Graduates Share Their Stories
As UTEP celebrates the graduates who walked across the stage at Winter Commencement 2011 on Dec. 10, the stories of a few individuals provide a snapshot of the class as a whole – a diverse group of nearly 2,000 scholars who can proudly say that they have earned a degree from UTEP.
Ana Quevedo, College of Engineering
While she has always been interested in science, it was a chance meeting with a physician in Mexico that made Ana K. Quevedo realize that she could combine her passions for science and health care.
Ana earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science on Dec. 10. She has applied to two graduate programs where she plans to study computational biomedical engineering, a fast-growing field with research potential in medicine and technology.
Ana was born in El Paso and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico, where in high school she met a doctor who explained how cutting-edge technology was making a difference in people’s health.
“I am exceptionally interested in the possibility of helping others by improving health care through my studies and expertise,” she said, adding that she would like to conduct research in disease modeling, biomechanics, and how complex living systems — such as the human body — work.
She said her lack of English proficiency — despite taking bilingual classes through high school — did not keep her from distinguishing herself in the classroom at UTEP, where she earned a 3.4 GPA, a scholarship, and numerous academic awards.
Her professors have praised her intelligence, writing, leadership and organizational skills. She excelled as a participant at this year’s Summer Institute for Undergraduates at Stanford University.
Karen Arenas, College of Liberal Arts
Becoming a young mother during her sophomore year of college only strengthened Karen Arenas’ resolve to follow her academic dreams, which included earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from UTEP on Dec. 10.
Karen, a native El Pasoan who graduated from Montwood High School, was one of 32 students selected by the University of Texas System for the highly competitive Bill Archer Fellowship, which sends students to Washington, D.C., for an internship and academic program. Karen thanks her parents for their support in achieving this goal.
She spent this fall semester with the American Bar Association in Washington in the Individual Rights and Responsibility section and expects to begin law school in fall 2013.
She praises UTEP’s caring faculty, especially those involved with the Law School Preparation Institute, for giving her the solid foundation she needs to compete in the legal field. Her academic and practical experiences, such as her work with Amnesty International and the Court Appointed Special Advocate program, leave her confident that she will practice law in El Paso one day.
She believes that by accomplishing her long-term goals, she can bring light to the lives of people in her community. She says: “They are who have inspired me to be the best that I can be and showed me that human kindness still resides in this world.”
Anne-Laure Bourgois, College of Education
Anne-Laure Bourgois began her studies at the Université de Picardie Jules Verne in her native France, but she always
pictured her future in the United States.
While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she was given the choice of several universities to attend, including UTEP, to continue her education as an exchange student. Anne was drawn to the unique and diverse multicultural environment of El Paso, as well as the training in psychology available in the United States.
Dedicated to her studies at UTEP, Anne was caught off-guard one night in 2008 when she met Luis Quintana, a fellow Master’s student from Mexico. The two instantly fell in love. Anne decided to pursue her master’s degree in community counseling at UTEP. She married Luis in 2010.
Luis describes Anne as a “challenge junkie” who constantly strives to learn something new. Her tenacity and dedication to the pursuit of knowledge is evident in the long hours she has devoted to her academic life. Not only did she teach herself to speak English, she has learned Spanish through Luis and taught him her native language in return.
Now with her master’s degree, Anne plans to move across the border to Chihuahua with her husband, where she will provide counseling for families in the surrounding region.
David Cuevas, College of Education
David Cuevas Jr. lived with a permanent chip on his shoulder. Growing up, he was told by a middle school counselor
that he was not college material. Every semester he shares that story with the students in his high school criminal justice classes.
He says: “I tell them not to believe anyone who tells them they can’t make it. I tell them that they can make it if they put in the effort.” On Dec. 10, David lived up to his words; at age 65, he earned his master’s degree in education.
David is an Air Force veteran who earned his bachelor’s in multidisciplinary studies from UTEP in 2006 after a 27-year career as an El Paso police officer.
He used his G.I. Bill benefits to enroll at the University in 1969. Despite averaging 50-hour workweeks at the police department, he found time to take an occasional college class.
After he earned his teaching credential from UTEP, his professors encouraged him to apply for graduate school.
David said his future plans could include teaching at the community college level and writing history books. Or he may come back for a third degree, this time in criminal justice.
Colin Davis, College of Engineering
Colin Davis is a born tinkerer whose interest in taking things apart and putting them back together has helped him to excel academically and professionally while at The University of Texas at El Paso.
He built a 3.87 GPA while taking leadership roles with campus organizations and fulfilling an internship with ExxonMobil and a summer program with NASA. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering on Dec. 10.
Colin said he has an inherent desire to see how things work. “I think that hands-on knowledge has made it easier to wrap my mind around engineering problems,” he said.
His natural curiosity combined with the work ethic instilled in him by his single mother helped him to earn a competitive University Presidential Scholarship after graduating from Coronado High School.
Colin described his selection to NASA’s Microgravity University in Houston as one of the highlights of his academic career. There he flew aboard the agency’s “Weightless Wonder” to conduct materials research while floating in the belly of a converted military cargo plane.
“I knew very few people who got to do what I was doing,” he said. “It probably was the most fun experience during my time at UTEP. It was like a reward for all my hard work.”
He is still deciding whether to pursue graduate school or start his career in the field of stress analysis.
Hannah Garcia, College of Education
On Dec. 10, Hannah Garcia received her bachelor’s degree in special education, Early Childhood through 12th grade, from The University of Texas at El Paso. This is a testament to her personal motivation to succeed.
Although she was a good student, Hannah dropped out of high school to help her mother and younger sister makes ends meet. Her efforts were not enough to keep utilities from being turned off or provide enough food for the family in their small apartment in Arlington, Texas.
At age 18, she decided to tackle life on her own. Hannah juggled school, work, friends and financial obligations, and earned her GED. She moved to El Paso in 2005 to be closer to the man who would later become her husband.
She earned an associate degree at El Paso Community College before enrolling at UTEP, where she wanted to learn to be a special education teacher to give every student a fair shot at life.
She said: “I can be a great advocate for (students) and make them great advocates for themselves.”
Hannah says she learned a lot about leadership and professional collaborations during her time at UTEP and looks forward to using those skills in the classroom and as she begins her graduate studies this spring at the University.
Krystal Rivera, College of Business Administration
Before Krystal Rivera arrived at UTEP, she graduated at the top of her class as a student, athlete and leader at Clint High School in nearby Clint, Texas.
Enrolling in college and earning a degree was her next goal, and it’s one that she proudly reached on Dec. 10.
Born and raised in the Paso del Norte region, Krystal has excelled in the College of Business Administration, where she was a member of the business professional fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, served as Business College Representative with the Student Government Association during two different semesters and was an active member of the American Marketing Association.
Since the summer of 2010, she was an intern for IMG Academies with the UTEP Athletic Department.
As Krystal walked across the stage to claim her bachelor’s degree in marketing, she was the first member of her family to graduate from college — although her twin brother, Kristopher, is not far behind. He’s on track to graduate next year from the College of Education.
Krystal’s future plans include gaining more work experience in El Paso and assisting her mother in running her own local fashion boutique, with a long-term goal to work in sports marketing.
Kristine Velasquez, College of Science
Kristine Velasquez, who received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology on Dec. 10, gets her passion to succeed from her grandmother, Ignacia Rodriguez, an orphan who left Mexico at age 15 with only a first-grade education. Rodriguez passed along a love for America because of the economic opportunities she found here.
Today, Kristine is committed to giving back to this nation and its people.
She has joined UTEP in a national campaign called Opportunity Nation, which promotes opportunity, social mobility and access to the American Dream. Through this campaign, she will work with hundreds of college students throughout the county to help make their communities aware of how a college education leads to economic opportunity.
Kristine also provides financial literacy mentoring to fellow UTEP students. She is part of Money Matters, a program designated to help students manage their money so they can meet their financial and educational goals.
She hopes to return in the spring 2012 semester to begin work on a graduate degree.