Graduates belonging to the Winter 2014 class helped bring The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Year to a close on Saturday, Dec. 13. Approximately 2,300 Miners participated in the day’s three Commencement celebrations.
“The major milestone that this day represents for each of you is made all the more significant because you have the unique honor of belonging to the Winter 2014 class that caps off UTEP’s Centennial Year,” UTEP President Diana Natalicio told graduates during her opening remarks.
The President led each of the ceremonies and lauded the graduates for their efforts and achievements that have brought national recognition to the University, such as being named a Top Ten university by Washington Monthlymagazine for the second year in a row. The magazine also ranked the University #1 for the third year in a row in social mobility, which acknowledges the impact a university has on the students it serves.
As the 133rdCommencement ceremonies came to a close, graduates were shown a special video that featured clips of UTEP’s progression over the last century, from its roots as a mining school with 27 students to becoming the first national research university in the United States with a 21st century student demographic.
The video ended with a shot of the class of 2014 being showered in orange, blue and white balloons, marking the end of each ceremony.
The last graduates to cross the stage on Saturday, bringing the Centennial festivities to an end, belonged to the colleges of Engineering, Health Sciences and Science. A total of more than 680 students were eligible to walk the stage in this final evening ceremony, 65 of whom earned doctoral degrees.
President Natalicio told the excited graduates — which included up-and-coming engineers, nurses and social workers — that their futures were bright with promise.
She said, “The joy of a Centennial milestone is that it offers a rich opportunity to remember and celebrate together our past accomplishments. But perhaps even more exciting and energizing is … the opportunity to take stock of where we are and where we intend to go.”
Griselda V. Acosta, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, already knows what’s in her future.
“I’ve been accepted to UTEP’s Ph.D. program in biomedical engineering,” Acosta said excitedly. “I’m going to do research with Dr. Thomas Boland, who works on 3-D printing with human organs; I find that fascinating.”
The biologist hopes that by working with Boland she will learn how to use biomedical engineering to help people who are paralyzed, have muscular dystrophy or another illness.
Twenty-eight-year-old David Rodriguez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical and materials engineering, was not so certain about his future. But even though he is still waiting on job offers, he remains confident in his ability to obtain employment.
While at UTEP, Rodriguez conducted research in the W.M. Keck Center for 3-D Innovation, a laboratory that focuses on improving 3-D printing processes. He juggled this research with an intense day-to-day schedule. In addition to taking classes, he worked at a local car dealership to earn a living, and each night went home to take care of his two children.
Justine L. Steele had a similar response to Rodriguez’s when asked about her experience at UTEP. “I’m exhausted,” Steele said while laughing.
At 31-and-a-half weeks pregnant, Steele was ready to earn her master’s degree in social work and get a break from school.
That’s not to say she didn’t enjoy her time here.
“I’m going to miss the UTEP community,” said Steele, who is grateful for her education. While here, she conducted research with Eva Moya, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work, on female reproductive health in the borderland. She also participated in two internships, one at the El Paso Domestic Rehabilitation Center and the other at University Behavioral Health.
Steele is sure a Ph.D. is in her future, but it will have to wait. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to having her first child and obtaining a fulfilling job in social work.
To see photos of the evening ceremony, visit UTEP’s Facebook page.
Andrea Villalba had a restless night as she thought about her walk across the stage during The University of Texas at El Paso’s 133rd Commencement ceremonies Saturday in the Don Haskins Center.
She was among about 900 summer and fall graduates from the School of Nursing and the colleges of Education and Business Administration who filled the center’s floor and earned the cheers of the thousands of family members and friends who attended the 2 p.m. ceremony. It included the celebration of eight doctoral degrees in education and business, and about 270 master’s degrees.
Villalba, who earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus in special education, said she was nervous and afraid of falling on the stage, but added that all went well during a dream she had about the experience the previous evening.
“I am so grateful to UTEP for the role it played in getting me to this point,” she said with colorful cords draped around her neck that signified her academic excellence and student group affiliations. “My professors guided me, kept me organized and taught me the skills that I will need to be a teacher and a better person.”
Among those who participated in the ceremony was Bruno Tyler Tyree, who wore a white Stetson under his black mortar board. The El Paso native was a UTEP cheerleader for four years and proudly wore the ring he earned as a member of the team that won the National Cheerleading Association Co-Ed Division Championship in 2011. He earned his degree in business administration with a concentration in financial analysis.
“This all seems so surreal to me,” he said in a noisy Memorial Gym where the participants registered and lined up for the procession to the Haskins Center. “It’s like four years of hard work is hitting me all of a sudden. I wasn’t excited before, but it hit me today.”
He is mulling over a job offer from the U.S. Border Patrol or going to graduate school for an M.B.A. or a degree in intelligence and national security studies.
Among the thousands who lined up with Villalba and Tyree was Ugyen Thinlay, who would earn his Master of Accountancy. He was excited about the ceremony, but part of his mind was with his family in Bhutan.
Thinlay, who earned bachelor’s degrees from UTEP in finance and accounting, said the University has helped him to appreciate his academic opportunities and that success comes from hard work. He is waiting for the approval of his work visa before accepting a job offer from the El Paso CPA firm of Jones & Co.
While his family is thousands of miles away, he was happy to share the moment with members of his UTEP family – the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
“My adrenaline is pumping,” he said with a smile. “I know something special is happening today.”
To see photos of the afternoon ceremony, visit UTEP’s Facebook page.
The University celebrated the graduation of more than 720 students from the College of Liberal Arts, including about 135 earning master’s degrees and four doctoral degree recipients, during the 9 a.m. Commencement ceremony at the Don Haskins Center – the first of three ceremonies to be held throughout the day.
“It’s a tremendous honor (to graduate during UTEP’s Centennial year),” said Carlos Nevarez after he posed for a selfie with fellow graduates. Nevarez earned the distinction of serving as the University’s banner bearer during the morning Commencement ceremony. “I never imagined that my graduation would coincide with this amazing moment in UTEP’s history, and I’m glad I’m part of it.”
Before graduates were escorted to the stage, the UTEP Chamber Singers performed the University’s alma mater for the first time in Commencement history.
Emily Wathen gift-wrapped her mortar board in red and green Christmas paper so her parents, who flew in from Germany, could see her on the Haskins Center floor.
“My friend graduated last semester (from UTEP) and I saw some people decorated their caps,” said Wathen, who earned her bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies. “It’s like a little present.”
Also among the morning graduates was the largest international graduating cohort in UTEP history tied to the Virginia-based Rare program, an international conservation organization.
Established in 2008, the partnership between UTEP and Rare makes it possible for future conservationists to earn their Master of Arts degrees in communication from the University.
The program teaches students how to use social marketing to protect endangered species and their habitats in more than 40 countries.
Eleven of this year’s 43 graduates from the Rare program traveled to UTEP from Saipan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Republic of Palau, Peru, Malaysia and Ecuador to participate in Commencement.
Fausto Romero, Girley Gumano and Susan Cataylo are three members from the Philippines Rare cohort who arrived in El Paso on Tuesday to walk in the ceremony.
“It’s very important to attend graduation,” said Romero, whose project was on sustainable fishing practices in Siruma, a municipality in the province of Camarines Sur, Phillippines. “For me it’s something very memorable to prove that I have accomplished our campaign in terms of conservation in the Philippines; delivering the right means of communication through social marketing.”
To see photos of the morning Commencement ceremony, visit UTEP’s Facebook page.