Opportunity builds a top ten senior


Photo courtesy of Andrea Danielle Mata

Andrea Danielle Mata is a May graduate who hopes to open her own nonprofit learning center to improve the needs of El Paso students with learning disabilities.

Julian Herrera, Staff Reporter

Andrea Danielle Mata, a senior in sociology at UTEP, has been selected as a Top Ten Senior for the graduating class of 2021.

Born in McAllen, Texas, Mata moved to El Paso to help build a community around herself, peers, professors, and administration at UTEP.

“I was really alone, I didn’t have a lot of community, so I had to build one,” Mata said. “That was a staple of my character, I persevere and thrive.”

Coming from a family of modest means, Mata dedicated her time to excelling in her academic career and quelled all concerns of financial support when she received the UTEP BUILDing Scholars undergraduate scholarship, a research-intensive program that offered her a full ride scholarship at the university.

Mata accumulated numerous prestigious awards and participated in multiple research groups throughout her years at UTEP. In addition to the BUILDing Scholars program, Mata participated in the UTEP Minority Health International Research Training Program (MHIRT), a program that connects students with participating research universities internationally to address health disparities, predominantly in the Hispanic community. She conducted research at partner Arizona State University and had her findings published in 2018.

At UTEP, she conducted research concerning pre-imposed natal immigrant women with Carina Heckert, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology and sociology at UTEP. Her involvement in MHIRT gave her the opportunity to perform research in Panama City, Panama. Despite an internship opportunity being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mata participated in the Law School Preparation Institute (LSPI) at UTEP, which prepares students for legal education through critical and analytical thinking and writing skills.

This summer, Mata will be conducting research concerning asylum seekers with Jeremy Slack, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and anthropology.

After graduation, Mata will head to Michigan to begin her Ph.D. program in special education after having received another full ride scholarship for a five-year program in the college of education.

“There were a lot of surreal moments in these past few years. After getting a full ride for my Ph.D. program, my mentor said, ‘I worked at NMSU at the college of education for 10 years and have never seen that scholarship be awarded,” Mata said. “I am leaving with an incredible GPA, graduating Suma Cum Laude and will be the banner bearer for the College of Liberal Arts.”

Some of Mata’s most memorable experiences at the University include being in attendance at the announcement of UTEP as an R1 Research Institute. Additionally, she recalls her “incredible” time representing the University in Washington, D.C., as part of the Archer Fellow Alumni Association.

Mata attributed her success to the support she received from those around her and shared the significance of charity and giving to others, whether it be time or a helping hand.

“Always pay it forward. That’s what I have lived by and my parents have instilled that in me,” Mata said. “All of my success is communal; I would be remiss to think I did it on my own. It is through my family, professors, administrators, and friends that guided me through these years to where I am now.”

As she prepares to take the next steps in her academic career, Mata offered a few parting words of wisdom for her fellow and incoming miners.

“Do that application. When it comes down to it, stay up those extra hours, don’t think twice about asking for help or for a letter of recommendation. If you want to do something, just go for it,” Mata said. “You blink an eye, and an opportunity will fly by… A quote I live by is, ‘don’t be a victim of your own opportunities.’ If you have an opportunity, take advantage of it.”

Julian Herrera may be reached at [email protected]