Young Alumni Service Award

2020 Young Alumni Service Award Honoree

The Young Alumni Service Award recognizes living New Mexico State University alumni under the age of 40 who have made great strides in shaping their community’s future and have brought distinction to New Mexico State University.  

Russell Hernandez, Class of 2004

Las Cruces native and small business owner Russell Hernandez is a well-respected businessman, generous philanthropist and an inspiration to all. Over the years Russell has demonstrated strong leadership in his industry and the community locally, statewide and nationally. 

Russell serves as a member of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management Board of Directors, guest speaker for the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and College of Business, and pioneer for “Experience Mesilla,” an organization that supports small businesses in the Mesilla area. He also serves on various community and national boards in the restaurant industry.  

Russell graduated from NMSU with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business. During his time at NMSU, Russell balanced a 50+ hour work week and 21 Credit Hours, while acting as a college Ambassador for ACES and serving on several student organization councils. His attitude has always been, “what else can I get my hands on?”  

Russell is the owner and operator of Salud! de Mesilla, a unique and multi-culturally inspired restaurant that, since opening in 2016, has received local and national recognition. Russell has earned awards for his impactful work including the “2018 Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber Small Business of the Year,” 2019 National Restaurant Association best “Restaurant Neighbor” runner up, the “Sonny Brown Business of the Year Award” from the Rotary Club, and “Fan Favorite Restaurant Award.  

As a valued community member, Russell actively promotes and participates with collaborative fundraisers and contributes his time and treasure to many departments and organizations throughout the NMSU system including NAMA, HRTM, Dance Sport, Cheer, Athletics, the NMSU Foundation, Inc., and has helped raise the most money for Comida Encantada. He is the founder of the Thyme of Your Life Endowed Scholarship, which aims to aid and inspire Aggies following in his footsteps in the industry. Russell and Salud! donate over $50,000 a year as well as countless hours of time to dozens of nonprofits, schools and the Las Cruces-Mesilla community.  

Russell and his fiancé Christopher Schaljo, who is also an NMSU alum, bring a business perspective to the culinary enterprise and its sustainability program, and truly enjoy spending their lives as active philanthropists and restauranteurs.


  • This individual must be a graduate of NMSU and an active member in the Alumni Association (make an annual gift of any amount to NMSU).
  • This individual must be available to attend Homecoming 2021. Recipients will be recognized at the Awards Dinner on the Friday evening of Homecoming week.
  • Only one award will be given annually.
  • Members of NMSU faculty or staff are eligible for the Young Alumni Service Award as long as they are alumni and active members of the Alumni Association.
  • This individual must be a living alumni of NMSU and be the age of 40 or below at the time of the application deadline.
  • As an emerging leader, this individual will demonstrate commitment to excellence in service for their professions and exemplify ongoing contributions to their communities, multicultural relations and/or volunteerism.
  • This individual, through deeds and action, reflects and recognizes the importance of his or her education at NMSU, demonstrates pride in their alma mater and possesses an evident interest in and loyalty to NMSU.
  • This individual has impacted others through demonstration of integrity, stature, philanthropy and ability.
  • Any student, alumnus, friend, family member, faculty member, staff member, department head or dean may submit a nomination for the Young Alumni Service Award.

Those ineligible for nomination:

  • A candidate for any public office.
  • One currently serving as a member of any NMSU Advancement Board, including the Foundation Board of Directors, the NMSU Alumni Association International Board of Directors or the Pioneers Board.



Application Deadline: Completed nominations must be submitted to the Office of Alumni Relations prior to May 16, 2021. Nomination forms must be complete, thorough and contain supporting documents. This information will be used as the basis for the evaluation and selection of the Young Alumni Service Award.

Review Committee: Members of the Alumni Association Awards Committee will review all completed award nominations and make the final selections. Each Award recipient will be honored during NMSU Homecoming 2021.

Nominee Review and Consideration: Once submitted, the applications will be on file and considered for an additional two years from the current submission date.

Questions: Office of Alumni Relations,, 575-646-3616.

Young Alumni Service Award Nomination Form

  • Your Information

    As the nominator, please tell us about yourself.

  • Nominee Information

    Please tell us about the person you are nominating.

  • Nominee's History

    Please be complete and thorough with this section as it will be used by the judges to compare candidates.
  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, jpg, png, Max. file size: 2 MB.
      .pdf, .doc, .docx, .jpg, .png
    • Max. file size: 2 MB.
    • Max. file size: 2 MB.
    • Max. file size: 2 MB.
    • Max. file size: 2 MB.
    • Max. file size: 2 MB.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
    YearYASA HonoreeCollegeMajor/s
    2019Natasha Nesiba Natividad, '13 '15Arts and SciencesComputer Science