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Inside their world: International professors of UTEP

Gianluca Cuevas
Professor Marcelo Frias is new to El Paso teaching computer science, who has been here for a week and already loves the city of El Paso.

As UTEP continues to grow, the cultural diversity keeps expanding beyond the borders. Every day, more people around the world come to UTEP to learn, research or teach. Allowing students to meet people from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the rich culture inside UTEP has allowed students and staff to learn more about the rest of the world, and it has given them the key to entering that world.   

Who are these individuals? What does their world look like at UTEP?   

Professor Alessandra Narvaez Varela, her world has only had a few adjustments. Narvaez is from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and teaches creative writing courses at UTEP and is the author of “Thirty Talks Weird Love.”    

Narvaez has two bachelor’s degrees at UTEP, one in biology and one in creative writing.   

“I bleed orange,” Narvaez said. “I chose El Paso for the same reason many students do, I’m from Ciudad Juarez so I knew UTEP was a great option for me as a fronteriza.”   

Narvaez moved from Juarez to El Paso in 2007. When asked why she had decided to stay in El Paso for so long, she mentioned that it was a smooth transition due to the proximity of the border as well as the people.  

“It’s the community,” Narvaez said. “I think we have a very unique population, and it was very easy to connect to my classmates, professors, and students.”   

After receiving her bachelor’s in biology, Narvaez spent one year in medical school before coming back to El Paso to study creative writing.   

“It was a result of focusing on my mental health,” Narvaez said. “After things came crashing down for a while, I asked myself what I liked doing, and realized I wanted to connect to my passion for writing. I never played doctor; I played writer.”   

Narvaez has found incredible support from her students as an author.   

“My students have been hugely supportive of me, and in terms as a writer I do credit my students, not only at UTEP but also at Anthony High School,” Narvaez said.  

After publishing her book, Narvaez has plans on getting her master’s and teaching.   

On the other side of campus, in the Chemistry and Computer Science Building, students can find Marcelo Frias, Ph.D., who teaches computer science to undergraduate students.  

Frias, who prefers to be called Marcelo, is originally from a city on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. He teaches two undergrad classes on computer science and does research in the Department of Computer Science on several topics.   

“I had already visited UTEP a few times before, I have given a few talks in the department, and when I found a position was opening in this department, I knew El Paso was a good city for me and my family,” Frias said. “I never applied anywhere else outside Argentina only UTEP.”  

To Frias, it was important to find a community where his son could be comfortable, and is one of the main reasons he chose to live in El Paso.   

“I have a handicapped son with Down syndrome, and therefore being in a bi-culture city like El Paso was essential for us,” Frias said. “UTEP is also a great research university, a place where a researcher can develop an international career, this department makes me feel like I have a lot of opportunities.”  

Before arriving in El Paso, Frias was worried about not fitting in with Mexican culture but was proved wrong after being accepted into the community.   

“I’m very comfortable here, I definitely want to belong here,” Frias said. “Me and my family are very hooked on Mexican culture, and my son has become obsessed with celebrating Cinco de Mayo once he arrived.”  

This semester was Frias’ first semester working at UTEP, and unfortunately, his family couldn’t come with him but plans on arriving soon.  

“I most definitely miss my family the most, I can’t wait to see them again,” Frias said.   

There are more individuals at UTEP who are far from home, and the community at UTEP has made them feel as if they are. UTEP students not only accept everyone from around the world, but they also make sure to make them feel like they belong there.

Venus Urquiza is a contributor at The Prospector and can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributors
Ruth Urquiza
Ruth Urquiza, Contributor/Reporter
Ruth Urquiza (Venus) is a currently a psychology major and a contributor at The Prospector. Venus loves to study astrology and sleep with their kitties.
Gianluca Cuevas
Gianluca Cuevas, Photographer
Gianluca Cuevas is a staff photographer for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics. He plans to work in the automotive industry designing cars/mechanic in the F1. He also has his small photography business 365elements which he plans to continue to grow.
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