NMSU custodian overcomes language barriers, earns engineering degree

WRITER: tfrank
CONTACT: Oscar Murillo, 575-646-8079, aarmando

Since 2005, Oscar Murillo has worked full-time at New Mexico State University. At the same time, he studied in the classroom and this spring, earned an NMSU bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

A custodian with the Facilities and Services department, Murillo has worked in the Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center since 2015. He typically attends class in the morning and works in the afternoon.

Murillo uses NMSU’s Educational Assistance Program, which covers tuition and required fees for up to six hours in the fall and spring sessions and up to eight hours in the summer session. The benefit is available to eligible employees and qualifying family members.

Not only has Murillo had to master balancing work and his studies, the Chihuahua, Mexico, native also had to learn English. He attended classes at Doña Ana Community College to immerse himself in the language.

“It’s not been easy to work and study. It’s complicated, but I keep going,” says Murillo, who became a U.S. citizen in July 2017. He started taking classes in 2008 but took a four-year break while his mother, Bertha, battled cancer.

“My mom’s not here, but I think she would be proud of me,” he says. “She pushed me to continue.”

Even with his newly earned degree, Murillo says he will continue to work at NMSU and pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a specialization in power and control until the right full-time engineering position comes along.

Despite studying industrial engineering in Mexico, Murillo says, “I’m really passionate about circuits and electricity.”

He credits Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professors Robert Paz, who passed away in 2017, and Muhammad Dawood with helping him succeed.

“If I need help with my classes, he’s always available in his office,” Murillo says of Dawood. “I know sometimes I may bother him, but his door is always open.”

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