One-on-one with Dan Arvizu- Chancellor, New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University Chancellor Dan Arvizu delivers 2019 State University Address (Courtesy New Mexico State University)

Dan Arvizu has flown nearly 3 million air miles on one airline.

World travel is a big part of Arvizu’s life story, as are everyone he has met in his work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the Ministry of Energy, the National Science Board and other positions he has held as a renewable and clean energy guru.

But Arvizu says that a memory that stands out is his trip to the geographic South Pole – a trip few can say they took.

He remembers waving flags and a marker in the exact spot, which he circled with astronaut Kathryn Sullivan because “if you walk around the South Pole, it’s like going around the world. Each direction is north. It’s really cool.

Arvizu, who grew up in Alamogordo, returned to his alma mater in 2018 to become chancellor of New Mexico State University. He calls himself “the star child of the American dream,” with parents who crossed the border in Douglas, Arizona.

“They literally crossed over,” says Arvizu. “It was not a big deal. When they got to the north, nobody had a college (experience) or went to school or anything like that. My father shined shoes at the border.

Arvizu, the first Hispanic director of a national DOE lab, has just been appointed to the president’s 30-member science and technology advisory board. He’s thrilled to have the “super power” of direct access to President Biden. This is different from previous positions at the national academy level, where recommendations were made to the sponsoring agency, “and they may or may not do anything.”

“I am so honored and just privileged to have this level of access,” he said, noting that he will serve with two Nobel Prize winners, five MacArthur “Genius” fellows and two former cabinet secretaries. “I pinch myself all the time.”

Why did you go from energy and science to chancellor of the NMSU?

“Part of the reason I’m at NMSU is because I’m passionate about the idea that a large portion of our population, not just in New Mexico, has essentially not been able to participate in the fruits. , to the jobs and the rewards that this country has to offer in terms of opportunities. There is a lack of basic infrastructure. When I have students driving an hour and a half to get to a hot spot so that ‘They can actually take their course over the phone, we have some issues. And I see this place as a gem. When the opportunity arose to come and do something different, I said,’ You know what, it’s outside my comfort zone, but it’s, i think, something so noble and so important for the future of this country, that’s where i want to give back.

Dan Arvizu, then director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, accompanies then-vice president Joe Biden in this 2011 photo. The two were visiting a lab where solar cells are manufactured and tested in partnership with industry. private. (Courtesy of New Mexico State University)

What made you interested in science, and energy in particular?

“My sixth grade teacher. He let us create, and I remember writing an article on the subject. What is the problem? And when I showed it to my mom, she said, ‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ (My parents) were very, very modest people.

What do you think made you successful?

“You know, frankly, my people skills are what differentiates me from other scientists and engineers. I have a little more connections with people than the typical nerd. It really, really served me well, and it was due to my heritage. My father has never known a foreigner. Anyone on the street, my dad would talk to them. He was constantly engaging and never self-absorbed, always very humble. These are values ​​that you carry with you for the rest of your life.

What are you most proud of?

“I am very proud of what we have done at the National Renewable Energy Lab. I stayed there for 11 years, and we transformed the place. It was almost a kind of bankruptcy. They were literally in an industrial park… because they didn’t even have their own facility. So I went to the first meeting, and the old manager introduced me. There was 1,000 people, and I went up there… and I said, “You know, I see someday when we have our own establishment, and we can have our own cafeteria, break bread and eat together. . And I literally asked 1,000 people to stand up and give me a standing ovation. And then I went out and I was like, “I have no idea how this is going to happen.” No plan, no nothing, I just put it there. History will show that eight years later we had it all. So I guess I’m most proud of the idea that I’m not afraid to make a prediction that I have no idea how we’re going to do it.

University of New Mexico Chancellor Dan Arvizu reflects on Aggie’s story with College Athletic Director Mario Moccia. Arvizu became chancellor of Las Cruces School in 2018. (Courtesy of New Mexico State University)

What do few people know about you?

“I guess I would say I’m kind of an ambassador. I have really had the chance to engage and interact with people from all over the world. I was in Fukushima (Japan) with people after the tsunami and the collapse. I had the chance to meet people in South Africa, Johannesburg and Cape Town. I have been fortunate to deal with people in Asia, China, and India. I am on a board in Singapore. I guess the thing I would say is America is misunderstood by most countries in the world. They see our people as tourists. They see our politics as a little crazy and unpredictable at times, and when I talk to people, what I find is that they think a bit like us. “You are not a typical American” is what I get. And I say, ‘Yes, I am. People who are loud and loud and rude, this is not the America that I know. I know another America. And I think people are actually quite baffled – in fact, glad that there is a common thread among all of us that may not be evident if you just watch the papers and see it on TV. I don’t know, maybe (I am) a quiet diplomat, some kind of quiet ambassador.

What do you do with your free time?

“I love the outdoors. I played soccer in the Albuquerque Men’s League for 15 years. I climbed 11 14ers in Colorado… I ran half marathons… I love music, all kinds of music. I ran for some 40 years until my knees creaked. Now I’m a Peloton guy. I don’t know how old I am, to be honest with you. I feel much younger than I look or am.

Have you ever thought about writing a book about your experiences?

” I will do it. I have had a very, very interesting life. It’s amazing all the people I have had the chance to meet. I recorded part of it, because my memory fails me after a while. But I need to make the memories. I would stop before saying that this is a revealing book, but it would certainly be because there are stories… ”

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