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The university on the border

UTEP is one of the few universities with a close connection to another country with Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, located right in its backyard.

UTEP is so close that at the height of the drug war in 2010 a stray bullet from a shootout that took place in Juárez hit the south door of Bell Hall. No one was injured.

The university has always had a deeper connection to Mexico than just closeness to the border.

Students are the main commodity when it comes to talking about the relation between the border and
the university.

Among the first class of 23 mining students at the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, one was from Mexico.

“Ever since I can remember from graduate school, we always had students from Mexico,” said Rosa Guerrero, who graduated from UTEP with her first degree in 1954.“They were our top students in grammar school.”

Fast-forward 100 years later and about 1,100 UTEP students are of Mexican nationality.

“Right now, we have one of the highest Mexican student populations of any university in America,” said Gary Edens, vice president of student affairs at UTEP. He believes it has to do with the alumni that go back home and talk of UTEP.

According to Edens, UTEP is always working hard to recruit international students.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest by students from around the world in what UTEP is offering,” Edens said. “In our undergraduate population, we primarily recruit Mexican students.”

With six colleges to choose from and within reach of becoming a tier- one university, UTEP is transitioning into a desirable university for students here in the U.S. and internationally.

Freshman business major Pamela Navarro is one of many students who cross the border each day in order to attend UTEP. She says that her experience at UTEP has helped her with more than just obtaining a college degree.

“They offer you the chance to relate with important companies, and at the same time I can practice my English,” Navarro said.

What used to be a Mexican national population of about 1,800 in 2003 is now at about 1,000.

 “We’re really excited about the interest that we see from Mexican students.  We’re hoping those numbers start to go back up,” Edens said.

Of the 1,100 Mexican nationals, 500 are border-crossers, meaning they cross from Mexico to the U.S. every day to attend UTEP.

UTEP had a great decline in Mexican national students coming in after Sept. 11, 2001. This was due to strict policies and enforcement at border crossings and even some temporary border closures.

“You can imagine that a student that needs to come for a 9 o’clock class needs to be on the bridge at 7 o’clock, and needs to get up at 5 o’clock.  It just becomes harder and harder,”
Edens said.

Navarro said that the struggle of living in a different country than where you attend school is often very challenging. “In Juárez, I take the bus, cross through the Santa Fe Bridge, then take another bus that leaves me in front of UTEP,” Navarro said.

This takes her an average of an hour and forty minutes each day.

“It’s not that hard if you live in Juárez and study in UTEP. It’s just a little extra effort, but it’s worth it,”
Navarro said.

Ernesto Gutierrez, senior media advertising and communications major at UTEP, goes through a similar routine. During the spring and fall semesters, it takes Gutierrez more than an hour to get to the bridge from his house and 10 minutes from the bridge to UTEP.

“You have to manage your time with everything. I think college is all about that,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez previously attended Universidad TecMilenio, but prefers UTEP over other universities in Mexico.

“At UTEP, it’s more open and you meet a lot of people,” he said.

Gutierrez says there were only about 40 students on his campus when attending TecMilenio, a university in Southern Mexico compared to an average of 22,500 students that
attend UTEP.

As the centennial year comes around and the university is on its way to becoming a nationally recognized research institution, enrollment continues to grow with each semester.

Edens shares his optimism and hope that the future will be bright, not only for the university, but for the future of many more years of students traveling over the border.

“The violence has gone down, and the economics look really good. There’s a lot of communication back and forth. Everything looks good in the near future,” Edens said.

Amanda Guillen and Nadia Garcia may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Amanda Guillen, Editor-in-Chief
Amanda Guillen is a senior multimedia journalism major with a minor in women's studies. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated from El Paso High School in 2011. She has been a part of The Prospector since summer 2013 and is currently Managing Editor. She has always had a passion for journalism and plans to become a television news reporter upon graduating from UTEP. In addition to being a full-time student and reporter, she is a part of two honor societies on campus, Alpha Lambda Delta and the National Society of Leadership and Success where she participates in community service regularly. Amanda also interns for KVIA Channel 7 the El Paso affiliate of ABC. Her love for the city of El Paso is something that led her to choose UTEP as her school of choice. She has enjoyed her past 3 years at the university and looks forward to an eventful school year.
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The university on the border