On the cover: Miriam De Leon
Sophomore Miriam De Leon is the first student to be accepted to the new Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree program
that begins this fall. From Matamoros, De Leon is a 2011 St. Joseph Academy graduate who has known since childhood that she
would pursue a career related to medicine. Five of her uncles are medical doctors in Mexico, and her brother is currently in medical school.
Starting as a volunteer in Dr. Luis Colom's laboratory under the tutelage of Dr. Maria Castañeda, De Leon's efforts have paid off;
she now continues working in the lab through the Student Employment Initiative.
"I want to thank Dr. Colom for giving me this opportunity," De Leon said. "And I'm so pleased that now we have the biomedical degree.
I hope to become a physician assistant, and this program will prepare me, focusing on premedical studies."
UTB and TSC Chess Team Leaves Princeton with National Ranking of 5th Place University
The Chess Team of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College has completed four days of competition at the 2012 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship
being hosted this year by Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Graduate Profile: Adventurous Graduate Committed to Serve in the Valley and Beyond
For a 23-year-old who has already journeyed far off the North American continent three times, Mary Lewis is still the girl next door who looks forward to walking across
the stage to receive her bachelors degree, with honors, at Winter Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 15.
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Percussion Student Keeps to the Beat and Receives Scholarship
Manny Trevio is entering his sophomore year at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College with the extra flourish of a dramatic drumroll.
Trevio has been awarded the $24,000 Clara Freshour Nelson Music Scholarship through the Texas Association of Music Schools.
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In his free time from his summer internship at the Office of Congressional
and Legislative Affairs of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Arturo Aguilar
is visiting all the famous sites in Washington, D.C.
"I've been to the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial," said Aguilar,
a veteran himself. "It is an honor to salute those who gave their lives for our country.
My favorite site is the Lincoln Memorial with the biblical scripture on the walls."
Working on his Master of Public Policy Management at The University of Texas at Brownsville,
Aguilar is participating in the National Internship Program of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.
In his HACU application essay, Aguilar wrote: "I want the voice of Hispanic people to be heard nationwide.
Being American has made me realize the importance of a college education, the importance of voicing your
opinion and the freedoms that this nation has to offer. I am compelled to serve in the public sector because
I realize the struggles that others like me are having."
At the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Aguilar is working with the
legislative team that prepares witnesses to testify before the Veterans Affairs Committees of the
U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
"This office is the Department of Veterans Affairs liaison to Congress,"
he said. "Any bill, anything to do with the VA comes through here health related, benefits, cemetery issues and so forth."
Aguilar said his office typically does not see Secretary of Veterans Affairs Shinseki; however, a rare event will
occur on July 25 when Secretary Shinseki and the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, will both testify before Congress.
The interns always watch relevant congressional proceedings, and this one, he said, will be particularly special to witness.
To be interning in Washington, D.C., only five years after graduating from Brownsville's Porter High School in 2007,
Aguilar has been on an accelerated schedule. He managed to squeeze in two years with the U.S. Army (2008-10)
during which time he added to his college credits.
Taking heavy course loads along with summer, winter and May sessions ever since,
Aguilar received his Bachelor of Arts in Government in December 2011 and immediately began the
MPPM program in January 2012. One of his professors, Dr. Terence Garrett, Associate Professor and
Chair of the Department of Government, encouraged him to apply for the HACU internship.
"I know I want to work for the government and go straight into public service," Aguilar said.
"After a few years and getting connected with all of Brownsville, I plan to run for city council,
mayor, and then, God-willing, Congress. I was born and raised here, and I love Brownsville so much; I think I can really do some great things for her citizens."
Aguilar lives with three other HACU interns, two from Puerto Rico and one from California,
in an apartment that was provided for them in Alexandria, Va. The cost of their lodging is
deducted from their paychecks. Their commute into the District is about half an hour on the Metro.
Aguilar said he is observing and learning about the intricacies of politics.
"The president appoints the secretaries, and they must respond to what he wants," he said.
"And nothing gets cleared without the approval of the Office of Management and Budget, which falls under the White House."
Aguilar said education was a priority in his home when he and his two older sisters were
growing up. His sisters both received their bachelor's degrees from UTB, are now teaching
in Brownsville and are working on their master's degrees.
"All three of us knew we needed to get a degree to make something of ourselves," Aguilar said.
For more information on the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, visit the HACU website.
Two students at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College will be the first this month to
earn bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics through a five-year program in the Department of Mathematics.
Dr. Jerzy Mogilski, Chair of the department, said the concept came from a request from students to take graduate
courses as they worked on undergraduate degrees and from the European model of higher education in which five-year degrees are common.
"We strongly believe that having undergraduate students take graduate courses at an early stage of their education
prepares them for their professional careers and further education," he said.
Sofia Quiroga, 23, of Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico and Liliana Zamfir, 43, of
Brownsville will receive their degrees at Spring Commencement at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 19 on the Cardenas South Hall Lawn.
"We are very proud of Liliana and Sofia for their great effort, dedication and passion,"
said Mogilski. "They have proven that with hard work and determination dreams become reality and
that programs like ours provide the perfect opportunity for success."
Quiroga, of Brownsville, said she cannot wait to receive both of her degrees at Spring Commencement. She began classes at UTB in fall 2007.
"I'm really satisfied and thankful because this is a good opportunity," she said.
She did the project "Lie Group Analysis: A Microscope of Math Modeling in Natural Science"
to fulfill the masters degree requirements. Quiroga looked at how mathematics could be used to analyze natural phenomena.
Quiroga worked as a learning assistant as she pursued her bachelor's degree and became a research assistant and calculus tutor as she studied for her master's degree.
Her plans after graduation are to work on alternative teaching certification and research doctoral programs.
"I don't want to limit my knowledge," she said.
Quiroga said she has enjoyed mathematics since she was an elementary school student. She is a Matamoros native and graduated from high school at Colegio Don Bosco.
Zamfir returned to college after earning a law degree about two decades ago in her native Romania.
"I went back just for my personal enrichment," she said. "Even when I went to university the first time it was between math and law."
Zamfir said she felt more prepared for college the second time around.
"I liked almost every class I took. I also liked meeting new people," she said.
"We have excellent professors here. I believed I learned something from each of them.
It's a different perspective. You do things fast and as good as you can."
She gained teaching experience as she worked in the departments mathematics lab.
"In my opinion students have difficulties with mathematics in sixth, seventh and eighth grades,"
she said. "They get the concepts but they get stuck."
She credited Dr. Paul-Hermann Zieschang, a Professor in the Department of Mathematics,
in providing guidance on her thesis "Complete Discrete Valuation Rings."
Zamfir said the work involved spending lots of time in the library and at Starbucks. She defended her thesis three weeks ago.
"I really loved every step of writing the thesis even though it was very difficult," said Zamfir.
Zamfir was selected to carry the College of Science, Mathematics and Technology banner at Spring Commencement.
"I feel honored," she said.
After graduation she wants to teach on the junior college level or apply for doctoral programs.
Zamfir said her ultimate goal is to have a doctorate and teach university-level courses.
Zamfir practiced law for three years in Romania before moving with her family to Los Angeles and later Brownsville.
Learn more about the degrees
The Department of Mathematics requires students have a 3.2 general grade point average
and a 3.5 grade point average in mathematics courses and meet graduate studies admission requirements.
"This is all in an effort to provide alternative and accelerated paths toward graduation for
students which allow them to save a considerable amount of money," said Mogilski.
For more information contact the Department of Mathematics at 956-882-6636.
Joel S. Garza did not have to walk far to do research for his thesis.
Garza, 42, did some of his work observing classes and interviewing students at The Language Institute at
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost Colleges International Technology, Education and Commerce Center on Mexico Boulevard.
Garza has been the program's director since 2003. His thesis focused on how a person's native language can help them learn English as a second language.
"I found primarily many adult students really have no idea how resourceful their first language is,"
said Garza. "A lot of students are confused about their perception of their native language."
Garza will receive his Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization
in Bilingual Studies at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost Colleges
Spring Commencement at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 19 on the Cardenas South Hall Lawn.
He is part of the first cohort to start the degree program when it began in fall 2007.
"All doctorate graduates can contribute to our community and south Texas," said Garza.
"As a cohort we looked at studies done all over the world. There needs to be more studies and research originating here."
One of the highlights of Garzas time at the university was the College of Education-sponsored
doctoral trip in summer 2009 to China. Garza and other students took the English as a
Second Language for Bilingual and Multicultural Settings course as they visited five Chinese
cities and observed teaching practices and visited cultural and historical sites.
"The idea was to go and observe and talk to the educators in China," said Garza.
"We visited a middle school and university. We also went to the Great Wall of China."
Garza was born in Monterrey, Mexico and moved to Brownsville with his family when
he was in elementary school. He remembered his family being one of the first to build a
home near the once undeveloped area around Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.
He attended El Jardin Elementary School, Oliveira Middle School and graduated in 1988 from Porter High School.
Besides learning his native language of Spanish and English as a second language, Garza said he enjoyed taking French when he was a Porter student.
"I think personally we need to emphasize the learning of several different languages," he said. "It's just good to be able to enrich yourself with different cultures."
Garza did not start out studying education. He earned a two-year degree in drafting in 1991 from Texas Southmost College.
"When I graduated from high school, I didn't have a specific idea what I wanted to do," he said. "I liked drawing houses
so I joined the drafting program. When I finished with that degree I was already working in the import/export business.
I ended up going into a business degree which I really enjoyed doing. I became a licensed U.S. customs broker."
He received a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1998 and a master's degree in education with an emphasis in English as a Second Language,
both at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
"It's in our culture that we kind of stay together no matter what," said Garza. "It never crossed my mind to study anywhere else."
Miriam Aguayo starts her senior year at The University of Texas at Brownsville in August, her classroom will be Washington, D.C.
As an Archer Fellow, she will join students from other University of Texas System institutions
taking classes on public policy and economics at the Archer Center on Pennsylvania Avenue, just two blocks from the White House.
"I am really looking forward to all that being an Archer Fellow has to offer," Aguayo said. "This opportunity will
allow me a firsthand look at the intricate functions of government that are not taught in the classroom and will
expose me to immigration policy functions, an area in which I hope to become very involved with in the future."
Aguayo said she feels close to the immigration issue and she feels a connection with the undocumented
children who have grown up in the United States.
"My family was lucky because when I was six and we moved from Mexico to Merced, California,
my aunt sponsored us," she said. "It didn't take long to get our green cards, but not everyone is as fortunate.
So many young people are being held back from dreaming big and have to settle for just making ends meet as best they can."
Aguayo plans to enter law school after obtaining her bachelor's degree.
She recently took the law school entrance exam, the LSAT, while in Austin for an Archer Fellows orientation.
During orientation, the students learned more about the Archer Center where they will attend classes, where they will live and life in D.C.
Becoming an Archer Fellow requires an extensive application process that includes
writing a position paper, a personal mission statement, providing letters of recommendation and attending interviews.
Although Aguayo is focused on her future now, she said she didn't always have a clear idea
of where she would be after leaving Brownsville's Lopez High School, where she attended her junior
and senior years after her family moved to Brownville from California.
"I've knew I wanted to continue my education, but I was the oldest in my family, and I didn't
really know what to do or how to get there," she said. "It wasn't until my last few months as a high school
senior that I started digging around and trying to find information and pick up on what the counselor had said."
Once at the university, she found her focus. For her first campus job, Aguayo selected to work as a peer
college consultant, working on a project out of the registration office. As a student recruiter, she helped
students in the newly opened high school Go Centers, answering all the questions regarding applications,
financial aid and the many others that had stumped her not long before.
Her campus employment continued in the same vein, with her sophomore year spent as a tutor for Veterans
Upward Bound and the following year as a tutor for students in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).
"The truth is, I took those jobs because I knew I would learn more as a tutor," Aguayo said. "And I really did.
In many cases, I was only a step or two ahead of the students I was working with."
Aguayo leaves Brownsville on Aug. 27.
"I'm eager to get my internship lined up and take off for Washington," she said. "This opportunity will provide me with valuable experiences that I can carry with me for the rest of my life."
Information about the Archer Fellowship Program can be found on The Archer Center website.