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2011 Miner Heroes Introduced at President’s Dinner


2011 Miner Heroes Introduced at President’s Dinner


2011 Miner Heroes Introduced at President’s Dinner

2011 UTEP Miner Heroes with UTEP President Diana Natalicio

There are many definitions for hero in today's society. Some think of comic book icons or historical figures, but at The University of Texas at El Paso, the term is used to honor students who go above and beyond their classroom responsibilities.

Nine students with different backgrounds were honored as Miner Heroes during the annual President's Dinner March 25 in the Tomás Rivera Conference Center. The awards were part of the celebration where UTEP President Diana Natalicio honors the leaders of more than 150 of the University's student organizations.

This is the second year the Miner Heroes awards, which were created to recognize students for their leadership, community service and research endeavors. Recipients went through a nomination process and were picked by UTEP's Student Government Association

"(The acknowledgment) is an opportunity to highlight the individual accomplishments of our students," said Gary Edens, Ed.D., associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students. "There is a great diversity of service and achievement that touches on all bases of the El Paso and UTEP communities."


As a freshman, Juan Carlos Lopez, senior mechanical engineering major, coordinated the West Texas Student Leadership Conference at UTEP and has since served as a Peer Leader for UTEP's Entering Student Program and as a NASA Student Ambassador. He also has organized outreach programs in local high schools and served as a mentor for the NASA Texas Aerospace Scholars and the Upper Rio Grande STEP Challenge Competition.

Rocio Orozco, senior nursing major, has embraced the importance of community service and worked to provide opportunities for UTEP students to lead through service. As the President of Alpha Lambda Delta, she led a dynamic group of students in projects to benefit many local charities. As a result of her organizational and leadership skills, the group provided more than 2,000 hours of volunteer service and raised more than $2,000 for local area scholarships.

Samuel Rodriguez, senior organizational and corporate communication major, invested years of work and dedication as a student intern with the Student Development Center. He has served in leadership roles for student organizations, and planned and promoted large-scale campus events and developed leadership training programs that benefit the University. Rodriguez also helped launch the annual Diamonds in the Rough Student Leadership Retreat.


Omar Al-Qudah's research involves the design and placement of devices that measure surface runoff around Nevada's Amargosa Desert, the analysis of the samples, and their use in multivariate statistical methods for surface runoff chemistry data to better understand the recharging of the water table in Nye County, Nev. The doctoral student in environmental science and engineering has published more than five conference papers, presented his work at 11 professional conferences and continues to represent UTEP at the regional and national level.

Cristian Potes, doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering, completed his undergraduate degree in engineering at the Universidad Santiago de Cali in Colombia and chose to continue his studies at UTEP. Soon after his arrival on campus, he jumped at the opportunity to be a research assistant for a project sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory that measures human muscle fatigue using surface electromyographic signals recorded from the neck muscles.

During his time at UTEP, Amit Raysoni, doctoral student in environmental science and engineering, successfully led the efforts of two federally funded Air Epidemiologic Longitudinal studies that investigated the impact of traffic-related air pollution on asthmatic children at elementary schools in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In his role, Amit recruited study participants, implemented and executed a rigorous air quality monitoring and respiratory health data collection protocol and prepared the project's final reports including peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations.

Community Service

When John Michael Briceno, graduate student in physics, started at UTEP in 2009, he became aware of the numerous international students at the University and of the various needs they have socially, academically and personally as they adjust to studying in a new country. During his tenure as a teaching assistant in the physics department, he worked with faculty and community partners to help organize monthly dinners between international students and families here in El Paso.

Gina Elisa Cortez, sophomore education major, has been an active participant in numerous volunteer activities and has served as a community leader in the fight against cancer through her service as a team captain for the American Cancer Society's signature event, Relay for Life. Also, she is a graduate of UTEP's Student Leadership Institute and has served as a peer leader in the Entering Student Program.

Athena Matyear, junior communication studies major, has helped coordinate teach-ins and workshops on gender violence, spoken to dozens of classes about gender equality and worked countless hours to plan events for local community agencies. She has inspired and supported students at UTEP and at El Paso area high schools to become stronger advocates.


The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968

Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437

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