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Susan Valverde

Master of Business Administration ‘98

Where are you originally from?

I’m originally from Mexico. My family moved to Mississippi in the 80s, which is where I graduated from high school and started college.

What are you doing now?

I am the business owner of the Sylvan Learning franchisee. We work with students across the Valley and support them by providing additional academic assistance with any subject, along with ACT/SAT preparation.

What are your career goals?

I want to continue to grow in the field of education. There’s so much we can do to increase educational opportunities for our kids in the Valley.

What has your UTPA graduate education done for you?

I feel graduate education helps you become well rounded, foster creativity, and also teaches you how to apply much of your work/life experience in a different way. I’m certainly more analytical in my approach to business, and feel I use a lot of what I learned in the program every day.

Best tip for success?

Have a reason that is bigger than yourself for doing the work you do.  Always ask yourself why you’re working so hard, why you’re striving for more, and why you’re taking risks, and make sure it’s grounded in that reason.

Do you have any advice for prospective graduate students?

Just do it! Advancing your education is good for you and good for the region. It will open new doors, enrich your life and help your career tremendously.

To learn more about Sylvan Learning, contact her at susanvalverde@me.com

Kevin J. Hurt

Mercedes, Texas

Ph.D. Business Administration ‘13

What Are You Doing Now? 

Prior to graduating, I accepted a tenure-track management faculty position at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. I am currently teaching Leadership, Ethics, Human Resources, and Business Statistics for the Turner College of Business.

My family and I are really enjoying Georgia and we feel really blessed to be in such a wonderful area, but having been born and raised in the Valley, and having all of my family there, I’d certainly consider returning to the Valley perhaps in time, with the new University merger.

What Has Your Education Done For You?

I can’t imagine going through life without an education. The Ph.D. is a terminal degree and without it, I would not be able to have a tenure-track university professor position. Prior to my Ph.D., the Master’s degree opened up doors to job opportunities in the private sector that simply would have been shut if I had not been a college graduate. Having an education has also brought economic prosperity. Very few will get an education and then strike it rich. It’s not about that. Rather, it’s about the peace of mind knowing that because of your education, you can provide your family with a good home, great schools for your children, plan a great family vacation, and still have a little left over for your personal hobbies and interests. In short, having an education has led to a higher quality of life.

What Is Your Best Tip For Success?

  • Never take the easy path! If you are working on a project, don’t do the minimum necessary to pass. Rather, do the maximum necessary to excel. Students need to understand that the habits they develop in college will be carried into their employment. If they slacked through school, they will slack on the job. No one graduates and then flips a switch that says they will now take things seriously and start working hard.
  • Everyone needs to develop their communication skills. Your ability to communicate effectively will benefit you in every facet of your career.

What Advice Do You Have For College-Bound Students?

  • Expect to work hard! Some courses will come easy, and others will be more challenging. Never give up. The more you invest in yourself, the more you will be rewarded upon graduation.
  • Specialize! The job market is tight, so I would urge you to specialize in something. If you plan on pursuing a business degree, find a business niche (e.g. leadership, cost accounting) rather than a broad degree. If you are a non-business major, seek specialized knowledge (e.g. optometry, communication disorders), but compliment it with a business degree. Everyone needs good business and economic sense to pursue a double major or graduate degree. A  Business degree would give you an advantage in the job market.
  • Get Involved! Join a club or organization that is in your field of interest and get involved. Participate in all the functions and mixers. Build your network.


Stay up to date with our Graduate Resource Center events for the month of April.


Mentorship In Your Community

Join us on Tuesday, April 22 in the Borderlands Room 3.204 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

There is limited seating, so be sure to register by Friday, April 18.

Register Here.


Branding #YOU: Social Media & Resume Skills Workshop

Thursday, April 24, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom

Food and light refreshments will be provided.

Register Here.


Defining your Teaching Philosophy

Tuesday, April 29, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom.

Teaching Academy workshops offer opportunities for graduate students to hone their skills as educators.

Register Here.

Christian Ramirez, Master of Science in Sociology

Graduate Certificate in Mexican American Studies

Where are you originally from?

Corpus Christi, Texas

List any awards/honors at UTPA:

Travel Grants/Funding from the Department of Sociology

Travel Grants/Funding from the Office of Graduate Studies

What are you doing now? Provide details about your current position – name of employer, title, a brief sentence about your responsibilities.

I am currently a second year dual Ph.D. student in Chicano/Latino Studies and Sociology at Michigan State University. To date, I have worked for the Migrant Student Services as a graduate assistant and with the Julian Samora Research Institute as a research assistant. Presently, I am on a fellowship, which allows me to focus on my dissertation project.

What are your goals for your career?

My goal is to become a professor who can produce knowledge that informs our social understanding of Chicana/os and Latina/os in the U.S. I hope to teach and do research on these issues and continue to motivate younger generations of students to think critically in their everyday lives.

What has your UTPA graduate education done for you?

My graduate education at UTPA was the platform for future success. It was here where I was able to engage with professors and other graduate students who were serious about advancing the education and social mobility of those living in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience?

UTPA provided an inviting environment and the flexibility to complete my degree using an interdisciplinary approach. I believe that this approach to learning prepared me for my Ph.D. program.

What is your best tip for success?

Rarely can we complete a great task in isolation. My best advice is to establish community within your department. Get to know your professors and ask questions regularly. Find healthy ways to de-stress. Also, become familiar with the Office of Graduate Studies and the resources they provide for students.

What advice do you have for prospective graduate students?

Ask yourself why you want to go to graduate school.


Today we are happy to share with you four outstanding UTPA alumni who have been awarded the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation.

  • Kristen Alayne Hopperstad, Entomology
  • Julisa Amanda McCoy,  Sociology
  • Thomas Romano Mion, Physics and Astronomy – Condensed Matter Physics
  • Jennifer Monique Morales, Chemistry – Macromolecular

The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research.

Read more about it here: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do

Daniel Huerta, Ph. D. in Business Administration ’13 – Concentration in Finance

Where are you originally from? 

I come from the country of Venezuela.

What are you doing now? 

Currently, I am an Assistant Professor of Finance at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. I teach at the junior level and Financial Management Information Systems to seniors. I am also scheduled to teach the Advanced Corporate Finance course to our MBA students during the summer session. I am conducting research in the field of behavioral finance, particularly for the Real Estate Investment Trust and Financial Industries. I also regularly advise students and participate as an active faculty member selecting potential students for the School of Business Investment Program.

What are your goals in teaching? 

My plan is to develop into a scholar that meaningfully contributes to science and provides students with the opportunity to become successful professionals.

What has your UTPA Graduate Education done for you? 

It got me a job! Seriously: my education has offered opportunities that would not have been available otherwise. It gave me the skills to become a competent researcher and professor. Most importantly, my degree has offered the opportunity to help other learn, which is the most fulfilling aspect of my profession.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? 

UTPA is a place filled with opportunities. We have top-of-the-line professors and all the resources we need to succeed. The combination of low cost attendance and top-of-the-line education cannot be beat.

What is your best tip for success? 

Work hard, have a goal and that is the secret to success. If you do not work hard, you don’t get anywhere. If you do not have a goal, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, you will never know where you’re headed.

What advice do you have for prospective graduate students? 

Commit to expanding your horizons. Education is the best investment!

No matter the area of study, students in the middle of completing their thesis or dissertation share one hurdle –formatting for submission.

At the Formatting your Thesis/Dissertation workshop, staff from the Graduate Resource Center, an extension of The Graduate School at The University of Texas-Pan American, guided students through the basics of formatting and submitting their completed work.

The Graduate Resource Center held two highly interactive workshops, one at noon and one at night, in an effort to be more accessible to working graduate students.

“Giving them the flexibility to either attend during the noon hour, or later in the evening gives graduate students the opportunity to come out and get the information they need to be successful,” said Antonio A. Reyna, Administrative Coordinator and workshop-presenter.

The two workshops started with an overview of the submission process and then broke into smaller groups of students who worked with Reyna and the GRC team to address issues specific to their work.

With deadlines for draft and final thesis/dissertation submission looming, students were encouraged to make appointments with the GRC team if at any point they need additional help.

The Thesis/Dissertation Workshop is part of the Graduate Workshop series, a function of the Graduate Resource Center and The Graduate School at UTPA. For more information visit www.utpa.edu/gradschool.

Have you watched our latest episode of GradSchool NOW!?

Our host Mirian Gomez spoke with the sociology program director, Dr. Igor Ryabov and current students to provide you some useful information about the program.

Check out and see if this program is right for you!

Also, be sure to like and subscribe to UTPA Grad School Now Series to keep up with our latest videos!



GradSchoolLinkedinEverybody is on Facebook. However, a social networking site that you should not forget about is LinkedIn. In this social platform, people can connect in a more professional way with business owners, influencers, recruiters, and thought leaders. LinkedIn is a great tool to find your ideal job, get a direct internship experience, and talk to people who matter in a company and more. It is the Facebook for professional relationships. It is a great resource to manage your network of professional connections and get the most out of it (here is a great article by Forbes that talks about it) . Personally, on my LinkedIn connections, I have judges, doctors, job recruiters, corporate directors, and small business owners.

Here are some tips to get the most out of LinkedIn:

  • Update your profile: Use the latest information and make sure everything is accurate. Make your profile stand out and make sure it is at least 80 percent complete.


    Sample of a LinkedIn Profile

  • Start connecting with people you already know: connect your email address book and see who you already know on LinkedIn. Do not worry if you only find few connections, you can expand your network once you get used to making connections on LinkedIn.
  • Find interesting groups and join the discussion: Connect with like-minded individuals on LinkedIn and get in the conversation.
  • Read and comment: Find interesting articles and comment on them, you will meet some friends that way. Remember: be polite, it is a professional networking site.
  • Connect with influencers: Find thought leaders in your industry and connect with them, you will be surprised to see how many actually reply to you.
  • Share your professional thoughts and interesting articles: use the status update feature to post interesting thoughts that you have about your industry.


If you are looking for a new job, find some industry specific recruiters in LinkedIn. Do not be afraid of contacting recruiters, they literally need you to get paid, so go ahead and connect with them.

Also, to stay updated about internship opportunities, jobs, updates, and scholarships: follow the UTPA Grad School LinkedIn Page.

Full URL: http://www.linkedin.com/company/utpa-graduate-school


Reason #1 why you should attend the UTPA Graduate Fair


Don’t miss our annual UTPA Graduate Fair tomorrow, March 6th from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Community and Engagement and Student Services Building (CESS). Make sure to register online, to attend this event, for your chance to win a $200 scholarship!

We hope to see you there!

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