Throughout high school, Daniela Morales was a model student. She studied diligently, was an active member in numerous honors and student organizations and frequently volunteered in the community.
When the class valedictorian and self-described “overachiever” enrolled at The University of Texas at El Paso, she challenged herself to continue building off the momentum she created for academic success.
Now, reflecting on her experience thus far as a Miner, the senior mechanical engineering major pinpoints her involvement with the University Honors Program (UHP) as having ignited her professional interests and satiated her desire for academic rigor.
The UHP has long supplied top-performing students with rigorous and enriching academic experiences by offering opportunities aimed at engaging students with their professors and peers for meaningful and supportive working relationships that foster knowledge, research and discovery.
“Being a member of the UHP helped keep me consistent and allowed me to build off of my previous accomplishments,” Morales said. “I was exposed to research during my first semester through the work I did with the program and was able to establish working relationships with my professors. They got to know me, and I was able to better understand concepts and learn more. The extra honors projects made me realize I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and work in the energy field.”
In fall 2018, the UHP shifted its programing to align more closely with the UTEP Edge and follow a college-based model. Program leaders sought input from the University’s schools and colleges to allow each the ability to customize the experiences to the specific professional and personal needs of each student.
The revised model incorporates high-impact interdisciplinary practices that provide members with structured advising, team-based projects, research and creative activities, service engagement, and professional experiences.
Honors students must participate in at least one Edge experience per year in order to graduate with honors. Their options include capstone experiences, learning communities, community engagement, research and scholarly activities, internships, student employment, study abroad/study away and student leadership.
“This new revamped program will be a real resume builder for students focused on establishing experience at UTEP,” said Norman Love, Ph.D., a provost’s faculty fellow supporting the honors program. “The components of the program are grounded in making sure students are successful by the time they complete the program, and not only successful but have the ideal set of qualities their college would like them to have by the time they graduate.”
UTEP senior and nursing major Alivia Ugalde fully embraced the shift in format and took advantage of the new opportunities. Through her participation in the UHP, she was able to take part in many high-impact Edge experiences, such as community engagement and student leadership, which led to further opportunities for advancement on campus.
Ugalde was recognized as a 21st Century Scholar, became the president of the University Honors Council, and serves as a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Golden Key International Honor Society and the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.
“I was able to become more engaged with the UTEP community and I think that’s what UTEP students should do,” Ugalde said. “A lot of students come to class, then go straight home, but I think it’s important to get more involved and make the most of our college experience. The Honors Program has allowed me to do that.”
Being a member of the UHP also opens the door to a plethora of resources and incentives exclusive to honors students, such as eligibility for scholarships only accessible to UHP members, eligibility to participate in exclusive honors organizations and societies, opportunities to take part in national honors conferences and invitations to honors events throughout the year.
“Being a part of the UHP builds a community among our UTEP scholars,” Love said. “They get to meet other likeminded students at the various honors events. They can use these networks and scholarships offered to members to advance their experience and set them up for success.”
In the future, Love hopes the UHP continues to grow and evolve and achieve national recognition. He hopes more honors students become empowered to apply for prestigious awards, fellowships and scholarships and ultimately win them. To Love, the future of the program appears to be very bright.
“I always knew I wanted to go to college, but my family lacks financial resources … I have always had to study hard and depend on my academic success,” Morales shared. “Through the UHP, I was able to get a job on campus doing research on energy propulsion and was exposed to many opportunities that helped me accomplish my goal. I have already recommended joining the UHP to my little brother when he comes to UTEP soon.”
Additionally, for the first time, the UHP will host the Honors, Scholars and Fellows Day on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, which will provide students with information and resources on how to apply for graduate fellowships and scholarships.
For more information on the UHP, click here.
Author: Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications