Hurtado named 2012 Freshman Convocation keynote speaker

Dr. John Hurtado showing model rocket in front of class

Dr. John Hurtado, associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, has been chosen as the keynote speaker for the 2012 Freshman Convocation Aug. 26 in Reed Arena.

Freshman Convocation is a relatively new tradition at Texas A&M, wherein the university officially welcomes the incoming class. Hurtado will help to usher in the Class of 2016.

A first-generation college student and a son of farm laborers, Hurtado grew up associating the words "college" and "university" solely with athletics. Hurtado did not enter college until he was 20 years old, beginning with a few classes at a community college. With the support of some of his instructors and a community college counselor, he transferred to San Diego State University where professors guided him and introduced him to additional education opportunities. He earned a bachelor's degree from San Diego State, and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Texas A&M, all in aerospace engineering. An Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Hurtado holds three U.S. patents.

While at Texas A&M, Hurtado has had an ongoing and lasting impact on student learning. In 2011 Hurtado worked with a freshman who won first place in Student Research Week. He has mentored an undergraduate team that participated in NASA's microgravity competition, and he has guided numerous undergraduates through directed studies and the prestigious Undergraduate Research Scholars intensive research program. He has also recently mentored an undergraduate during a summer research program at Sandia National Laboratories. Because of his mentorship, many of these undergraduate students decided to transition into graduate school.

A popular and highly rated professor in the classroom, Hurtado serves as a faculty advisor for the AIAA student chapter and as a mentor in the NASA MUST (Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology) program. Looking for more than what standard textbooks could provide, Hurtado has written sophomore-level and junior-level dynamics monographs to use in his teaching. And, recognizing the impact of hands-on experiential learning, Hurtado launched rockets with students in a college-prep program from Texas A&M International University in Laredo to excite the students about aerospace engineering.

Aerospace engineering department head Dr. Dimitris Lagoudas said that Hurtado's love for, and success in teaching has resulted in receiving teaching awards at departmental, college and university levels."

Dr. Hurtado's message is of hope and inspiration and the difference that one person can make in your life," Lagoudas said. "His teachers and professors put him on a course to be successful, and they have dramatically changed his life from what it could have been. He transfers this hope, inspiration, and encouragement to undergraduate students on a daily basis through his role as professor."