student employees handle and learn about materials such as ledgers, scrapbooks, correspondence, and a variety of media formats. At times, students are unaware what type of media formats they are handling, so it is exciting to see their reactions when interacting with older and at times obsolete formats.
The student employees that are highlighted below are instrumental to the department and they use their skills and abilities on a daily basis to provide access to archival resources.
Sarah Schrock works in the Special Collections unit. She joined the team during her freshmen year in 2016. She is the “senior” citizen of the student employees in the ASC department because she has been with the department longer than any other student. She is currently finishing her BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in literature. During the past four years, she says she has enjoyed working in the Special Collections and that she has handled and learned about the interesting materials that the department holds. Her first project was organizing the bound volumes of Las Cruces Sun News newspapers, dating from the 1950s to current issues. While teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah is transcribing oral histories that were recorded during the 1970s with people living during the times of Billy the Kid. She says, “being able to work on so many interesting and important materials that the department holds has really been an eye opening and learning experience for me!”
Carlos Perez began working in ASC in January 2019 and is studying towards his degree in computer engineering technology. He started in the Reprographics unit scanning photographs, then went on to assist in the University Archives checking for duplicates in University publications. Carlos moved on to the Political Collections where he has been working on the papers of former president of the Mescalero Apache tribe, Wendell Chino.
Rio Grande Historical Collections
Isabel Lopez joined the ASC department in the fall of 2017, working in the Rio Grande Historical Collections, and she is the go-to student when trying to locate a collection. She is majoring in nursing and hopes to work in pre- or post-natal care. When Isabel was asked what she enjoys about working in the archives she responded, “Some of my favorite things about working for the Archives and Special Collections are all of the amazing and unique materials I get to work with. One that particularly stands out to me is a collection I processed called the Keller, Miller, and Co. records, which is over 100 years old! Another great thing about the archives is the people that work there. From the students, to the staff, everyone makes working here awesome. I’m lucky to be a part of such a great department!”
As mentioned earlier, Isabel is very knowledgeable about the collections housed in RGHC. She has processed various collections ranging from organizational collections to personal papers, created inventories, entered finding aid content into archival databases and recently has undertaken the task of creating shelf inventories to keep track of individual collections located in the archives.
Natalia Baca is a second-year student and joined the ASC department this past January. While enrolled at NMSU, she hopes to become a neonatal intensive care unit nurse. She is also working toward a minor in Spanish. After graduation, she plans to work as a traveling nurse for a few years and then settling down in either Texas or New Mexico. When she is not immersed in her studies or working in the RGHC, she volunteers once a week at her church preparing meals for people and she is also very active at her family ranch working with cattle and horses.
Natalia indicated that she enjoys working in the archives for the following reasons, “I have only worked in the archives for a few months, but I really enjoy working there. I actually looked forward to going to work and seeing what I was going to do that day. It was a very welcoming work environment and I always knew that if there was something I needed help with someone would help me and make sure I completely understood before going on with what they were doing. The archives department is a great place to work on campus. Everyone is very kind, which always makes my days better.”
While working in RGHC, Natalia has worked on several inventories for newly acquired collections, worked on duplication requests and as she becomes more familiar with the department she will assist and learn about the various functions of the archives.
Baylee Russo joined the ASC department in 2019 and currently is pursuing her degree in English with an emphasis in literature and a minor in creative writing. Her future aspirations after graduation are to become an author while also working in the area of interior design. Baylee is active in her local church while attending her studies.
Baylee indicated that the archives is a wonderful place to work. “What I probably enjoy the most is all the different kinds of projects I work on while being there. Just once I’ve finish one project, I am off to a new one that has new things for me to learn. One of my favorite projects has been helping to process collections that will be used for research.”
While working in the RGHC, Baylee assists in fulfilling microfilm orders for researchers, creating inventories, retrieving and shelving archival material and other tasks as assigned. Baylee indicated that the archives is such a quiet space, she finds she can get away from her studies and the stress of college life, and work on something different for a while.
Francisco Chavez joined the ASC team in 2019 and assists in the Reprographics unit. He currently is studying to obtain a BS in Biology. After completing his studies, he plans to attend grad school. Francisco indicated that working in the archives has furthered his knowledge of the state of New Mexico as well as his hometown, which is here in Las Cruces. He has worked on many projects from scanning and photographing images for patrons, cleaning and splicing 16mm film to reviewing historical documents while processing collections. Francisco says, “I’m thankful for the opportunity to work in Archives & Special Collections and enjoy working in a wonderful department. It has been an amazing time and great experience.”
Teresa Ramos joined the ASC team in January 2020 and is works in the Reprographics unit. She is pursuing a degree in psychology and aspires to become a clinical mental health counselor. When she is not working or involved in her studies, she enjoys reading poetry and spending time with her sister.
When Teresa was asked what she enjoys about working in the archives she responded, “Working in Archives and Special Collections is a unique experience and I love it. I especially enjoy looking at photographs from different time periods. It’s fascinating. I enjoy the people I have met, as they are all friendly and kind. There is never a dull moment, and the environment is so inviting.”
On behalf of the ASC staff, we appreciate each individual student and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.