Summer for many UTEP students is about more than kicking back and relaxing. Those who aren’t enrolled in summer courses may take advantage of internships or study abroad/study away experiences that help them expand their perspectives, gain experience in their chosen field and make contacts for their futures.
It is a question that dates back generations to the one-room school houses: What did you do during your summer vacation? Dozens of Miner undergraduate and graduate students answered the call to reflect on what they did to expand and enhance their academic and professional paths, from internships and study abroad programs to research experiences.
Participants wrote about what they saw and who they met around the country and overseas. While some said the experiences reinforced their plans, others said their efforts uncovered new options worth considering.
Betsabe “Betsy” Castro-Duarte, director of the University Career Center, said students who participate in internships and study abroad opportunities come back more energized and excited to complete their studies.
“They got to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting,” Castro-Duarte said. “Their career goals have become more concrete, and that experience will give them an edge after they graduate.”
The career center director alluded to the University’s new UTEP Edge initiative, where students are encouraged to participate in high-impact experiences such as internships, research and study abroad that will enhance their academic journey and make them more marketable when they apply for jobs or graduate or professional schools.
For those Miners who did participate in an experience this summer related to their academic or career goals, many felt well prepared in the subjects and as critical thinkers to answer the challenges in the respective labs, offices and classrooms.
They were exposed to new concepts and techniques, and some returned with a renewed respect for “soft skills” such as communication, independence and organization. All came back a little worldlier in their perspectives and grateful for the opportunity.
Here are a few of their stories, in their own words.
Vicente Cobos: Studying Infants in Panama
Senior, Health Promotion and Psychology
“I went to Panama City, Panama, for seven weeks as part of a UTEP internship program, Minority Health International Research Training. The goal of my research was to better understand the social determinants of health in Panama and their impact on infants in the areas of cognition, language and motor skills. It was amazing to be part of the research team. It reinforced my passion in health promotion to educate communities so that residents can reach optimal health.”
Sairy Cohen Cruz: Crafting Cyber Security for NASA
Junior, Computer Science
“I had the privilege to be a NASA intern at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida … I worked with the cyber security branch, where in addition to having hands-on experience, which allowed me to develop security information, event manager reports, and analyses to protect KSC’s next Launch Control System … As a Hispanic student, it was an honor for me to represent The University of Texas at El Paso.”
Dina Edens: Functional Work Designs for Ceramics
Senior, Studio Arts
“This two-week workshop was a complete hands-on experience in which students learned about functional work design and the consideration of all of the elements that make a pot … We learned new techniques that opened our eyes to important decisions we need to address as we think of how to design a functional ceramic item. That includes learning the kinds of tools we will need to produce and fabricate them ourselves.”
Jesus Lopez: Growing in the Competitive Field of Theater
Senior, Theater Arts
“As an international student from Mexico, the fact that I had the opportunity to travel all the way to Massachusetts to work in the industry that I love and gain professional experience at such a young age is still an incredibly satisfying and fulfilling surprise … I could probably describe this internship as … a series of real-life trials to prove to myself that I can be who I want to be.”
Humberto Perez Monge: Serving the Underserved With Mental Disorders
Graduate Student, Mental Health Counseling
“I provided individual and family therapy from May to August 2017 at Family Service of El Paso. The experience allowed me to apply the theory and skills I learned as a graduate student to deal with people who had a wide array of mental disorders. Providing treatment to underserved clients who otherwise would not be able to afford it is something that makes me proud to have worked with Family Service.”
Paola Perez: Nano Research for Tomorrow’s Breakthrough
Junior, Electrical Engineering
“This summer I had the privilege of participating in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at The University of Texas at Austin. I conducted research on nanotechnology for 10 weeks in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering … It helped me combine my passion for science in the nanoscale along with the exploration of new technologies.”
Briana Pinales: Seeking Diversity Through Neuroscience
Doctoral Student, Pathobiology
“This summer I participated in the Summer Program in Neuroscience, Excellence and Success (SPINES) at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woodshole, Massachusetts. SPINES focuses on professional development for those who are interested in a scientific academic career … SPINES is unique because it focuses on the lack of diversity in the scientific community. As a Hispanic female paving a path into a career in neuroscience, it was invigorating to see other successful scientists persevere through similar issues.”
Luz Porras: Studying Forensic Science in Scotland
Senior, Biological Sciences
“The opportunity to study aboard was great, but to experience the food, culture and work environment of another country made the experience unbelievable … In the labs, we analyzed fingerprints, drugs, hair, fiber and DNA. In the classrooms, we learned about ballistics, chemistry analysis, the law and the criminal justice system … This experience made me more knowledgeable about forensic science and more aware of the importance of teamwork, patience and communication.”
Hugo A. Rodriguez Gonzalez: Learning from Boeing and Stanford
“My summer consisted of being one of the few Hispanics who interned as a procurement financial analyst with … The Boeing Company. I also was among the students selected from a national pool to participate in the Stanford MBA Future Leaders Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business … From May to August, I developed myself as a person, student and professional.”
Karla Vidrio: Diabetes Research in Costa Rica
“I had the opportunity to be part of the Minority Health International Research Training program in San Jose, Costa Rica. My research was focused on glycemic control among men and women diagnosed with diabetes, according to their level of education. This experience made me realize the importance of health research because it helps develop evidence-based practices and leads to better health … Now my goal is to earn a Ph.D. in nursing and continue doing research to improve the delivery of care.”