Top Ten Seniors value UTEP’s education
ANDREA ACOSTA | May 07, 2013 | THE PROSPECTOR
From left to right: Ramiro Piñon, Daniel H. Hernandez, Juan C. Muñoz, and Juan C. Lopez Jr.
The Top Ten Seniors award identifies 10 graduating students who have excelled not only academically, but also through their remarkable leadership and community service, all while maintaining a high grade-point average throughout their undergraduate career at UTEP. The
"The Top Ten Seniors awards are one of the highlights of the academic year for the UTEP Alumni Association as we recognize exemplary students for their hard work and success at," said Richard Daniel, associate vice president for University Advancement and Special Projects. "Each year, we have the difficult task of selecting from such a highly competitive pool of applicants knowing that these students are ready to create success in the next phase of their lives as alumni."
One of the nine making the cut and receiving this award is Juan C. Lopez Jr., senior mechanical engineering major, who strived to make education his priority when he came to the United States at the age of 16 in search of better opportunities.
"The decision came with a series of personal sacrifices, including leaving my family back in Mexico, along with over passing obstacles such as cultural change, and learning how to be independent and self-oriented," Lopez said.
Currently working as an aerospace engineer at the NASA Johnson Space Center at Houston, Lopez said that his determination and ambition were the main factors that motivated him to pursue an education, despite the language barrier.
"I didn't know English, but this only ignited my drive to keep moving forward," Lopez said. "From UTEP I found a great support group of students and professors, who had similar problems and obligations, teaching me that there is no such thing as limits to growth, ultimately preparing me to become an engineer with strong academic preparation and professional training."
Lopez said the support from his family also gave him the motivation to reach the goal of graduating from college and achieving the goals he set for himself seven years ago.
As a graduating senior and NASA engineer, Lopez will continue to make connections withUTEP students and develop opportunities for them to reach their full potential, by mentoring and creating awareness of opportunities beyond college.
Another awardee, Juan Muñoz, senior electrical engineering major, said he faced a challenge that most students go through at the beginning of each academic year—tuition expenses.
"Paying my tuition was one of the biggest issues I had during my first year at UTEP, I almost decided not to enroll in school since my acceptance to the PASE Program was not being approved due to my low income," Muñoz said. "However, after several meetings and talks with directors or different departments, my previous Presidential Scholarship was changed to UTEP's Excellence Presidential Scholarship, due to my good standing and my persistence on attending college."
Muñoz persevered and did everything he could to stay in school such as taking buses to cross the border every day during his first two and a half years of school, he said.
"This didn't stop me from my goal, which was to work hard in order to earn my degree. Crossing the border and walking long distances was the major challenge I had, especially during the winter seasons,"Muñoz said. "However, UTEP provided me with a lot of opportunities and with my involvement and effort I was sent for my first internship to Melbourne, Australia, helping me earn experience as a professional."
Muñoz will continue with his master's degree at UTEP after his graduation, while also participating in an exchange program in Brazil.
Awardee Stephanie Moreno, senior cellular and molecular biochemistry major, said that although the journey hasn't been an easy one, she cherishes the relationships she has made over the past four years.
"My professors have helped me develop academically and personally and have helped prepare me for my future," Moreno said.
After graduation, Moreno will pursue medical school and she will continue on her path of performing research.
"I hope to integrate the two by treating patients, as well as developing treatments through research," Moreno said.
Hoping to get a teaching position upon graduation, under the concentration of middle school mathematics or science, Shannon Murphy, senior interdisciplinary studies major, said she is incredibly excited to start teaching full-time.
"I plan on spending my career advocating for an equitable education system and working with at-risk students," Murphy said. "Apart from the tools that UTEP has provided me with, I also have connected with so many wonderful individuals throughout my time at UTEP and I know that my experience would not have been so positive without them."