PES Graduate Studies Handbook


to New Mexico State University's Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. This handbook provides valuable information about graduate school and departmental policies. You should also obtain copies of the following documents, available through the Graduate School Office or website: "Graduate School Catalog," "Graduate Student Handbook," and "Guidelines for Preparing a Thesis or Dissertation."

The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences offers a Master of Science in both Plant and Environmental Science as well as Horticulture, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Plant and Environmental Science with minors in Agronomy and Horticulture. The faculty are experts in a variety of disciplines, including crop physiology, ornamental horticulture, social horticulture, soil science, environmental science, plant breeding and genetics, nursery and greenhouse production, molecular biology, turfgrass, and forestry.

Although much of your time will be spent in class and with members of your committee, we encourage you to interact with other faculty members and fellow graduate students. They are valuable sources of information, and may add to your personal and professional growth in many ways. We hope your graduate experience will prepare you to become a leader in your field, and a life-long supporter of NMSU.

Degree Requirements


Admission begins with an application to Graduate School ( that requires a $40.00 nonrefundable application fee for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Students who plan to engage in advanced study in the Department of Plant & Environmental Sciences (PES) at New Mexico State University (NMSU) must be admitted to the Graduate School, be accepted by the Department, and be accepted by a graduate faculty member. Undergraduate and graduate academic transcripts, a GRE score, three letters of recommendation, and a letter of purpose or intent for applying to graduate school are required for admission. The letters of recommendation should be from individuals who can address the students potential to succeed in graduate studies. International students MUST apply through International Student Services by completing the International Application of Admissions form and paying the nonrefundable application fee of $50.00.

Requirements for a Master of Science (M.S.) Degree:

The general NMSU requirements for the M.S. degree are described in the Graduate Catalog available through the Dean of the Graduate School or on-line ( Students should familiarize themselves with these requirements. The PES Department has established specific procedures and requirements for the M.S. degree, including a minimum GPA of 3.0 for entering M.S. students.

Provisional status: In very rare instances, the Department may accept an individual as a provisional student in the M.S. degree program subject to the criteria specified in the Graduate School Catalog and the PES Graduate Studies Handbook. Such students will only be admitted if the graduate faculty member who is willing to serve as their major advisor provides an official letter that justifies why provisional status should be granted. Such requests will be forwarded to the Graduate Studies Committee for timely review and recommendation to the Department Head that the request either be approved or denied.

Most students are expected to complete a thesis. The thesis option requires completion of research suitable for publication in a scientific journal. A non-thesis option, which the department deems a terminal degree, is available for certain students with the approval of the students advisory committee. The non-thesis option is not recommended for students wishing to pursue a Ph.D. and requires completion of a research project and paper of limited scope. A minimum of 30 semester credits is required for either option, including a minimum of 15 credits numbered 500 or above. Not more than 6 credits nor fewer than 4 thesis credits may be counted toward the requirements for a master's degree for the thesis option. Having once registered for thesis credit, a student must continue to register for a minimum of 1 credit thesis or graduate course work each fall and spring semester until the thesis is approved by the Graduate School and accepted by the Branson Library. If the thesis will be completed during the summer, the student must register for one credit hour during the summer session in which the thesis will be completed.

Student's Committee: The student's committee should be formed the first semester of study. International students may delay forming a committee until the second semester of study; however, this is discouraged. The committee must have a minimum of three members of the University Graduate Faculty. The major advisor assumes the role of the committee chair. At least one member must have their primary tenure-track appointment in the PES Department. The third person on the committee can serve as the Graduate Dean's representative, if they do not hold an appointment in the PES Department. The student's committee approves the program of study (usually by the second semester), guides the student in research, and administers the final exam. The Department Head will sign the program of study after the student's committee has been formed and has approved the program. The forms needed by the graduate school must be filed by the student ( The "Program of Study and Committee for Masters Students form must be filed with the graduate school before the completion of 12 credits of graduate work.

  1. Final Exam: The final exam is administered by the student's committee. It is an oral defense of the thesis or research report, and also a general examination on the student's field of study. If an M.S. candidate (thesis option only) is interested in subsequently pursuing a Ph.D. Degree at NMSU, the Ph.D. qualifying exam may be administered in conjunction with the M.S. final exam (subject to prior committee approval). For additional information see Requirements for a Ph.D. Degree below.

  2. Course Requirements: General course requirements are described in the Graduate School Catalog. Courses numbered 450-499 are designed for senior undergraduates and M.S. graduates; 500-599 are primarily for graduate students working on the Master's degree; 600-700 are principally for students working on a doctoral degree. Specific course requirements are left to the discretion of the student's committee with the following exception: All M.S. candidates will present at least one department seminar during their tenure at NMSU. The seminar will cover the student's research. The student will register for the official seminar course (AGRO/HORT/SOIL 590) during the semester in which the seminar is given.

  3. Thesis: For students pursuing the thesis option, a thesis will be written according to Graduate School guidelines. The student should be familiar with the specific thesis format ( and know deadlines for thesis submission to the committee and the Graduate School.

  4. Research Report: For students pursuing the non-thesis option, a research report will be written on an area of investigation conducted by the student. The student's committee will determine the reports format and final acceptance.

Requirements for a Ph.D. Degree:

The general university requirements for a Ph.D. degree are described in the Graduate Catalog, available through the Dean of the Graduate School or online at A student is urged to know these requirements. Additionally, PES has established specific procedures and requirements for the Ph.D. degree (see item #5 below), including a minimum GPA of 3.3 for entering doctoral students. The Program of Study and Committee for Doctoral Students form ( needs to be filed by the student before completing 12 credits.

Provisional status: Given that the Ph.D. represents the highest academic degree offered by NMSU, no students will be admitted on a provisional basis into the PES Ph.D. degree program. Students who do not meet the minimum Ph.D. requirements may be admitted as an M.S. degree candidate, provided they meet the minimum M.S. degree requirements. In this role, the student will have the opportunity to demonstrate their competence. If successful, they may subsequently pursue the Ph.D. subject to endorsement by their major advisor and the students advisory committee (see item #6 below).

  1. Doctoral Committee: The student's committee should be formed the first semester of study. International students may delay forming a committee until the second semester of study; however, this is discouraged. The major advisor assumes the role of the committee chair. This committee will be composed of at least four members of the University Graduate Faculty: two of whom must have their primary appointment in the PES Department, and one from a related area who may be the Graduate Deans representative. See the Graduate Catalog for rules governing the Graduate Deans representative. All members will attend the comprehensive exam and the final defense. The Doctoral Committee guides the candidate in the research, evaluates the merits of the dissertation, and verifies satisfactory completion of requirements noted below.

  2. Qualifying Exam: During the first semester of study, the student must pass the qualifying exam administered by the students qualifying committee. The composition of the qualifying committee is determined after consultation with the graduate student, and upon recommendation from the students advisor. The qualifying exam may be taken in the second semester of study by international students. The committee normally includes at least four members of the University Graduate Faculty, and two members must have their primary appointment in PES. The qualifying committee may recommend:

    a. Admitting the student to further work toward the doctorate,

    b. Limiting the student to the masters program,

    c. Re-evaluating the students progress after the lapse of one semester, or

    d. Discontinuing graduate work.

    If the student passes the qualifying exam, the students advisor and Doctoral Committee will prepare the students preliminary program of study for the doctorate with the Graduate School.

    Note: For M.S. students at NMSU, with prior approval, the qualifying exam may be administered at the M.S. final exam.

  3. Comprehensive Exam: This exam covers all phases of the major and minor fields of study, and is given after completion of the agreed-upon course work, and when sufficient progress has been made toward fulfilling additional requirements (see #7 below). The examination must contain both oral and written portions. Generally, there should be a time lapse of at least one year between the comprehensive and final oral examination (i.e., the dissertation defense).

  4. Dissertation and Final Exam: A dissertation subject chosen by the candidate in their major field must receive final approval of the Doctoral Committee. The committee will require the candidate to defend the dissertation in a final oral examination. Research described in the dissertation must be suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

  5. Minimum Course Requirements: Candidates for a Ph.D. degree in PES are expected to demonstrate (via course work and independent study) a thorough understanding and proficiency in their chosen major, and if applicable, a minor area. Courses numbered 450-499 are designed for senior undergraduates and M.S. graduates; 500-599 are primarily for graduate students working on the Master's degree; 600-700 are principally for students working on a doctoral degree. Actual course requirements are left to the discretion of the Doctoral Committee, with the exceptions given below:

    a. All Ph.D. students will present two PES departmental seminars during their study at NMSU. It is recommended that the first seminar be presented within the student's first year. The second seminar will cover the dissertation research. If a Ph.D. student completed a M.S. degree in PES and presented a departmental seminar over the M.S. thesis research, only one departmental seminar (covering the dissertation research) is required. The student will register for the official seminar course (AGRO/SOIL 694) during the semester when the seminar is given.

    b. All Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 9 hours of course work numbered at, or above, 600 exclusive of research and dissertation credit.

    c. Numbering of Courses:

    d. At least 18 credits of dissertation (AGRO/E S 700) are required.

  6. Transfer from M.S. to Ph.D. Programs: A graduate student without a M.S. degree or equivalency is normally admitted to a M.S. degree program first. Eligible students can transfer from M.S. to Ph.D. programs without completion of the M.S. degree. The request for such a transfer will be made jointly by the student and his or her major advisor(s) with endorsement of the students graduate committee. The transfer will normally be made after at least one year of M.S. study - when the students scholastic performance and research potential have been clearly established. The major advisor(s) will notify the Department Head of this transfer.

  7. Additional Requirements: One of the following six additional requirements must be satisfied and approved by the Doctoral Committee:

    a. Thorough knowledge of a foreign language other than English.

    b. Reading ability in two foreign languages.

    c. Reading ability in one foreign language and proficiency with a research tool.

    d. Reading ability in one foreign language and one semester of supervised teaching.

    e. Proficiency with a research tool and one semester of supervised teaching.

    f. Two semesters of supervised teaching.

Thorough knowledge of one foreign language means that the student can proficiently use the language effectively in their profession. An examiner approved by the Doctoral Committee and from the Department of Foreign Languages will be appointed to attest to proficiency.

A research tool is defined as a particular subject area different from the major area and is intended to broaden the student's academic background. Proficiency is defined as satisfactory performance with a minimum of six hours of course work in the particular subject area, or by a demonstrated ability in an area satisfactory to the Doctoral Committee. The Doctoral Committee may allow a minor to satisfy the requirements.

Supervised teaching is intended to prepare students for the teaching profession. The experience may involve one semester of supervised teaching (AGRO/HORT/SOIL 697), development of instructional materials, or other suitable experience that allows the student first-hand knowledge of the educational process. Competence is to be judged by the instructor. A written evaluation by the instructor will be submitted to the Doctoral Committee for approval.

Graduate Student Orientation Information

For information regarding Graduate Student Orientation view file at

or contact the Graduate School at For additional information on services and resources available to graduate students, please visit

Financial Assistance

Financial support may be available for graduate students in the form of assistantships, fellowships, scholarships, and loans. Departmental assistantships and university fellowships are generally limited and are awarded on a competitive basis. As a research assistant (RA) or teaching assistant (TA), graduate students pay resident (in-state) tuition, and are committed to work 20 hours per week. It is understood that expectations for acceptable progress of the student's research project will frequently entail commitments beyond the 20 hour per week level.

The financial aid office ( helps new graduate students apply for many types of financial support. Perkins loans (national direct student loans), Stanford loans (GSL), and college work-study are all available to graduate students. The amount of aid awarded will be based on the financial need of the student.

Graduate students wishing to apply for any of the above types of financial aid must maintain a GPA of 3.0 and must be enrolled for at least 9 graduate credits in a regular semester (Fall and Spring).

  • Teaching Assistantships (TA) Each year the department is issued a limited number of Teaching Assistantships through the Graduate School. If a student wants to be considered for a teaching assistantship, they should make the request through their advisor. The Ph.D. students are eligible for TA support up to six semesters and M.S. students for four semesters. All new TA's must attend the New Graduate Student Orientation presented by the Graduate School at the beginning of the Fall semester. New international students must pass the NMSU International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Screening administered by the Department of Communications. If they do not pass the ITA Screening, a student must attend courses offered through the Department of Communications, to ensure that they have command of English and will be able to teach. Teaching Assistants may be asked to provide two hours per week of service to the PES Department.

Teaching assistantships start with the beginning of the semester in August (on or around August 16) and run through the end of the spring semester in May (on or about May 15). Each year assistantships are reassigned. Continuation of TA support will be based, in part, on course evaluation forms associated with the course(s) taught by the student, and on the needs of the department; therefore, a student receiving a teaching assistantship one year is not guaranteed an assistantship the next year. Available assistantships are assigned in July and December. Teaching assistants are paid twice per month (the 15th and last working day). Internal Revenue Service tax withholding guidelines require NMSU undergraduate and graduate students to maintain three (3) credit hours of course work for summer sessions to be eligible for the student FICA tax exception. Student employees who do not meet this requirement during any given pay period will be subject to Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes.

  • Research Assistant (RA)

A research assistant is responsible for working on research programs under the direction of a faculty member. Duties vary among research programs, but can include field work, data recording and analysis, lab analysis, report writing, and other assignments as necessary to perform the research. All new RA’s must attend the New Graduate Assistant Orientation ( that is presented by the Graduate School at the beginning of the Fall semester.

A research assistantship is granted by an individual professor after approval by the Department Head. Contracts are renewed yearly. A full research assistant is required to work 20 hours per week. Half-time research assistantships (10 hours/week) are also available. Research assistants are paid twice per month on the 15th and last working day. Payroll deduction for tuition also applies to research assistants.

  • Payroll Deduction

All graduate assistants will pay tuition. Graduate students on a half-time (10 hours/week) assistantship or more per week will be eligible for the resident tuition rate during the first 12 months of tenure. If New Mexico resident status (application is available from the Registrar's Office) has not been established by the time of reappointment, the graduate student may be subject to the non-resident tuition rate. Contact the Registrar's Office for further details. Tuition payments can be deducted from the student's paycheck by the business office. When enrolling, if a student has signed a contract for an assistantship, the graduate school will supply a payroll deduction card.

International Students

The NMSU Center for International Programs (CIP) is the focal point for the University's international activities ( The CIP provides services and advisement to international students that come from approximately 72 countries. New international students must contact an international student advisor who will coordinate admissions, provide immigration advice, enroll the student in orientation programs, provide general counseling, and develop special programs for the student. The CIP also cooperates with international student associations and community organizations to organize socio-cultural activities for international students and their families.

  • The ISSS is located in Garcia Annex, room 246, telephone (575) 646-2834.

  • The ISSS cannot loan money to a student unless the student's government sponsor has made arrangements with the ISSS in advance.

  • International students must have a current Social Security number in order to be employed at NMSU.

1. Termination

The PES faculty may need to terminate an appointment of a graduate student. Ordinarily, termination of an appointment for unsatisfactory performance will not occur without a probationary period, during which time the student will be given the opportunity to improve performance. The Graduate Studies Committee reserves the right, however, to terminate an appointment without such a probationary period if such an action is needed to protect the integrity of PES. The Graduate School will not allow re-appointment of TAs or RAs who are no longer in good academic standing.

Criteria for passing AGRO/HORT/SOIL/E S 599/600 and AGRO/E S 700 (PR or U): To obtain a grade of "PR," students should make reasonable progress in their research. Explicit in this statement is the agreed upon expectations between the advisor and the student. Failing to meet this standard will merit a grade of "U." Two "U" grades will result in immediate termination from the PES graduate program. It is suggested that the student meet regularly with their advisor and that expectations for progress be put in writing at the beginning of each semester.

2. Academic Misconduct

The PES faculty have a zero tolerance for plagiarism or any academic misconduct. The plagiarism and academic misconduct policy created by New Mexico State University is found at

The NMSU Student Handbook states that academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Cheating or knowingly assisting another student in committing an act of cheating or other form of academic dishonesty.

  2. Plagiarism, which includes, but is not necessarily limited to, submitting examinations, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, undocumented quotations, computer-processed materials, or other material as one's own work when such work has been prepared by another person or copied from another person.

  3. Unauthorized possession of examinations, reserve library materials, or laboratory materials.

  4. Unauthorized changing of grades on an examination, in an instructor's grade book, or on a grade report; or unauthorized access to academic computer records.

  5. Nondisclosure or misrepresentation in completing applications or other University records pertaining to academic departments or colleges.

The Student Handbook states that the following are possible sanctions that may be imposed on individual students for infraction of regulations:

1.  Disciplinary Probation
2.  Disciplinary Suspension
3.  Dismissal
4.  Expulsion

As an alternative, an instructor may deem it appropriate to give a "0" grade for the plagiarized work, or for the entire course.

Office Support Staff


Esther Ramirez Administrative Assistant, Intermediate

  • Assistantships, appointments with Department Head, and general help.
  • Phone: 646-3406 or E-mail:
  • Michelle Hammitt Administrative Assistant, Associate

  • Undergraduate students, Appointments with Department Head, and general help.
  • Phone: 646-3405 or E-mail:
  • Accounting:

    Sally Chavez Fiscal Assistant, Senior

  • Paychecks, purchasing regulations and financial activities, excluding assistantships.
  • Phone: 646-4620
  • Jasmine Lopez Fiscal Assistant, Associate

  • Travel reimbursements and credit card transactions.
  • Phone: 646-1141
  • Department Head

    Dr. Rolston St. Hilaire or 575-646-3406

    Graduate Student Cubicle Assignment Rules

    The Department of PES has access to 30 cubicles in Skeen Hall. The PES and the Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Sciences Departments mutually agreed that cubicle space will be proportionally allocated based on graduate student enrollment by department.

    The assignment of graduate student cubicles is the responsibility of the PES Graduate Studies Committee. The Administrative Assistant assists the Graduate Committee with this task.

    Cubicle Assignment General Rules are:

    1. Teaching Assistants will receive the highest priority. This is to facilitate undergraduate student access to Teaching Assistants.
    2. Full-time funded students (research assistantship and funded research) will be given second priority. Also, international students funded by non-NMSU agencies or institutions will be given second priority. The priority will be based on the starting date in Graduate School.
    3. Students not fulfilling #1 or #2 will be given space based on availability. Again, the priority will be based on the starting date in Graduate School.
    4. Ph.D. students who have not finished after four years, and M.S. students who have not finished in three years will be required to relinquish an assigned cubicle.
    5. Faculty members must send an email request to the Administrative Assistant for assignment of cubicles for their graduate students. The request should include the student's name and starting date.
    6. Students must turn in their key card to the Administrative Assistant when no longer using the cubicle. If the key card is lost or damaged the cost of change will be charged to the faculty advisor's account.
    7. If no cubicles are available, a request will be filled as soon as an opening occurs during the semester.
    8. Checks will be made of the cubicles in the middle of the semester to make sure that they are being used. If a cubicle appears not to be used then an email will be sent to student and faculty advisor asking if the cubicle is still needed by the student. If not, the cubicle will be reassigned.
    9. When all the graduate student cubicles are assigned, additional students will be assigned to rooms with technicians and postdocs. This assignment will be temporary until a desk becomes available in the graduate student area. At that time the student will be requested to move to the open space in the graduate student area.

    Graduate Assistant Salary Scale

    Department Scholarships

    The Department administers the following graduate student scholarships:

    • Arden and Elsie Baltensperger Scholarship awarded to graduate students studying turfgrass science, plant breeding, or genetics.

    • John Harrington Memorial Scholarship awarded to a Sophomore, Junior, Senior or Graduate student with a declared major in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and a major interest in forestry, urban forestry, or natural resource management. Student must demonstrate leadership in department or college activities.

    • E.A. Herrera Graduate Scholarship awarded to a graduate student with preference given to students interested in pecan or fruit tree research.

    • Lowenstein Graduate Fellowship awarded to one graduate student who shall be designated the 'Lowenstein Fellow' studying some aspect of ornamental horticulture.

    • Marvin Wilson Memorial Scholarship awarded to a graduate student majoring in agronomy, horticulture, or soils.

    Students are encouraged to apply online in January of each year for the scholarships in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences:

    Departmental Graduate Awards

    Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award

    The graduate student paper award recognizes a graduate student who has demonstrated the ability to publish a high quality, peer-reviewed research paper in a timely manner. The recipient of the award will receive a $500 award to defray the costs of presenting their research at a professional society meeting.

    Professional Societies

    Belonging to a professional organization as a graduate student is beneficial. The student has the opportunity to attend professional meetings, meet others in their field, and present research at these meetings to gain useful experience and contacts. Below are some common professional organizations and a brief explanation of each.

    1. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) The world’s largest general science organization. Encompasses all fields of science and technology. Publishes the weekly journal Science.
    2. American Society of Agronomy (ASA) Dedicated to the development of agriculture enabled by science, in harmony with environmental and human values.
    3. American Society for Horticulture Science (ASHS) The world’s premiere horticulture society. National meetings are held annually. ASHS awards student travel grants to attend the meetings if presenting.
    4. American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Cultivating a better future through plant biology.
    5. American Phytopathological Society (APS) The premier society dedicated to high- quality, innovative plant pathology research.
    6. Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Dedicated to achieving equity and full participation for women in science, mathematics, engineering and technology.
    7. Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) An educational and scientific organization comprised of more than 4700 members dedicated to the advancement of crop science.
    8. Society of American Foresters (SAF) Promotes the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems to benefit society.
    9. Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) Professional home for those who aim to advance the discipline and practice of soil science.

    Many journals/magazines of these professional organizations are available online for free to NMSU students.

    Honorary Organizations

    Gamma Sigma Delta: Honorary Society for Agricultural Sciences.

    • Must be nominated by a current member in good standing.

    • Many faculty are members.

    Pi Alpha Xi: Honorary Society for Horticulture.

    • Must be nominated by a current member.

    Sigma Xi: Scientific Research Society

    • Must be nominated by a current member in good standing.

    • Generally post-doctoral.

    • Annual research and grant awards for undergraduate and graduate students.