Karen Leal, 22, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate from in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in Spanish. Leal is a first generation college student who transferred to UTPA from Texas State University. She has been a member of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and the Wiener Society of Mathematicians. She has given back to the community by participating in canned food drives, clothes drives and local parks’ community service activities. She has also worked as a tutor at Travis Middle School in McAllen. At UTPA, Leal has worked for the past year at the Bronc Line and as a mathematics tutor at the Learning Assistance Center. She is currently participating in a mathematics project with Dr. Mrinal Roychowdhury, assistant professor in the UTPA Department of Mathematics.
Awards/Honors: Top Ten Percent Scholarship, 2009; McAllen Chamber of Commerce Scholarship, 2009; Lion’s Club Scholarship, 2009; Migrant CAMP Scholarship, Fall/ Spring 2009; Dean’s List, Spring/Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Spring/Fall 2012, and Spring 2013.
What are your plans after graduation? After graduation, I plan to start working in my dream profession – teaching mathematics. Although I would feel utter satisfaction by reaching one of my goals, I plan to continue expanding my knowledge and better prepare in the field of mathematics by pursuing a master’s degree.
Do you plan to stay in the Valley? My plan is to stay in the Valley to have an opportunity to share the knowledge I have acquired. However, I would keep an open mind to relocate if there is an opportunity for professional improvement.
What has your education done for you? Thanks to the many sacrifices that my parents have made, I am able to receive and value my college education. Education has opened up a world of opportunities for me. It has allowed me to expand my knowledge and to view life differently. Thanks to the education I have received, I will be able to work in my dream profession.
How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I feel very fortunate to attend UTPA. The university faculty has not only helped me expand my knowledge, but also helped me realize that life is not about knowing everything but to be able to share your knowledge and collaborate with other individuals to accomplish great things. The collaborative accomplishments, in turn, are for a greater good that help improve the university and the overall community.
What is your best tip for success? My parents have instilled in me motivation, work ethic and perseverance, three of the most important qualities that you need to succeed. It is important to want to succeed, be willing to put the effort into your goals and to never give up.
What advice do you have for college-bound students? Make a positive contribution to the world by aspiring to be the best you can be and, as you engage in the journey, to follow your dreams and don’t let anyone stop you. Your attitude and determination will make a world of a difference so you must always stay positive and persevere to reach your goals.