Access, talent, research and external funding 4 keys to UT El Paso’s continued success, retiring president Natalicio says

EL PASO, Texas — After spending three decades reshaping the University of Texas at El Paso, Diana Natalicio isn’t sure she’s ready for the next stage of her life. “Well, I mean, in some ways I am and in some ways I’m not, having done the same thing for 30 years,” said Natalicio, who announced her retirement in May as UTEP’s president. “I don’t have much practice on the retirement side of this. So I think it’s a good time for me to do this. But I’ll have to see how successful I am at being a retiree.”

Natalicio, a 79-year-old native of St.

Border job growth tied to better college prep, school funding

EL PASO – Political and community leaders on the U.S.-Mexico border are promoting improved college graduation rates as a key to future economic development in the region. The importance of increasing the number of college graduates to attract and fill high skill, high paying jobs was a big part of the discussion at the 2014 Border Legislative Conference Sept. 12 in El Paso. The conference brought together civic, political and business leaders from both sides of the border to talk about issues of trade, commerce, mobility and education. “There must be a push for higher education in order for the border region to succeed,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

Volunteering finds its way from the classroom into the community

EL PASO — The concept of volunteer work is evolving rapidly within higher education as a relatively new idea called service learning, which transforms book learning into hands-on work in the community. According to Campus Compact, a national coalition of public and community service organizations, 44 per cent of college students participated in some form of volunteer work during the 2011-2012 academic year, an estimated $9.7 billion worth of service to their communities. Hector Garza, a junior studying political science at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, describes service learning as early career training for a college student. He explained that “service learning actually gives you the opportunity take it to the community and actually see what you are learning and how it comes to life.”

Service learning takes place worldwide impacting millions of students and communities. This past April, 1, 400 high school students, college professors, teachers, and non profit representatives from the U.S. and other countries gathered at the 26th Annual Service Learning Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Monumental Conference, as it was named, offered many 90-minute workshops to sharpen and educate attendees about service learning with tools, resources, and ideas to better serve their communities.

El Paso del Norte Youth Leadership Forum

EL PASO — Place yourself in the shoes of a graduating high school senior, approaching the real world unaware of what to expect. Now place yourself in the shoes of a graduating high school senior with a disability. As appealing the idea of college may seem, most graduating students with disabilities lack the confidence and resources they need to get there. The El Paso del Norte Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is a local community event that happens once a year in October. The forum has been around for 12 years strong and is going on its 13th year.

College students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. (Yuritzy Ramos/

College students tend to change majors when they find the one they really love

EL PASO — Choosing a college major is a hard decision for students to make because it can determine the student’s career future along with income level and having to pick a different one later piles on more stress. “My dad wanted me to become an English teacher because he loves literature and reading books,” said Victor Chavez, a 29 year-old graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso. Chavez gave into his father’s pressure and started his UTEP college education as an English major in 2004, but a year later he began to question his career path and switched to math after finding his true passion. “I’d love teaching don’t get me wrong, but I really wanted to teach something that I was more passionate about–math,” Chavez said. About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Students look at graduate school as a way to get a full-time job. (Erika Lopez/

It seems harder today to make a college degree pay off

EL PASO – Josie Jimarez Howard imagined herself surrounded by artifacts from fascinating distant epochs as she pursued her passion for history tending to treasures in a museum after earning a degree in history from Reed College. But instead, she found herself selling modern cosmetics at Macy’s. She soon realized that the only way to get the job she wanted related to her studies was to go back to school for a graduate degree. “I think a lot of jobs teaching in the museum require a higher degree than a B.A. I looked for jobs at museums but during the Bush administration there weren’t as many.”

Howard, who had graduated in 2007, enrolled in graduate school at the University of Texas at El Paso in 2011 and is currently a teaching assistant for a freshman history class. “Honestly, it’s been hard.

Her own struggle helps former foster child guide similar students through crisis situations

EL PASO — Once a foster child herself, Jessica Archuleta now helps former foster children achieve their goals of stability and higher education. “Living through the foster care system didn’t define me. It didn’t get me where I was today,” said Archuleta, now an outreach specialist in the Foster, Homeless and Adopted Resource (FHAR) program at the University of Texas at El Paso. “It was my own experiences in life and how I dealt with them. Realizing that helped me realize I wanted to help other people in their experiences and give them a positive outlook.” Archuleta says she and her brother were placed in child crisis centers more than 20 times.

Out of your comfort zone: What led me to an internship… I don’t like comfort zones

There was once a time in my life that I felt I would never break into the degree professions.  I knew I would never be a high level executive, unless I started from the bottom and worked exceptionally hard. I also knew that many of my dreams would be inaccessible without a degree.  Teaching English abroad, working in government, becoming a broadcaster; all these things are out of reach for someone without a degree, or at least trying to gain one. One day, that changed when I made the decision to get back into school after a three-year break after graduating high school.

Hundreds of Juarez students commute daily to class at UTEP

EL PASO, Texas — A young man catches a ride with his friend and they make their half hour trip home from school across the international port of entry into the streets of the most dangerous city on the U.S.-Mexico border. Manuel Acosta, 22, drove his red Nissan Sentra from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to the Colonia Rincones de Santa Rita where his friend Eder Diaz, 23, lived with his parents in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The trip home was routine to both students. Chihuahua State Police reported that a group of masked men armed with .223 caliber rifles similar to the NATO military rifles intercepted them at the intersection of De La Arbolada and Manglares streets in near of Diaz’s house. The assailants fired 36 shots killing Acosta at the scene and fatally injuring Diaz, who died in the early morning hours of November 3 at a hospital in Juarez.

Immigrant high school graduates seek a pathway to U.S. citizenship

EL PASO, Texas — Many of the 65,000 illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in the U.S. every year live under the entrapment radar, risking deportation at any time as they attempt to attend college or serve in the U.S. military services. According to statistics from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), most of these students in all grade levels have been raised in America, in American public school systems, American cities. Many only speak English and the American culture is what they know.  They have little left of their culture of origin. “It’s a very sad experience to forget where you came from because you’re accustomed to life here.  You could hardly remember that you came here from another country,” said a student who wishes to remain anonymous.  The student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is an illegal immigrant because, like the thousands of illegal high school students who graduate every year in the U.S., this student was not brought to America by choice.  The parents made that choice. “It’s a difficult situation.

Students and educators find ways to cope with rising costs

El PASO, Texas — Economic woes in Texas are forcing public universities to raise tuition fees, but educators are struggling to keep higher education affordable. “We are working to provide the accessibility needed for those who do not have the financial freedom to pay for school,” said Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D –TX), speaking at the University of Texas at El Paso, September 8. There are already programs in place to help students who cannot afford to go to college, such as the Health Care and Higher Education Reconciliation program that was signed into law in March. “It is good for students, taxpayers, and American jobs. The result of this law will be more college graduates,” Hinojosa said.

Research and Education Now Cross-connects Beyond Borders

EL PASO – The University of Texas at El Paso and other research and educational institutions across the U.S. have teamed up with universities in Mexico to make it easier and more affordable for them to access the state of the art Internet research capabilities available in the U.S.

The jointly constructed optical infrastructure between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez is called Cross Connect. “We have designed an innovative way for exchanging teaching and research information,” says UTEP Vice President for Information Resources and Planning, Dr. Stephen Riter. According to Dr. Riter, this started more than five years ago when UTEP used money from the National Science Foundation to begin a link of networks from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez. UTEP established a relationship with the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juárez to help enhance research tools for students in Juárez. Students in Mexico now have the ability to use video conferencing and educational demos to boost their educational experience.

DREAM Act: Hope for Undocumented Students

Lea esta historia en español

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Irene Castellon, 19, is a bright, beautiful young woman studying Spanish at East Tennessee State University. She hopes to use her Spanish degree to help Latino Americans make a better life for themselves. Yet a year ago, college wasn’t an option for her because of her immigration status. Currently, undocumented immigrants in the U.S. cannot receive financial aid for college.