What should have been a time to celebrate graduation and start a lifelong career has instead turned into another precious tradition lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of seniors at UTEP will once again not experience their graduation in person because of COVID-19’s tight grip on reality. One of those graduating seniors is Brianna Perez who’s graduating with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism with a minor in marketing.
Despite not being able to celebrate such an important milestone, Perez said she’s just glad she discovered her passion during college.
“Starting at the university I was very indecisive about what I wanted to major in,” said Perez. “Throughout all my years at Parkland High School, I was a part of the T-STEM program, so when I began attending UTEP, I was originally going to pursue a degree in civil engineering. But quickly found that I was not fit for that field, so I switched to my true passion which is journalism and never looked back.”
Perez, 22, was born in Los Angeles and was raised here in El Paso. She began her classes at UTEP in the fall of 2016, deciding to attend UTEP to stay close to her family.
Her four years flew by as a full-time student with a part-time job. Although she didn’t participate in any clubs during her time at UTEP, she did intern for local television station KVIA-TV and the Sun Bowl Association.
When asked how she felt about graduating during a pandemic, Perez described it as definitely not being ideal because like many students, she had been waiting four years to graduate. She said that it is upsetting having her graduation overshadowed by such a catastrophic time.
“Graduating this December is so surreal; I did not expect my final classes to be moved entirely online. I almost feel as if I didn’t attend UTEP at all this semester. It is a bit saddening to think I will not see my professors or classmates who I’ve shared these last four years with again. But, under the circumstances, it is understandable. Overall, receiving my undergrad is probably the best thing that has happened to me all year, at least now I can say that I graduated during a pandemic.”
Perez is currently still looking for a job in the field of broadcast journalism but she said she’s finding it a bit challenging since many companies are currently not hiring due to the pandemic. In the meantime, she is looking into going to graduate school to receive her master’s degree.
Perez is determined to break into a tumultuous field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 11% decline of broadcast journalism jobs from 2019 to 2029 because of the Internet’s ongoing disruption of the media industry. Overall, newsroom employment according to pewresearch.org has began to decrease even more ever since the pandemic. Layoffs, pay cuts and buyouts have rattled the industry for decades, but it’s only gotten worse.
“I chose to go into broadcast journalism because I love storytelling. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how essential journalists are. We are at the front lines of all major events, getting all the facts and sharing it with the viewers who are unaware of the magnitude of the situation at hand and are too afraid to go out at this time,” Perez said. “I find the work that journalists do to be very courageous and rewarding to see it make a difference in the community during great times of need.”
Alyson Rodriguez can be reached at [email protected]; @alyson_rod1127 on Twitter.