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Students Inspired by UTB Spring Commencement Speaker

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MAY 9, 2014 – Erendira Santillana has learned leadership on the job as she has served on the Student Government Association during her time at The University of Texas at Brownsville.

Santillana, 20, a junior Spanish major from Valle Hermoso, Mexico and recently elected SGA President for the 2014-15 academic year, had the opportunity to learn about a key part of leadership as she was one of a select group of liberal arts and science students to dine with Katherine Archuleta, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, on Friday, May 9 at Main’s Salon Cassia.

“Listening is such a component of leadership,” said Santillana. “I got to sit and listen to her and hear her feedback and how it relates to my job as a tutor but also SGA President.”


Archuleta also toured the university and later attended a dinner for area female leaders in Rancho Viejo. Archuleta is the keynote speaker at the university’s 22nd Spring Commencement at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 10 on the Student Union Lawn. Her talk will focus on encouragement, opportunities and what the future can hold for graduates.

“This is an important institution in the United States and one of the largest Hispanic Serving Institutions,” she said.

Archuleta was appointed by President Barack Obama in May 2013 and sworn in as the agency’s tenth director, and first Latina, in November 2013. She leads the more than 5,000-employee federal agency responsible for managing federal job announcements, conducting background checks for prospective employees, creating new employee policies, managing federal pension benefits and insurance programs for employees and their families and doing security clearances.

More than 2 million people work for the federal government. Archuleta said strong, good workers are always being recruited in information technology, engineering, medical fields and a diverse range of other sectors.

“I think federal service is a great opportunity for young people today,” said Archuleta. “Eighty-five percent of the jobs are across the country and 15 percent are in Washington, D.C. I hope I can be a role model. Most of my career has been in federal government.”

Ramiro Tovar, 20, a senior biomedical sciences major from Brownsville and a graduate of the South Texas High School of Health Professions in Mercedes, said he was inspired after the luncheon with Archuleta. Tovar is studying to take the Medical College Admission Test in November and wants to one day pursue a joint Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience to teach and perform surgeries.

“I love being picked for this honor,” said Tovar. “Listening to her opened my eyes to more opportunities. She really motivated me to consider a position in federal government.”

Katherine Archuleta, the Director of the United States Office of Personnel Management and the Keynote Speaker for the 2014 Spring Commencement, visited UT Brownsville on Friday May 09, 2014 for a luncheon with Dr. Juliet V. Garcia and students. 

Archuleta began her career as a teacher in Denver, Colo. She entered government as an aide to former Denver Mayor Federico Peña. Archuleta followed Peña to Washington, D.C. to become his Chief of Staff when he was named Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation during President Bill Clinton’s administration. She was later a Senior Policy Advisory in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Energy which Peña also led.

After a few years away from the federal government, Archuleta returned during Obama’s first term to become Chief of Staff at the Department of Labor under Secretary Hilda Solis, who spoke at UTB’s Spring Commencement in May 2011. Archuleta was later National Political Director for Obama’s 2012-re-election campaign before joining the OPM.

She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Metropolitan State University in Denver and a master’s degree in education from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo.

Spring Commencement will feature the first group of UTeach Brownsville graduates. The UTeach Brownsville program in the College of Science, Mathematics and Technology allows students to receive teacher certification while earning a degree in mathematics or science through a collaborative partnership with the College of Education.

The university’s Mathematics and Science Academy will also have its largest graduating class ever with 46 students. The MSA in the College of Science, Mathematics and Technology was created by the 79th Texas Legislature in 2005. Graduating seniors receive a high school diploma from the academy and have up to 68 semester credit hours, enough to have finished the first two years of college. The first cohort of high school-aged juniors began in fall 2007 and graduated in spring 2009.

Graduates who have questions about Spring Commencement should contact the Office of the Registrar located at the Enrollment Center & The Tower in Main at 956-882-8254 or

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