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Passing the Pick’s Legacy

Gael Araiza

May begins to roll around signaling the end of the semester, but for graduating seniors, it is the end of their undergraduate years at UTEP. As seniors begin to plan their graduation outfits, take their senior photos at Centennial Plaza or around campus full of glee and hope for their future, they are also about to become a part of a family that has once been in their shoes decades ago. 

UTEP has a long generation of alumni who have all became doctors, lawyers, writers, journalists, professors or parents and some of them have credited UTEP with leaving a lasting impact on their lives. For Jaime Mendez, Assistant Dean for Students who graduated in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, considers UTEP his life.  

“UTEP has been the majority of my life, and it impacted me from day one when I started as a freshman in the fall of 1988, I came here freshly graduating from El Paso High School and I came here feeling lost because my original plan was to join the military,” Mendez said. “I wasn’t feeling excited about coming to UTEP but immediately I found that the faculty and staff were inviting and had a good outreach.”  

Mendez credits UTEP for shaping him as the person and professional he is today. Throughout his time at UTEP, he made lifelong relationships and started UTEP’s Omega Delta Phi which is still standing today. Mendez would later come back to get his masters in theatre in 2006 and a doctorate degree in education in 2020. 

While Mendez considers UTEP a place that shaped him, Denise Flores, who graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, said the university helped her understand the importance of family.  

“UTEP is part of a family, a community that is strong in family and I stayed because of my family because I developed such a good relationship with my professors and peers and I feel like it’s strengthened my idea of family,” Flores said. “I made a lot of great friends here and I think the professors that I had in the past have given a great example to the leader I am now, especially my professors in the occupation therapy department, they did a great job in facility the therapist I am now.”  

Flores came back to UTEP in 2007 to get her master’s in occupation therapy, which is now a doctorate program, and is an occupational therapist at Del Sol Valley Medical Center. Flores credits her UTEP professors for what she learned in her classrooms which left a remarkable experience for her just like Cynthia Reyes who graduated in 2010. 

“Graduating from UTEP has had a significant experience with my life and shaped who I am today because it provided me with a solid academic foundation. UTEP prepared me for the challenges and opportunities in my career which continued to guide me in my personal and professional endeavors,” Reyes said. “UTEP provided me with opportunities in class for intellectual and personal growth and it exposed me to diverse perspectives and experiences and installed in me a strong sense of community engagement.”  

Reyes, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, recalls her days at UTEP during her undergraduate years and how UTEP helped lay out the foundation for her career and life. For Gaby Velasquez, who graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in studio art, UTEP helped her build confidence and shaped the photojournalist she is today.   

“As a first-generation graduate in my family, UTEP has helped me a lot and get the job that I wanted, and all the other opportunities that I was able to get I don’t think it would have been possible without UTEP,” Velasquez said. “It helped me build up my confidence, my portfolio, my networking skills and meeting a lot of people, and UTEP taught me that and helped after graduating.”  

Velasquez now works at El Paso Times as a photojournalist and the lessons that she has learned from UTEP after graduating still stick with her. However, for Eduardo Flores who will be graduating this May with a degree in political science in organizational and corporate communication, UTEP helped him find his passion in life.  

“UTEP changed me in the way I think and the way I act because I remember before I was a UTEP Miner I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what was my passion and UTEP helped me find my passion,” Flores said. “For me UTEP means my evolution as a person, as an academic, a student but also as a professional, I carry the values that I was able to learn from my classes, my professors to my career.”  

As graduating seniors start to anticipate graduation day and dream of walking across the stage to collect their diplomas, they will become a part of the lifelong family and legacy that UTEP has and become the people the future generations of Miners will look up to and aspire to.   

Erik Acosta is the editor-in-chief and may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Erik Acosta
Erik Acosta, Editor-in-Chief
Erik Acosta is the editor-in-chief for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in theatre. He plans to pursue a career in broadcast journalism and print with hopes of working at LA times, Washington Post and ABC News.
Gael Araiza
Gael Araiza, Designer
Gael Araiza is the layout editor at The Prospector. Gael is a sophomore majoring in studio art with a concentration in graphic design and minoring in printmaking. Gael loves working with all things visual and plans to expand their creative capabilities through any and all mediums of design.
SalmaPaola Baca
SalmaPaola Baca, Photographer
SalmaPaola Baca is a senior at UTEP majoring in engineering innovation and leadership with a concentration and minor in civil engineering and an emphasis in computer science. Her passion for photography enables her to be photographer at The Prospector. While a full-time student, she freelances while planning to grow her platform through travel photography. After graduating, she wants to pursue a master’s degree in architecture while working on her photography simultaneously.
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