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Kristela Garza

Kristela GarzaKristela Garza , 22, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American who will graduate in August 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in global security studies. Throughout her time at UTPA she has attended the Washington Leadership Institute, the Summer Seminar: Foundations hosted by the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence and has traveled abroad to Morocco and Spain. She has also reported for the University newspaper, The Pan American. In addition, Garza has completed an internship with the U.S. Census Bureau in Maryland.

Honors/Awards: Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges, 2014; Texas Grant, 2009-present; and Lacks Valley Scholarship recipient, 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? Because of the opportunities afforded to me by the UT Pan American as well as the Global Security Studies program, I have decided that I would be happiest with a career in civil service, for either the nation or the state. In a communications position I know I could use my experience in journalism to serve the public to the best of my ability. However, a full time job in journalism would be a dream come true as well.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Although I consider the Valley my home I would really love to move somewhere out of state to explore. However, if I were offered a good job close to home I would gladly take it.

What has your education done for you? My education at the University has given me direction. I was guided to my current major after fumbling around for a semester or two, eventually finding my way to the student newspaper. Through that experience I learned the true meaning of late nights and own several thermoses. But I have also grown as a person and a lifelong learner. My education here has given me the courage to move toward my goals in a way I never could before.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? To be honest UTPA was originally my third choice school; it was close to home and affordable, so I stayed. However, throughout my years here I have seen the world, interned in Washington, D.C. and have grown into a person who knows what they want in life and how to get it. But what is most important to me are the connections and experiences I enjoyed at this University. I found my place at UTPA, and, with the help of my minor, I found my passion for journalism and get to work with some of the best and brightest at the University on a day-to-day basis. What more can one ask for out of your college experience? For all this I will forever be thankful.

What is your best tip for success? Success is a relative term for me because I have experienced many disappointments in my college career. But everything led me down the path that I am on now and I am pretty happy. So when it comes right down to it my best tip would be to not be afraid to go after what you want, but if you do make sure that you give it your all.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? You know what you want to do, so do it. And if you don’t know keep moving forward and try different things, clubs and organizations. Find your passion and strive to do something you love for the rest of your life.

Amanda Gutierrez

Amanda GutierrezAmanda Marie Gutierrez, 20, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a minor in sociology in December 2014. Gutierrez graduated from Business Education & Technology Academy in May 2012 with a Distinguished Achievement honor. At UTPA, she became a Certified Level I and Level 2 Tutor and was employed as a tutor by UTPA’s Writing Center, where she has worked for two years. She worked for the UTPA Physics and Geology Department as a teacher’s assistant for Astronomy 1301 labs. In the Fall 2013, Gutierrez completed an internship with Bobby Flores Jr. for the 139th District Court at the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg and found that to be a rewarding experience. She served on the Parking and Trafficking Committee for Summer 2013 as the undergraduate representative for UTPA and has volunteered for South Texas Literacy Programs founded to encourage literacy amongst adults and children. Gutierrez also interned for The Pan American newspaper, working as a sports writer in Fall 2013. She feels she owes her academic success to the undying encouragement and support of her parents, Robert Gutierrez and Aurora Rodriguez.

Awards/Honors: Kenedy Memorial Scholarship, 2013-2014; Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, 2014; Outstanding Student Award, 2014; Executive Aide: Athletic Consultant for the Student Government Association, 2014; Senator Representative for the Student Government Association, 2013; and Dean’s List, Fall 2012, Spring and Fall, 2013, and Spring 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to continue into graduate school at UTPA and pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice. I want to eventually pursue a career with the Drug Enforcement Administration or with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? While I intend on traveling throughout my life, my intentions are to stay in the Valley to help promote literacy and crime prevention amongst youths, adults and Hispanic immigrants.

What has your education done for you? My education has broadened my knowledge and philosophy in a crime-preventive perspective, as it has allowed me to consider different alternatives that I will eventually apply as an officer in the field. Moreover, it has allowed me to reconsider my own personal beliefs and question them, and therefore has allowed me to attain a greater understanding of myself.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? Being a student at UTPA has allowed me to surround myself with a talented and diverse set of individuals, each with their own ideas and beliefs. I feel as though I have received a greater understanding of the Hispanic and Mexican-American minority while simultaneously challenging my own leadership skills.

What is your best tip for success? Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and never fail to challenge yourself and place yourself outside of your comfort zone. Listen to others’ opinions, and never reject any on the premise that they’re different from your own. Find a meaning in education that is more significant that a higher-paying job opportunity and change your community for the better.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? If you plan on working during your college experience, find a job on campus; it’s more convenient and your supervisors understand that your priority is your education. Also, your co-workers are also your colleagues and probably have similar goals. Try to become involved at UTPA by joining one of the many organizations the university provides for students.

Fabiola Urgel

FFabiola Urgelabiola Urgel, 21, is a junior at The University of Texas-Pan American with a major in economics and a minor in sociology. She plans to graduate in Summer 2015. She is the president of the UTPA Economics Society. Urgel was also the team leader of the UTPA Up to Us team, which won first place overall in the Up to Us competition, a national contest in which teams of students organize campaigns to raise awareness about the national debt. She works for the department of Economics and Finance and serves as coordinator for the Border Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium and the Financial Literacy Program.

Awards/Honors: Academic Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, Spring 2014; Dean’s List, Spring 2012-present; Dean’s Scholar Award, Spring 2012-present; The International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma , Spring 2014; Golden Key International Honour Society, Fall 2013; and The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Fall 2012.

What are your plans after graduation? I want to pursue a joint Ph.D. in economics and public policy. I want to work for the government in an area that would allow me to advocate for minority groups of both the U.S. and Mexico. I want to influence public policy to improve the education, health of our population and the wealth distribution of society. I have two professional goals: the first one is to work for the public sector in projects aimed to support and improve women’s rights, immigration, and the national budget issues. The second one is to work for an international nonprofit organization that focuses on achieving better living standards in developing countries.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I want to work in a place that allows me to fulfill my career goals. Helping others has always been the force behind every decision I make, so if by staying in the Valley I can contribute to make a positive and significant impact in the community, I would stay.

What has your education done for you? UTPA has been much more than just a university. At UTPA we are a family, a united family, and as a family we all care for each other. Thanks to my professors I’ve been able to discover what I want to do in the future and that is more important than any other subject you can learn in a classroom. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of having two mentors who have always supported me. I’d like to thank economics professors Dr. Marie Mora and Dr. Alberto Davila for their unconditional encouragement; they have been an essential part of all the great opportunities I’ve had. Studying economics has allowed to open up my eyes to important topics such as inequality, unemployment and poverty in order for me to try to find a way to contribute in the solution of these problems.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I simply feel that choosing UTPA as my college has been the best decision I’ve made in my life.

What is your best tip for success? Never accept a “no” when your heart tells you “yes”. Dedication, perseverance and listening to the right people are essential for success. Always find a mentor!

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Invest in education, never underestimate the value of a degree. College is definitely one of the best experiences in life. Attend college, be involved, look for opportunities and strive for greatness.

Erika Vallejo

Erika VallejoErika Lee Vallejo, 20, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate with honors in Spring 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in pre-law and philosophy and a minor in legal studies. She is a proud 2011 graduate of Grulla High School. Vallejo is a graduate of the Student Leadership Academy and currently serves as the Pre-Law Society historian. This year she received a Who’s Who Among Students Award and participated in the 2014 Great Plains Honors Council. She was also a poster presenter at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ 8th Annual Research Conference. Vallejo is a community volunteer at the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid wills clinics, and has also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, and Hope in Joy. She recently studied aboard in Vienna, Prague, and Budapest with the Guerra Honors Program.In addition to her studies and volunteer activities, she works for Pathfinder Public Affairs and previously served in 2012 and 2013 as a UTPA Ambassador mentoring six protégés. In July Vallejo will participate in UTPA’s Law School Preparation Institute.

Awards/Honors: The Rafael “Felo” A. & Carmen Guerra Honors Program student, Fall 2012-present; Eta Omicron (HON), Sergeant at Arms, Spring 2014; Phi Kappa Phi, vice president, Spring 2014-present; Pi Sigma Alpha, Spring 2014-present; Dean’s List, Spring 2012-Spring 2014; Jesse H. & Mary G. Jones Scholarship, Fall 2014; and International Women’s Board, GHP Study Abroad, and International Student Program Scholarships, Summer 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to get my master’s degree in political science at Washington State University and continue my education from there. My goal is to take an educational path that will help me create a better world by mitigating political corruption and socio-economic barriers.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? Yes, I will return to the Valley because it has given so much back to me, and I would love to teach here. Yet, I need to continue my global exploration to better contribute to civil society at home.

What has your education done for you? My educational experiences have taught me that you haven’t truly learned anything unless you use that knowledge to help make positive change in the world around you for civil society. Thanks to the support of my husband, Matthew, and my mother, I have been able to continue pursuing my education. Moreover, thanks to my mentor Dr. Paul Jorgensen, for encouraging me to become a better scholar. I am extremely grateful.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? UTPA has been a home for me. I lived on campus for two years, and because of that I’ve been active within my university and community. Joining the Guerra Honors Program has changed my life both inside and outside of school. I’ve met truly brilliant peers who inspire me to do better. We have amazing faculty and professors at UTPA, and our only job is to learn all we can from them.

What is your best tip for success? Get a planner and a white board. Keep track of everything you need to do, and check it off a daily list. It helps ease anxiety and stress. Every time I check something off a list, it helps me feel more accomplished.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Ask questions; there is no such thing as a bad question. As Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life…have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Everything else is secondary.

Pauline Castro

Pauline CastroPauline Castro, 21, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in chemistry in December 2014. She moved to Texas from New Jersey in 2002, and graduated from South Texas High School for Health Professions, where she was salutatorian of the 2010 class. Castro is an active member of the Guerra Honors Program (GHP), and held several officer positions in Eta Omicron Nu (HON), including secretary and study abroad chair. Her involvement in GHP enabled her to study abroad in Paris, France in 2012 and Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey in 2013. Since Spring 2012, she has served as a genetics lab assistant under Dr. Scott Gunn. In the past, she volunteered at South Texas Health Systems hospitals and in UTPA community events, such as HESTEC, The Carnival of The Great Pumpkin, and The Distinguished Speakers Series.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2010-Spring 2014; University Scholars, Fall 2010-Spring 2014; Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Spring 2014; GHP Study Abroad Scholarship, Summer, 2012 & 2013; International Women’s Board Scholarship, Summer, 2012 & 2013; Jones Academic Scholarship, Fall 2010-2012 & Spring 2011; R.C. and M.G. Fish Scholarship, Spring, 2011; Gateway Scholarship, Fall 2010-Spring 2011; and STISD Education Foundation Scholarship, Fall 2010-Spring 2011.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to take six months off to work and travel. Those six months will be my last hurrah before I attend graduate school to obtain my doctorate in physical therapy.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? It would be nice to return to the RGV after completing my doctorate. The Valley provided me an excellent environment to strive and thrive in my education. However, I am keeping an open mind and willing to go wherever my career takes me.

What has your education done for you? Growing up, my parents instilled the view that a good education is the first step to having to a successful career. Education is the gift that keeps on giving. My education not only taught me lessons valuable to my future, but also taught me the beauty of learning. Learning happens everyday and everywhere. I am proud of my education and all the lessons it teaches me and will teach me throughout my life.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? It was great! I made new friendships and strengthened old ones. I have deep admiration for my professors. The faculty is always on hand and serve as mentors for their students. I am also happy that UTPA enabled me to study abroad twice. Through those trips, I learned so much about other cultures and about myself. The life-changing experiences I had throughout my time as an undergrad has made me a stronger, more confident person, and for that I am grateful.

What is your best tip for success? In order to succeed, we need to fail. As contradictory as that sounds, it was my failures that taught me life’s greatest lessons. Even though our society looks down upon failures, I learned to embrace them. It is these failures in life that open our eyes to the world around us and push us to be a better person. So if you fail, it’s okay, because you’ll be stronger in the end.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Don’t procrastinate. Plan ahead. Find a stress reliever. Hit the ground running. Keep things short and simple. Study abroad. And lastly, enjoy college.

Eunice Santana

Eunice SantanaEunice Santana, 22, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and minors in communication studies and religious studies in Fall  2014. She graduated from Edinburg North High School in 2010. At UTPA, she has been involved in the Student Government Association, Ambassadors Program, Student Leadership Program, Residence Housing Association and Baptist Student Ministry (BSM). Outside of school, she has served her community by participating as a counselor for camps and conferences, such as Congreso, Katalyst,  Bronc Camp, The Valley Summer Project, and Cristo Vive International. Santana  was also part of the Texas Student Lead Team for UTPA’s BSM college ministry. She was a resident assistant for three years and an intern at the Office for Sustainability.  Santana not only serves her community locally,  but has also been fully invested in reaching out to the world as well. She has been a Go Now Missionary for four years, devoting her summers to engage in cross-cultural experiences around the world. As a freshmen Santana traveled with a BSM group to China to teach English.  As a sophomore, she helped host women’s conferences, held children and youth camps and led worship for churches in Cuba, Mexico City, and Puebla. In her junior year she volunteered for Children Emergency Relief International translating for a medical team in Veracruz. This summer she will intern for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List,  2011; Leadershape,  2011; Residence Life Mentoring Program,  2013; Outstanding Student Leader Award, 2014; and Community Builder of the Year, 2013-2014.

What are you plans after graduation? I plan to continue serving my University by becoming a BSM campus missionary at UTPA. I also plan to pursue my master’s degree in counseling. I want to become a missionary in an underserved area and help people who are hurting, have low self-esteem, and/or need to be encouraged, specifically women.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Growing up in the Valley has allowed me to see and experience different levels of poverty and need. Living here has made me more aware about the world.  My goal is to serve in a third-world country rescuing trafficked women and people who have been abused in efforts to share Christ with them.

What has your education done for you? Coming to college has opened the door to many opportunities to explore new ideas, myself, and the world. “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance” -Will Durant. There are still many things to know and learn, but I know that I’ve had the best education a college student could have. I could never have imagined doing all the things that I have done without UTPA.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I am in love with UTPA because it has offered me a home and a family community. Not only has UTPA given me endless opportunities to develop my leadership skills, but also to apply them in the real world. The best part of my college experience was joining the BSM and finding my second home.

What is your best tip for success? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”-Philippians 2:3. I would encourage every student to allow themselves to learn from others, then take time to teach others what they’ve learned.

What advice do you have for college bound students? “Keep on keeping on” –Joe Dirt. Although things may seem far-fetched, don’t give up, try your best and make an impact!

Jennifer Coello

Jennifer CoelloJennifer Elizabeth Coello, 21, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate in May 2015 with Bachelor of Science in nursing and a minor in medical Spanish. She graduated from Rio Grande City High School in 2011.  Coello is a first-generation college student and the oldest of four children. Coello migrated to Illinois every summer while in high school to work in the corn fields.  Being a migrant farm worker with exceptional grades, she was awarded acceptance into the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at UTPA. Coello studied abroad at in Salamanca, Spain at the Universidad de Salamanca. While at UTPA, Coello has participated in Alternative Spring Break, was a member in the Association for Migrant Students, and served as public relations officer for Habitat for Humanity-UTPA Chapter. She had the honor to be a UTPA Ambassador for the 2012-2013 school year, and is currently the treasurer of the Student Nurse Organization.  Coello has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity building houses for Rio Grande Valley families,  the McAllen H-E-B Feast of Sharing, 17th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival, Relay for Life, Ronald McDonald’s House, and the National Cesar E. Chavez Blood drive.

Honors/Awards: Top Ten Percent Scholarship, 2011 & 2012; Count Me In!  Scholar, 2011 & 2012;  International Student Program Scholarship, 2012; Angel Investor Scholarship, 2013 &2014; Wanda L. Boush Scholarship, 2014 &2015; UTPA Dean’s List, 2011-2013; Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor Society, 2012; Golden Key International Honour Society, 2012; and  Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? My plans after graduation are to work in a Rio Grande Valley hospital and obtain acceptance at UTRGV to continue my education in hopes of becoming a family nurse practitioner and give back to the community that has done so much for me.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? My plan is to stay in the Valley, work, continue my education and start a family in Valley. The Valley has been my home for 21 years, and I love it here. I love my hometown and the fact that all my family lives here is a huge plus. I plan to one day open my own family practice in Rio Grande City, and continue giving back to the community that shaped me.

What has your education done for you? Education is essential in my everyday life, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to continue learning new information that will help me in my present and future. Education has opened many doors for me, and has allowed me get closer to reaching my dreams in becoming a nurse, and helping others.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I wouldn’t trade my UTPA experience for anything else. This University has given my family and me the opportunity to afford higher education. It has also given me the opportunity to meet great people, study abroad, and gain knowledge that no one can take away from me.

What is your best tip for success? The best tip for success is to follow your dreams; set goals and never give up until they are reached. Anything is possible and there is always someone to help or use as a resource.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? My advice for college-bound students is to never give up. Networking is also very essential in succeeding.  There are organizations on campus and internships offered that can be very helpful.

Edna Garcia

Edna GarciaEdna Garcia, 21, is a senior at The University of Texas Pan American and plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering and a minor in dance in May 2015. During the spring of 2014, Garcia worked as a teacher assistant for the engineering economics class. She has served as a recruiter for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) for two years, where she participated in a promotional clip for the manufacturing department. Garcia has also participated in HESTEC and Engineering Week giving manufacturing engineering workshops to middle school and high school students. Garcia is an active member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She worked for one year in the UTPA Center of Excellence in STEM Education’s C-STEM Student Research Program that focuses on research in areas of interest to the U.S. Department of Defense. Garcia’s research is focused on metal oxide nanofibers phase transformation and electrochemical properties; she was able to publish an article on her research in the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Garcia currently owns a dance studio in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, where she splits her time between attending school and teaching enthusiastic children ages 3 to 15.

Awards/Honors: Academic Deans’ Outstanding Student award, College of Engineering and Computer Science, Spring 2014; Tau Beta Pi/Engineering Honor Society, 2014; Dean’s List, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2012 and Spring 2013; AT&T Engineering Scholarship, Fall 2013; UTPA Achieve Grant, Fall 2013; UTPA Alum Scholarship Manufacturing Engineering, Fall 2012; and G.R. and Lidia Ranganath Endowed Scholarship for Engineering, Fall 2011.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I plan to begin my engineering career working with a company that will help me grow as a professional as well as a person. I hope to achieve a master’s degree to further my knowledge in manufacturing engineering, but I feel I will need working experience before I can start focusing on that.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I will definitely like to stay in the Valley. I see a lot of growth potential here, and despite where my career might take me, I would always want to return to the Valley; this will always be my home.

What has your education done for you? My education has helped me become what I am today. It taught me that there is no limit for what you want to accomplish and it has given me plenty of opportunities to succeed and to expand my knowledge.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience at UTPA has been great! I got the chance to be part of SME, and some other great organizations. Being involved in extracurricular activities helped me develop leadership skills and also allowed me to meet new people and form new friendships. Similarly, my professors at the Department of Manufacturing Engineering gave me the tools and opportunities to become a successful person.

What is your best tip for success? Define what is it that you want to do or that you are passionate about, set goals and work as hard as you can to achieve those goals by always putting your heart into it and taking advantage of the opportunities that might come your way.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? My advice would be to join student organizations, that way you can meet new people and also be involved around campus. You decide how your college experience is going to be like, that is why you should always be open for new ways to be involved and have a positive attitude.

Robin Galloso

Robin GallosoRobin Lynn Galloso, 21, plans to graduate with an MA degree in history with a minor in anthropology in 2016. She graduated from UT Pan American in December 2013 with a BA in anthropology. At UTPA, she has served as the fundraising coordinator for the Anthropology Club and president for Lambda Alpha Anthropology Honor Society. Galloso has also been a member of the UTPA women’s cross country and distance track and field team for four years. For the past two summers she has studied abroad in Peru and will travel there again this summer. Her volunteer activities include archaeological surveying at Palo Alto National Park and participating at Fort Brown during the May 2011 Midwest Archaeological Week. Galloso’s work with the CHAPS (Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools) includes helping with research for the CHAPS book on the Norquest family, organizing the reference list for the CHAPS book “The Native American Peoples of South Texas,” shovel testing at Fort Brown and taking part in the 2012 HESTEC Internship and Experiences Panel. Galloso is currently a graduate assistant for the CHAPS program.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2010-Fall 2013; International Women’s Board Scholarship, Summers, 2012-2014; International Education Fee Scholarship,  Summers 2012-2014; Female Cross Country Runner of the Week for the Western Athletic Conference, Fall 2013; Dean of Student’s award for the College of Arts and Humanities, Spring 2014; and Athletic Director Honor Roll Award, Fall 2010-Fall 2013.

What are your plans after graduation? After receiving my master’s I plan on taking six months off before enrolling in a doctoral program in archaeology, more specifically historical archaeology. The six months will allow me to do possible independent research and to focus on running before school becomes too crazy.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? There is a possibility with the new University being created that I might be able to find a job in the Valley but most likely I will have to get a job in other parts of the United States or the world.

What has your education done for you? My education has taught me that I don’t know everything. It has allowed me to be open to new people and ideas but has also allowed me to defend who I am as an individual. My education has also taught me to value the Valley and its culture – the Valley is a great place to live and grow up.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I feel like that my experience here was very positive. I am able to be on the women’s cross country and track and field team while trying to fulfill my educational goals. The professors here also care for their students and do not just see them as numbers. If you are struggling in class they will help you find the best way to improve.

What is your best tip for success? My tip for success would be to do what you want and plan for it to happen. Things do not happen only by chance and faith, you have to do a lot of work to achieve your goals.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? If you want to go to college to party, do so in moderation and responsibly. Also, do things you have never done before. If you get the chance to travel do it so that you can see the world for what it really is and so that you can appreciate where you come from.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr

Miguel Gutierrez JrMiguel Gutierrez Jr., 21, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and history in August 2014. He is currently vice president of Lambda Alpha Anthropology Honor Society and , member of Lambda Alpha Delta Honor Society, History Club, and the Social and Behavioral Sciences Student Advisory Committee. He is also president of the Anthropology Club at UTPA. Gutierrez works as a mentor for the Sophomore Academic Mentorship program at UTPA and has volunteered with the Anthropology Club and Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools (C.H.A.P.S.). He has done research with the C.H.A.P.S. program on the Norquest Family and contributed in the publication of “The Norquest Family: A Porción of Edinburg” and took part in several local archaeological excavations including Palo Alto Battlefield and Fort Brown in Brownsville. Gutierrez has travelled to South America to do archaeological research on the prehistoric site of Huerequeque in the Casma Valley of Peru with Drs. Tom and Shelia Pozorski twice. He has also done anthropological research by conducting interviews for the RGV Contamination Project.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2010, Spring and Fall 2012, and Spring and Fall 2013; Undergraduate Research Initiative Grant, 2013, 2014; International Women’s Board Scholarship, 2013, 2014; International Educational Scholarship, 2013, 2014; UTPA Housing Scholarship, 2010-2014; Texas Grant 2010-2014; State Top 10% Scholarship, 2012-2014; and Academic Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to continue pursuing my academic goals of getting an MA and eventually a Ph.D. in historical archaeology. I hope to one day join the Society for Historical Archaeology and work for the Smithsonian Institution as a museum curator or in artifact preservation.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? The Rio Grande Valley will always be my home. I do not know if I will stay and live here but I do know that no matter where my career takes me, it can never replace the Valley I grew up to love and cherish.

What has your education done for you? The most important thing that I have gotten out of my education is realizing that learning never stops. I have become more inquisitive and curious about things. This is a beautiful, complex, mysterious, and fascinating universe and one should explore it indefatigably, aware that our time here is limited. I now know that one of the secrets to living a happy life is to not aim to be a wise sage who knows everything, but to forever remain an enthusiastic student eager to learn more.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? It was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was challenging, fun, adventurous, and beneficial. I made countless friends and had unforgettable experiences which will stay with me forever.

What is your best tip for success? Having ridiculous persistence and asking questions like you get paid for it. Those are the two things which have helped me the most, especially asking questions. Ask, ask, and ask again. That, to me, is the mark of a wise person – one who has more questions than answers.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Major in something you truly enjoy doing. If you like physics, go for it. If you like philosophy, go for it. If you like history, go for it. There’s NO SUCH THING as a worthless major. If you work hard enough at ANYTHING, doors begin to open. But, remember, it is easier to work hard when you actually like what you do. Enthusiasm is everything.

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