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Oscar Gustavo Alvarez del Castillo Oscar Gustavo Alvarez del Castillo, 23, is a senior and plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in art in May 2015. Alvarez del Castillo graduated from Sharyland High School in 2010 where he was commended in fine arts. He has been an active member of the Cartoon Club at UTPA since its founding in Fall 2012. During that time he was secretary and later became vice president of the organization. Additionally, Alvarez del Castillo has been working as a substitute teacher for the Sharyland Independent School District for the last two years.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Spring and Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, and Spring and Fall 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduating, I’ll find a full-time job teaching to continue studying, get a master’s degree, and help my family who have supported me. At the same time, I will promote my artwork more so it will become more well known and recognized. I also plan to write a book with many illustrations that everyone will love.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Although originally I planned on staying close to my family here in the Valley, opportunities may come up elsewhere. If I see one, I’ll take it. Of course, I would miss the Valley; living here led me to meet wonderful people who helped me in many ways to become who I am right now.

What has your education done for you? My education has led me to be the person I am, and for that I must thank my family, friends, and professors. I’ve learned a lot from what they’ve taught me from their accomplishments and their mistakes. I feel I’ve been able to grow a lot personally, especially in the last two years. I didn’t just become more social and wise, but also more happy. As an artist, I’ve been able to grow a lot too. All thanks to my high school teacher Mrs. Irma Garcia, and all my UTPA art professors who’ve been there for me.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience at the University has been great. I’ve met awesome professors and friends all around campus, especially in the Art Department. Professor Douglas Clark has pushed me like no other person, my friend Alexis Garza has guided me in more ways than he might think, and Julie Byrd has simply been an inspiration like no other. I’m more than grateful about my experience here at UTPA.

What is your best tip for success? First, more than anything else, try to be positive and make friends. Watch over others and care. It’s not worth being great at something if you are not going to share and teach it to those in need. Also, love what you do. Enjoy everything and the people who surround you. You’ll have a really hard time if you don’t. Love and tolerate. Finally, try new things. Even if you make mistakes, as long as you keep trying to fix them, everything should go for the best.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? “You’re not a failure when you fail, but when you fail and don’t try again.” This is something that I like repeating to myself. It reminds me that I’m capable of accomplishing anything as long as I’m willing to do so. The only thing you need is to believe in yourself and try as hard as you can. Challenge yourself and you’ll see you can accomplish great things.

 

 

Maria Elena Vidal

Maria Elena VidalMaria Elena Vidal, 56, is a senior and plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design and a minor in theatre design in Fall 2015. Vidal was born in McAllen Texas, but grew up in Mexico City where she pursued a degree in interior design. She studied abroad in France and Great Britain. Vidal returned to the United States with her husband and worked at a design firm in New York while raising two wonderful children. Later, she decided to go back to school and pursue a career in graphic and theatre design at UTPA. She has volunteered at the IMAS Guild, the Adult Day Care Center in McAllen, and assisted at UTPA alumni events. She designed the logo for the McAllen 6th Annual Walk, Run, & Ride Texas Oncology event. Currently, Vidal is gaining valuable knowledge as an intern at the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen. She has been employed as a work-study at UTPA for the past four years at the Registrar’s Office and at the Departments of Art and Communication. In her spare time Vidal teaches flamenco dance to children at Dancentre of Edinburg.

Awards/Honors: M. Thomason Education Scholarship, Fall 2013-Spring 2014; Jones Academic Scholarship, Fall 2014-Spring 2015; and Dean’s list, Spring and Fall 2012, Spring and Fall 2013, and Spring and Fall 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? The wonderful thing about the design field is that it gives me a lot of flexibility and I can always find areas where I can apply both my previous and newly gained experience so I can work on something that I love.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I spent 20 years in New York and I am very happy to be back in the Rio Grande Valley. Staying here allows me to interact with my American and Mexican heritage.

What has your education done for you? It has expanded my horizons and provided me with the knowledge I need to succeed in what I love.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? The quality of the professors and the time and care they dedicate to each student is invaluable. It has been a great experience for me to interact with my classmates, many of whom are the same age as my own two sons!

What is your best tip for success? Find something you love to do; work on something you are passionate about, you will succeed. Always strive for quality and excellence.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Take full advantage of this wonderful time in your life. Study and work hard. Get to know your teachers and classmates, since the friendships you forge here will be invaluable for the rest of your life.

 

Alyssa Nayellie VasquezAlyssa Nayellie Vasquez, 23, plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology in Spring 2015. She graduated from Mission High School in 2010 in the top 10 percent. Vasquez is a first-generation college student. At UTPA, she is currently a team leader at the Student Union, where she has worked for four years. As a Student Union employee, Vasquez had the opportunity to participate and experience an Association of College Unions International Leadership Conference in which she brought back various leadership skills to instill in her fellow Student Union staff members. She gives special thanks to her mother Annabel Guerra for being her strength and motivation to succeed in life and to all of her supervisors for giving her the opportunity to grow as a leader and believing in her strengths. Vasquez is also an active member and current secretary of the Criminal Justice Student Association. She has volunteered with Trash Bash, MADD 5K, Relay for Life, Juvenile Diabetes Camp, South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association, Day of Caring, HESTEC, Adopt a Highway and Adopt an Angel.

Awards/Honors: Top 10% Scholar, 2010; UTPA Assistance Scholarship, 2010-2011; Student Union Employee of the Month, 2012; Tribute to Success, 2014; and Student Employee of the Year nominee, 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to start working in the criminal justice field to gain experience. Hopefully, in the near future, I plan to go back to school and continue my education by achieving my master’s degree in criminal justice.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I’ve lived in the Valley all my life and I do plan to stay. I honestly never thought of leaving the Valley, however, if I get the opportunity to go higher in my work field somewhere else, I’ll take it if means gaining more experience.

What has your education done for you? Education has shaped me into the person I am today and has provided many benefits for my family and me. I’ve gained valuable skills which will help me to succeed in life.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My UTPA experience has been pretty amazing. Working at the Student Union since my freshman year gave me the opportunity to be involved in many activities which led to meeting many great people, many of whom I got to know and share great experiences with at UTPA.

What is your best tip for success? The best tip for success is to follow your passion. Never let anybody stop you from succeeding in life and say you can’t do it. Take all negativism and turn it into motivation for ultimate success.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Discover your best practices for learning; once you understand how you learn, you’ll be able to maximize your study power. Try an assortment of different activities. You may be surprised at what you enjoy and where your talents lie. Also, learn to manage your time – don’t procrastinate.

Victoria Velasquez

Victoria VelasquezVictoria Brianna Velasquez, 21, plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a minor in political science with honors in Spring 2015.

Throughout her undergraduate career, Velasquez has been an active member of her campus and community. Velasquez started her involvement with the Student Government Association, where she has served as a senator-at-large, associate justice, and chief justice. While at UTPA, Velasquez has been an active member of The Rafael “Felo” A. & Carmen Guerra Honors Program and participated in the program’s Summer 2014 study abroad to Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. She is also a sister of Delta Zeta Sorority. Velasquez was selected to participate in the Harvard Latino Leadership Initiative and the UTPA Law School Preparation Institute. Additionally, she worked in the office of Congressman Ruben Hinojosa in Washington, D.C. as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute intern. While in D.C., she volunteered with Voto Latino and the Smithsonian.

Awards/Honors: University Scholars Presidential Scholarship Recipient, Fall 2011; Dean’s List, Spring 2012-Fall 2014; The Rafael “Felo” A. & Carmen Guerra Honors Program, Fall 2011-present; Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society, Spring 2013; UTPA Law School Preparation Institute (LSPI), Summer 2013; International Women’s Board Scholarship, Spring 2014; Guerra Honors Program Study Abroad Scholarship, Spring 2014; and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Fall 2014

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation, I plan to attend a law school in Texas. I look forward to finding out where in Texas I will be pursuing my legal education and where I will be living for the next few years.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? The Rio Grande Valley has made me into the person I am today, so I will be spending as much time as possible in the Valley. If I would have to live somewhere else, I will always remember where I came from and do everything I can to give back to my community.

What has your education done for you? Education has been my top priority and has sparked my ambition to reach for success. I have been able to take advantage of several opportunities and scholarships to further myself academically. Every opportunity I take and the more I educate myself, the closer I am to reaching my goals.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I have had the most fulfilling college experience. I had the chance to become a leader on my campus while enjoying being a student as well. UTPA gave me the chance to do everything I could possibly do as a college student. I have been a student senator, student mentor, tutor, a member of the Greek community, and a representative of UTPA at both Harvard and Washington, D.C. I am sad to see my four years at UTPA come to a close, but I am excited to be a UTPA graduate and to continue my education.

What is your best tip for success? I have always felt that setting goals is important to success. Set goals, make a plan, and figure out how you will reach your goal. There may be obstacles, but that makes reaching your goal much more rewarding.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? For students entering college, I am first excited to hear them take the opportunity to challenge themselves by furthering their education. College bound students, including my younger brother, should work to become involved on their campus. Being involved is key to establishing friendships, creating a professional network, and finding your own home away from home within a university.

Carmen Cisneros

Carmen CisnerosCarmen Cisneros, 21, is a senior double majoring in political science and psychology with a minor in chemistry. She will complete her undergraduate studies with honors in Fall 2015. Cisneros graduated from Business Education Technology Academy in Edinburg in 2011. Before entering The University of Texas-Pan American she studied abroad in Monteux, Switzerland. She is a member of the Political Science Association, serving as treasurer in Spring 2014. In 2013, she was a participant in the Harvard Latino Leadership Initiative in Cambridge, Mass. As a participant in the Bill Archer Fellowship in the Fall 2014 semester, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she interned full-time on Capitol Hill with U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

Awards/Honors: The Rafael “Felo” A. & Carmen Guerra Honors Program, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi inductee, Spring 2013; Dean’s List, 2012-2014; Gateway Scholarship, Spring 2012; Glynn and Rene Morgan Scholarship, 2013-2015; Medrano Fellowship, 2013-2014; and Jesse H and Mary G Scholarship, 2014-2015.

What are your plans after graduation? For a short span of time, my plan is to work in a policy center doing research. I strongly believe that applying theory from my undergraduate studies to the real world will help in my transition to law school. Through a more hands-on experience, I hope to gain more skills as well as resources and find clarity to what type of law interests me.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Part of why UTPA has been great for me is that it has given me an opportunity to grow by assuming leadership roles outside of the Valley and state. Following my career interests can lead me somewhere new. With that said, I will always keep the Valley close to my heart. For example, living here has certainly given me a better perspective of the world.

What has your education done for you? It’s a learning environment that has challenged me constantly. In turn, I’ve grown tremendously, such as gaining political awareness. My college journey helps me reflect on what I can see myself doing professionally in the near future. I can deliberately make these sorts of important choices now and this is my favorite thing about it.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I feel extremely thankful to UTPA for all of the opportunities they have entrusted me with. Meeting professors and faculty from The University of Texas System each semester, who give their 100 percent to this amazing institution is an honor. Surrounding myself with people who are inspirational pushes me to check off more things from my bucket list.

What is your best tip for success? Don’t ever lose sight of what drives you, which in my case is changing the world, because if you do, you can become cynical.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? The combination of exuding confidence and working hard will pay off.

Kathryn Brough

Kathryn BroughKathryn Brough, 19, is a junior at The University of Texas-Pan American who plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication – Public Relations and a minor in marketing in May 2017. She graduated in the top 10 percent from BETA High School in Edinburg in June 2013. Brough is a senator and Personnel Committee chair in the Student Government Association, a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, and serves on The University of Texas System Student Advisory Council as one of two representatives from UTPA. She leads worship with the praise band every week at the First United Methodist Church of Edinburg and is part of the Methodist Campus Ministry. She hopes to study abroad in her time here and currently works at the UTPA Office of the Dean of Students.

Awards/Honors: University Scholar Presidential Level Scholarship, Fall 2013, Spring and Fall 2014, and Spring 2015; Gateway Scholarship, Fall 2013, Spring 2014; State Top 10% Scholarship, Fall 2013; Dean’s List, Fall 2013, Spring and Fall 2014; and Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities Award Recipient, Spring 2015.

What are your plans after graduation? Although graduation is still far away and I’m not sure where life will take me just yet, I plan on entering the work field immediately to gain experience in marketing/PR and learn more about my career path. I am also considering entering graduate school.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? The Valley is the place I was born and raised in. I want to travel, see the world, and work in other places, but the Valley will always be the home I return to.

What has your education done for you? My education has made me who I am. It has helped me grow academically and as a leader. I’ve learned so much in my short time here at UTPA and many doors have been opened for me. I will be forever grateful for what I have received.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? UTPA is honestly an amazing school. I came into college very hesitant but I fell in love almost immediately with the campus and the opportunities available. There is always something to do or see here at UTPA and every day is a new adventure waiting to happen.

What is your best tip for success? Always give it your all and follow your dreams. Although it might be extremely challenging at times, it’s important to do what makes you happy. You’ll enjoy life a lot more that way and you’ll be passionate about your work. With that passion you’ll be able to go the farthest you can and you will feel successful the entire time because you love what you’re doing.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Get involved as soon as you can on your campus. There are countless organizations that can be joined and limitless opportunities at every door and mouse click. Take advantage of what the university has to offer and get involved in things you love with people you enjoy spending time with. Also, be confident in every task you take on and don’t be afraid to make friends along the way. Meeting new people is extremely easy with thousands around you, so smile and say “hello” as much as you can. College isn’t forever, so enjoy your time in it and you will have memories to cherish for the rest of your life.

Anna Karen Garcia

Anna Karen GarciaAnna Karen Garcia, 24, plans to graduate with a master’s degree in communication in Fall 2015. She graduated from The University of Texas-Pan American in Summer 2013 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. During her undergraduate studies, Garcia was involved in student organizations on campus. She was a fundraiser officer for the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), where she had the opportunity to develop her organizational, planning, and teamwork skills. Also, she had the opportunity to participate as a volunteer in HESTEC and the ENCORE National Convocation. As a CEO member, Garcia travelled to Dallas to attend a national conference where her team won a first place, earning the E-Diffusion Award. She also served as a volunteer to assist two small businesses in Mexico to develop marketing strategies to create and increase their brand awareness. Garcia currently works as an account executive with Studio Twelve01 at UTPA, where she has helped create effective marketing strategies for various campus departments and programs.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2009, and LeaderShape, Spring 2009.

What are your plans after graduation? I would like to get a job in the marketing field to gain more experience in customer relations and strategies to create brand awareness in the market. After that, I plan to have my own business as a marketing strategist.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I love the Valley, a place where I have met great people and, more importantly, got my college education. But I think that I would move if I get a good employment opportunity somewhere else.

What has your education done for you? Education has taught me that with dedication everything is possible. Learning is a never-ending process; with education someone is able to see things from a different perspective. My education has helped me achieve some of my goals, and I know it will help me achieve many more.

 How do you feel about your UTPA experience? It has been a wonderful experience. I have met amazing people who are always willing to help. I can honestly say that I had a real college experience; I’ve been able to participate in study groups, join student organizations, attend conferences and social events, and support the Broncs at their games. My professors at UTPA were always very focused on student learning and success.

What is your best tip for success? One of my tips for success is being consistent in what you do that gives you positive results. If you want it, you can make it happen. Another tip to being successful in your college years is to have dedication and the desire to succeed.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Ask questions, never give up and be persistent when it comes to your studies. Choose a career that makes you happy because it will be what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life.

Karen Perez

Karen PerezKaren Perez, 21, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American with plans to graduate in fall 2015 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and a minor in mass communication. Perez graduated among the top 10 students from Palmview High School in 2012. In her first year at UTPA, Perez worked as a news reporter for the University newspaper The Pan American. In fall 2013, Perez began a marketing internship with the UTPA Office of Continuing Education where she gained hands-on experience in social media marketing and blogging. Currently Perez works on campus as a writer for the UTPA Office of Public Affairs where she continues to gain new skills in PR writing. In her free time, Perez volunteers at the Palm Valley Animal Center and the Food Bank of the RGV.

Awards/Honors: Top 10% Scholarship recipient Fall 2012, Fall 2014; Carl N. and Margaret Karcher Founders’ Scholarship recipient 2012; Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships (VAMOS) recipient 2012-2015; Dean’s List Spring and Fall 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? Although I’m planning to go to graduate school a few years down the road, I would like to get out into the work field as soon possible – the dream of every college senior. I’d like to pursue a career in marketing communications or public relations – perhaps working in an agency. Frankly, the pop culture geek in me would also love to write for an entertainment magazine while my curious self is interested in market research, conducting surveys and learning more about consumer behavior. Whichever career path I, or life, takes me on, as long as I get to write, whether it be a report or a story, I’ll be happy.

Do you plan to return to/stay in the Valley? I’ve lived in Mission all of my life and have always been proud of where I am from but I’d like to explore the job opportunities that lie outside the Valley. However, I love Texas so if I don’t stay in the Valley I’ll probably be just a few hours’ drive away.

What has your education done for you? My education at UTPA has taught me the importance of critical thinking that goes beyond the textbook. Pursuing an education has allowed me to discover new passions and has given me confidence not only as a scholar but as a soon-to-be professional.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? The beautiful campus of UTPA has been like my second home. UTPA has opened many doors for me and I’m truly blessed for the internships, part-time jobs and learning opportunities it has provided me with even before graduating.

What is your best tip for success? Do not be afraid of failure. Sometimes it takes perseverance to see desired results, whether in the classroom or on the job. College isn’t easy but no matter what happens it’s important to always remain positive and keep our eye on our goal – in my case that goal is walking across the stage to receive my diploma.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Play up your strengths and learn from your weaknesses. I’m still a naturally quiet person but it’s amazing the people I’ve gotten to interview, the stories I’ve written and the knowledge I’ve gained all because I’ve decided to challenge myself.

Reba Rivera

Reba RiveraReba Lynn Rivera, 19, plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and a minor in psychology in May 2017. She is a member in and leader of the University Program Board, where she serves as chair of the Night Life Committee. She is also a member of the Student Leadership Academy, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Honor Society and Alpha Lambda Honor Society. Rivera works on campus as a mentor for first year students in the Bronc Mentoring Experience program. Rivera volunteers in the music ministry as a pianist in her home church, Apostolic Temple of Faith in Raymondville, Texas, where she also assists in other church activities and helps her pastor translate his sermons from Spanish to English. In addition, Rivera has gained valuable knowledge volunteering as an intern with Peggy Ramon, R.D., L.D., a registered dietician at PR Nutrition in McAllen, Texas.

Awards/Honors: Gelman Constitutional Scholarship, August 2014; and Dean’s List, 2013-2014.

What are your plans after graduation? I will begin my career in a hospital as a registered dietitian (R.D.). I will obtain my master’s degree possibly in business. After two years of being an R.D., I also plan to become a Certified Diabetes Educator. Later, after earning my master’s, I am determined to open my own practice in nutrition consulting.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Yes because I want to serve the people in the Valley.

What has your education done for you? My education has provided me a wealth of new knowledge to interpret the world around me; I have become self -sufficient and learned key skills such as time management and prioritizing. I have been able to apply things learned in the classroom to my everyday life and become an active member in my university and participating citizen in Edinburg.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience is not done but it has been the most amazing adventure yet. It has required hard work, many hours of studying and determination to get me this far. No other university could have offered any experience greater than the one I have had at UTPA.

What is your best tip for success? Be persistent and never stop looking for new opportunities. You have to raise your hand, ask questions, speak for yourself, and get out of your seat. Do something.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Sometimes we feel college is an obligation, meaning that you have to go because your school pushes you to or because you have been stuck in the routine of going to school. But college is the steppingstone in which you grow the most. Don’t take college as an “I have to;” it’s a privilege to be here, not everyone will make this decision. Take this and run with it. Learn in your classes, don’t be ordinary, be outstanding. Seek opportunities, explore, study abroad, get involved, become a Greek and become a leader. Find yourself and what you do best. Be smart, and confident in yourself, always give back to others and respect one another. For those who don’t think you can, stop believing this, because you can. I will be the best in what I can do; you will be the best in what you can do. So let’s do this together. God bless you all!

Kristina Garcia

Kristina GarciaKristina Garcia, 21, plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in Fall 2016. She graduated as salutatorian in 2012 from San Benito High School. At UTPA, she is a member of the Association of Computational Machinery and has volunteered at Bronc Roundup. Garcia has also volunteered at St. Theresa Catholic Church in her hometown of San Benito. As a student employee at the University she works at the Office of Career Services which has allowed her to participate in many activities in and outside of school, including career fairs and graduation ceremonies.

Awards/Honors: Top Ten Percent Scholarship, Fall 2012-Spring 2014; Texas Grant Fall 2012-present; Stripes Scholarship, Fall 2013-Spring 2015; and Dean’s List, Fall 2012, Spring and Fall 2013, and Spring 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I plan to become a game developer and/or movie developer. My dream jobs include employment in companies such as Pixar, Rooster Teeth Corporation, or Bethesda.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? It’s really hard for someone graduating with my degree to find a job in the Valley. The RGV is my home, however, you need to go wherever life takes you.

What has your education done for you? Education honestly is what has made me the person I am today. It has made everything I want to accomplish in life possible and for that I am very grateful.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? Honestly, I can’t imagine going to another university and liking it as much as I do here. The professors are great, I have gained work experience and, most importantly, I love it here.

What is your best tip for success? Don’t let anybody say that you can’t do it. If you feel that you can achieve your dreams don’t let anybody stop you from your ultimate success.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Make sure you major in something that makes you happy and that you enjoy. I have changed my major a ton of times and now that I am a computer science major I feel that I am doing something that I truly love and that is what I feel is most important.

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