Silver City, NM- Fall Commencement is almost here and more than 200 students are ready to take the next step in their lives. One of these students, 26-year-old Nicole Luna, has been at Western for the long haul. She arrived at the university as an undergraduate, participating in the cross-country running team. Now she is leaving with a master’s degree in Business and Business Administration, with a concentration on International Business.
Nicole is originally from the Laguna Pueblo Reservation, located just 45 minutes away from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was originally on her Laguna Acoma High School cross-country team, having started running for sport in the fifth grade. Running had always had a great significance to her culturally, being a native of Zuni, Laguna and Cochiti descent. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, runners served as messengers and scouts that notified settlements about the attacking Spaniards. Nicole states that many Native schools participate in running.
Nicole came to Western on the suggestion of her high school coach. A lot of people in the Laguna reservation are alumni of Western New Mexico University. She also saw that the Early Childhood Development program was top-ranked, which originally was a field that Nicole wanted to pursue, following in her mothers footsteps. The university also gave her an opportunity to do what she loved, which was running.
Her senior year as an undergrad was the most successful for her, on the cross-country team, both as an individual and team-wise. The summer before, she had asked to be an assistant coach for the Laguna Sports Academy summer running program. Upon coming back, the WNMU team won first place at their first meet, and then won again at next one, continuing to have a good season onward. Nicole also holds the WNMU record for fastest 6k at 22.35 minutes. She was also named Senior Student Female Athlete of the year for 2013-2014.
Aside from running, Nicole also spent her days working at the WNMU Museum, which is currently being renovated. Academically, Nicole didn’t stick to Early Childhood Development, and instead was encouraged by members of her tribe to take over the local casino. The CEO of the casino, Jerry Smith, wanted the business to be run by someone who understands Native culture. Because of this, Nicole soon switched her major over to Business Administration.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Nicole said, “A lot of the suggestions I’ve heard have pointed me in the way that I want to go.”
On the same week she graduated from Western with two bachelor’s degrees in business, one in public and non-profit administrations and another in business management with a minor in marketing, Nicole was approached by Coach Campos, and offered her a position as a Graduate Assistant Coach for Cross-Country. Nicole was happy not to have too much of a change after graduating and is currently in her second season coaching.
Now that Nicole is finally completing her master’s degree, she finally feels that it is time to step back and start her career. While she still wants to pursue coaching, either at college or high school level, but she wants to move out of state and gain experience from other businesses to see what she can learn.
“I want to thank all of my professors here, who have allowed me to open up to them and help me along away,” Nicole said. “As well a the athletic department being so kind and welcoming. I also want to thank my coach, my teammates, my team, and my friends at the museum. They have pushed me to be a better person, and I don’t want to let them down.”
Fall Commencement is Friday, December 9 at 3pm at the Fine Arts Center Theater.