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Graduate students open up on benefits and struggles of pursuing a master’s

Claudia Hernandez
Graduate students listened to multiple speakers at the Graduate Leadership Panel at El Paso Gas Conference Center Tuesday Sept. 10, 2019.

The Student Engagement and Leadership Center hosted a Graduate Leadership Panel to answer students’ questions on graduate school Wednesday at the Natural Gas Conference Center on Wiggins Drive 

The event took place as part of Leadership Week, a weeklong event to equip students with the resources they need to become an empowered leader. 

“It’s really kind of an insight for students who are thinking about graduate school to see if it’s something for them,” explained Jules FloresUTEP coordinator for Leadership Functions. “For graduate students, it’s an opportunity … to contribute to the conversation and share their experiences so that they can encourage undergraduate students to pursue a graduate program.”  

The panel featured three students currently enrolled in different graduate programs at UTEP, including Karen Del Rio, who is pursuing a master’s in leadership studies; Freddy Cabral, a teaching assistant and graduate student pursuing master’s in history with a borderlands concentration; and Yi-Yu Laio, a member of the Teacher Education Department and a doctoral student pursuing a doctorate in teaching, learning and culture.  

The three were each able to answer common questions about graduate school and its different programs while also sharing some of their personal experiences as graduate students along the way. This allowed both undergraduate and graduate students to have a conversation and address some of the barriers and challenges a student may face along the way.  

Sophomore Saul Fontes, 19, thought the panel helped him visualize his options for when he graduates, which help him start building out a plan for his career 

“It was interesting to listen to their experiences and it sort of made (graduate schoolfeel like a more real and tangible option for me,” Fontes said. “A master’s degree is something to be proud of and an accomplishment I would like to have.” 

Although the idea of a master’s or doctorate degree is appealing to many, the panel highlighted that it is important to really consider one’s motivation behind it. Members of the panel advised that a person should only attend graduate school if they have a genuine drive to further their knowledge and experience in their field, not just to improve their salary.  

The one thing that student Cabral wishes he knew before starting out his program, is the intensity of the workload he would face.  

“With undergrad, it’s usually one chapter or one article at a time … it’s really simple,” Cabral said, stressing the importance of mental and emotional preparation before starting school. 

“I prepared myself in the summer (before starting graduate school) but it was not enough. Three months of preparation is not going to prepare you for three years of grad school,” Cabral said 

Graduate school is no easy feat; the amount of research to conduct and material to read and review, all while trying to juggle a job, family or a social life can generate extreme stress or burnout 

This is why a strong support system is essential; having someone to lean on, whether it be a friend, family member or an advisor, will make the journey through graduate school more bearable 

The Graduate Leadership Panel was one of the leadership-oriented events provided during Leadership Week. Programs like Leadership Week and UTEP Edge help students achieve their goals and strengthen their skills in preparation for life after graduation. 

“A lot of times you won’t get this information in a classroom,” Flores said. “We’re trying to bring these skill sets and experiences so that students can leave with this edge. That way, when they interview for the job, they can talk about ‘I went to this workshop and it taught me x, y and z.’” 

Margaret Cataldi may be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributors
Margaret Cataldi
Margaret Cataldi is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in Multimedia Journalism and minoring in Philosophy. She is the Multimedia Editor at the Prospector where she oversees the creation of video content. She also produces the Prospector Podcast, a bi-weekly show that covers current events affecting the student body and the broader borderland community. Margaret enjoys investigating current events in news, politics and entertainment and analyzing how these topics intersect and shape society as a whole. After graduation, she plans to continue her education by pursuing a Master's degree in Sociology.
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Graduate students open up on benefits and struggles of pursuing a master’s