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Paul G. Barretta, Ph.D. in Business Administration ‘13

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am an Assistant Professor of Marketing, a tenure track full-time faculty position, at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, NY.  As a full-time faculty member at an AACSB accredited University, I teach undergraduate and MBA level courses in marketing and pursue a research agenda.  Research is conducted both individually as well as collaboratively with colleagues from within my current University as well as other universities, including UTPA.  In addition, I serve as an academic advisor to students who major in Marketing and serve on the School of Business Research and Creative Activities Committee.

What has your UTPA graduate education done for you?

As I complete my first full year as a full-time faculty member, I am struck by how well prepared I have been as a result of the UTPA Ph.D. program, which includes both research and teaching.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience?

It was challenging, broad and completely worth it.

Best tip for success?

Persistence, boldness and hard work.

Do you have any advice for prospective graduate students?

Open your mind.  Combine your life experiences and who you are with new experiences to grow.

Kalyan Chakravarthy Manthena

Master of Science in Computer Science ‘10

Where are you originally from?


What are you doing now?

I am currently a Senior Informatics Developer for Hyundai Information Services in Los Angeles, California. 

Career Goals?

UTPA has provided a perfect background for me to start my current career and throughout my time here I plan to become a Data Architect.

What has your UTPA graduate education done for you?

My graduate education helped me achieve a good job in my field of interest, which in turn helped my family be financially stable. I was honored to have received a Teaching Assistantship within the Computer Science Department and a Research Assistantship with the Office of Graduate Studies during my time at UTPA.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience?

UTPA has excellent faculty and good opportunities for student assistantships and jobs. The tuition and fees for international students is extremely affordable compared to many other universities in the United States.

Best Tip for Success

Don’t pursue a graduate degree if you don’t enjoy or have a passion for the field you are going into.

Any advice for prospective graduate students?

Challenges are big in the learning phase of life and later challenges can be easily tackled with past experiences and knowledge.



Cameron County Mental Health Task Force Scholarship

Graduate Level Studies


The Cameron County Mental Health Task Force (CCMHTF) is a local non-profit organization that is comprised of representatives from local mental health and social service agencies, hospitals, clinics, school districts and other community representatives. CCMHTF is committed to increasing mental health services and resources by increasing community awareness about mental health and substance use issues and by advocating for improved accessibility to quality mental health practitioners in Cameron County. It is for this reason that CCMHTF has created a scholarship fund with the goal of increasing the number of mental health professionals in our community. Cameron County is one of the most underserved communities in regards to mental health and CCMHTF looks forward to investing in the future by supporting higher education for mental health related professions. We commit to this investment by assigning a CCMHTF mentor to the recipients in order to provide continued support and guidance. The scholarship is available to eligible students pursuing higher education in one of the following programs of study: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Social Work, Guidance and Counseling, School Psychology, Psychology, Special Education, or other mental health related fields.



Applicant must:

  • Be pursuing graduate studies in one of the following fields:  Psychology, Guidance and Counseling, School Psychology, Special Education, Nursing, Social Work or a degree related to mental health.
  • Be at a minimum part-time student. Part-time status is reflected by registration for at least 6 hours of college course credits per semester.
  • Have a GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Attach a copy of their official transcripts
  • Attach the recommendation form that must be completed by a professor, mental health related supervisor, or civic leader.
  • Write a Statement of Goals, including the timeline for completion of studies as well as his/her intent to provide services to the Cameron County community for at least one year after completion of their graduate studies.
  • If awarded, the recipient must supply a copy of proof of registration with specified major from program of study
  • Applicant will be required to disclose if they are related to a member of the CCMHTF.



  1. The CCMHTF Scholarship Committee will review applications to include those that meet the minimum qualifying criteria. Final decision will be made by the CCMHTF Scholarship Committee and its governing boards.
  2. The awards amount is $1000.00 and will be provided during the fall semester.
  3. Award recipients agree to participate in a scholarship mentoring program in which a mentor will be assigned to provide monthly contact and support to the recipient. Recipient will provide minimum of three activities sponsored/organized or in collaboration with the CCMHTF. Activity participation may include monthly meeting attendance, committee work, fundraising attendance, presentations at public events, among others.


Application form

Recommendation form

Please submit the application to: cameroncountymentalhealth@yahoo.com for further information you may contact: Rose Gomez, Chair-Scholarship Committee, at RGomez@co.cameron.tx.us. (956) 399-3075 or Janie Lopez JanLopez@sbcisd.net (956) 361-6477

Deadline for submitting applications: June 1st.

Lynnette Danielle Aguilar

Master of Arts in Experimental Psychology ’11

How did the support you received at UTPA, such as the STEM Success Scholarship help you? 

I’ve always told those around me that one of my life’s greatest achievements would be to see the world. The STEM scholarship began a chain reaction of positive events that have impacted my growth as a professional Behavior Analysis. The scholarship allowed to grow from a passionate person into a passionate professional.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to place all my efforts towards developing my expertise in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. It is because of the support I received from the scholarship that I become infatuated with my studies and practicum. It allowed me the opportunity to fall in love with the material during my academic career, which prepared me for my professional career.

What are you doing now? 

I’m currently a Certified Behavior Analyst working as an Autism Consultant for an organization called St. Amant located in Canada. As an Autism Consultant, I’m responsible for behavioral assessments, development and implementation of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention and consultative treatment programs, I also provide consultation to my client’s caregivers and schools.

What are your career goals?

My goal is to continue to gain multicultural competence by providing services to those of various cultures and backgrounds, so that I can continue to provide behavioral consultation on an international level.

What advice would you give to future graduate students?

We are fortunate enough to live a society where there are various resources to take advantage of, and if utilized can have positive, life changing experiences. Take advantage of resources provided, they are there to help if you have the motivation and desire to utilize them.



Within every educator, there is a set of core beliefs. In establishing a teaching philosophy statement, educators are sharing their closest beliefs and best practices. A teaching philosophy is an individual narrative that includes beliefs about teaching and the learning process, along with actionable ways in which these ideals are accomplished.

At the Teaching Academy workshop Defining Your Teaching Philosophy, graduate teaching assistants from varying fields at The University of Texas-Pan American, were about to start finding out why defining themselves as educators is essential.

Dr. Jessica Lavariega Monforti, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor of Political Science at UTPA, walked students through what they should include in their respective teaching philosophies.

“Having a teaching philosophy that is genuine and not just buzz words is going to be noticed first,” Lavariega Monforti said.

Every educator may benefit from creating a teaching philosophy statement. From the classroom teaching assistant to newly graduated students and even seasoned college professors, educators can push forward confidently by finding out and summarizing their personal beliefs about how they best teach.

The Defining Your Teaching Philosophy is part of the Teaching Academy Workshop series, a function of the Graduate Resource Center and The Graduate School at UTPA. For more information visit www.utpa.edu/gradschool.

Luzelma Garza Canales

Master in Business Administration ’00

Where are you originally from?

From birth to age 15, I traveled with my family to Washington and Oregon as migrant farm workers. I attended elementary and middle school in La Grulla and several schools in Washington and Oregon and completed high school in Rio Grande City, Texas.

What are you doing now?

I joined the Community Foundation of Texas/Educate and became the founding executive director for RGV FOCUS Collective Impact Initiative. I provide leadership for a large-scale initiative launched to transform college readiness, access, and success across the Rio Grande Valley. Prior to leading RGV FOCUS, I spent eighteen years as a community college administrator and 10 years at the university promoting the student success and completion agenda. My goal is to continue to serve is a leadership position in the RGV that will allow me to fundamentally transform education.

What has your UTPA graduate education done for you?

My MBA continues to open many doors. It provides a level of credibility that is recognized across the country. I leveraged and integrated my course work to improve practices at my place of employment. I had the privilege of participating in an executive weekend MBA program, which allowed me to work closely with a cohort of 22 professionals that added as much value to my learning journey as the courses.

More importantly, the MBA gave me the opportunity to receive a promotion to move me from the ranks of staff into administration and to an official leadership position. As an administrator, I was placed in a position to affect policies at the local, regional, state, and national level. It also prepared me for entering a doctoral program with a greater understanding of the rigor and faculty expectations for graduate level work.

Best Tip for Success

Commit and become an expert in what you do. This can only happen if you are open to become a long life learner and understanding. There is always something to learn in life. Some things don’t just come in black and white, but also in many shades of gray. You must be open to negotiation and compromise to obtain the ultimate result.

Any advice for prospective graduate students?

Make the most of your journey. Integrate your lived experiences into your coursework and immediately connect what you are learning to how it can enhance and/or improve your current responsibilities.



Gerardo Pedraza, MA in English as a Second Language ’12

What’s your current job position?

I’m currently an Instructional Designer at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

What has your UTPA graduate education done for you?

It has helped me market myself better, and it has given me a different view on many things.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience?

I feel great about it! I had amazing professors, and I’m still in touch with some of them. It’s a great option for people like me that have the desire to get a good education, but have a limited budget.

Best Tip for Success

Make the most of your classes. The more effort you put into a class, the more you will get out of it. Ask tons of questions.

Any advice for prospective graduate students?

Choose your degree wisely, stay on track and create a good study group (it can make a great difference). Stay positive and pray for wisdom since knowledge you will surely have.

We would like to provide you with the tools you will need to be successful in your graduate program and beyond.

Please help us better understand your needs by filling out this quick 10 questions-10 minutes survey.

Branding #YOU

We all must continually learn and adapt to new technology, but it is especially important for college students about to enter the job market. The Branding #YOU workshop brought together graduate students and the UTPA Career Services team to give students information about Social Media & Resume Skills.


Career Services Assistant Director, Ronnie Garcia, and Career Services Special Projects Coordinator, Jack Kaufold fused together traditional job finding with modern practices.


The essential elements of a quality resume were discussed along with ways to harness the power of social media to market your personal brand.


Another major component was managing your privacy online and knowing what to post, and what not to post on social media outlets.


The interactive session followed by Q & A in which participants were able to share their thoughts on the matter, along with asking questions specific to them and their fields.


The Branding #YOU 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.

There are people in everyone’s lives that have made a positive impact on them. The Mentorship in Your Community event was an incredible success and featured three local leaders who have done tremendous things.

For 23 years, Dr. Miguel Nevárez led the Rio Grande Valley’s largest higher education institution and guided it through its merger with The University of Texas System. Under his watch, 30,000 students earned college degrees. After he stepped down as president nine years ago he returned to his first love, teaching, where he trained numerous educators to take on leadership roles, including serving  as president of then-Pan American University from 1981 to 2004.

Dr. Luzelma G. Canales is the executive director for RGV FOCUS, a collaboration with Educate Texas. Prior to joining Educate Texas, Dr. Canales served as a community college and university administrator for over twenty-five years. During her time in higher education, she provided oversight for resource development, compliance, organizational development, community engagement, continuing education, workforce development, corporate training, and adult basic education.

Mark Peña is a native of Edinburg, Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.  He received his Juris Doctor from Texas Wesleyan School of Law, Ft. Worth.  Mark is a partner in the law firm of Lewis, Monroe & Peña in Edinbug. Mark is a board member of Bike Texas, a statewide bicycle advocacy and education organization and is the founder of Ciclistas Urbanos, an urban cycling organization in the Rio Grande Valley.

Graduate students are at a very special junction and exposure to true leaders who have so deeply and positively impacted those around them is invaluable. Students who attended the event were expected to new perspectives and appreciation for the art of service.

The Mentorship in Your Community workshop is a function of the Graduate Resource Center and The Graduate School at UTPA. For more information visit www.utpa.edu/gradschool.


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