Gena Barela


Gena Barela’s story is one of determination and grace. Born in Los Garcias, Chihuahua, Mexico, and raised in Kansas. She recalls beginning second grade with no English and credits great teachers that helped her with language. She arrived in Las Cruces as a young woman, and she began her time at DACC by getting her GED at the Quintana Learning Center, and followed it up with a two-year degree, graduating in 1990. Like many of us, Gena was the first generation in her family to go beyond high school.

After leaving DACC, Gena worked for a local loan company for 22 years, beginning in bookkeeping and ending as the manager. Although she enjoyed her work, Gena had always planned on going back to school and getting her bachelors degree. She found it to be a huge culture shift moving from the private sector to higher education, but in 2012 she began her career at NMSU. Taking advantage of the staff tuition waiver, she began taking classes along with working, and in 2020 she graduated from NMSU with a BA in Business.

In 2021, Gena’s boss, former Vice Chancellor Ruth Johnston, nominated her for the Stephen W. and Robert E. Roberts Memorial Staff Award, which she won. The Roberts Award recognizes dedication and outstanding service to the university. A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Gena began putting thought to what she wanted to do next. Project Management interested her and she began to gather the appropriate microcredentials. This month she begins her new position as a project manager for NMSU Global (formerly NMSU Online/NMSU On-Demand).