LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – The animation program at New Mexico State University continues to gain respect across the nation and is now a top-20 program in the country, according to the annual rankings provided by Animation Career Review.

More than 200 programs were evaluated for the 2023 rankings, which saw NMSU jump three spots from 22nd last year to 19th this year.

“That ranking has been a big component of our recruitment, retention, and the growth of our enrollment because we’ll find students that come from outside the state who hear about us,” said Derek Chase, a professor in NMSU’s Creative Media Institute who specializes in 3D animation. “Our program is pretty popular.”

Some of the key components that factored into the rankings were selectivity, depth within the program, academic reputation, value as it relates to tuition and student debt, and employment opportunities.

“CMI (NMSU’s Creative Media Institute) offers a high-quality education at a very affordable price,” said Eddie Bakshi, who specializes in teaching 2D animation production at CMI. “We offer access to industry-standard software, taught by highly skilled professors, many of whom have worked on popular movies or TV shows.”

NMSU’s program remains the number-one-ranked program in New Mexico and is seventh overall in the region.

Students say they are given both practical instruction and a sense of freedom to work on projects that are meaningful to them.

“What I really like about NMSU is they encourage us to use our own stories,” said Marlene Garcia, who is planning to graduate in May. “We use the principles that they’re teaching us, and they let us show what we can do, what we have created. When I tried to use my own characters at my previous university, they would actually give me lower grades because I was using my own characters, but here they support that.”

Bakshi adds that the skills learned in the animation program are useful in a wide variety of careers that involve visual media and not just the entertainment industry.