UTEP Student Leadership Program Wins Award

UTEP’s 21st Century Scholars program has been recognized as the Silver Award Winner among the 2012-13 Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Excellence Awards given by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

“The 21st Century Scholars program gave an opportunity for untapped high potential students to receive innovative, hands-on experiences focused on leadership and career development,” said Catie McCorry-Andalis, associate vice president and dean of students. “We are thrilled to be recognized by a national organization for our efforts, especially as they relate to the UTEP student demographic.”

The Division of Student Affairs launched 21st Century Scholars in February, inviting 100 UTEP students with leadership potential to participate in a highly interactive, hands-on workshop. Programming was designed to enhance each student’s leadership identity and essential career skills, including communication in a professional setting, networking, self-promotion and working collaboratively.

Following the workshop, the Century Scholars — who ranged from freshmen to graduate students — were invited to participate in campus engagement activities and other career and leadership development programming and to apply for fellowships at the state and national level.

“As a result as being named a 21st Century Scholar, we had students who were invited to be a part of great experiences such as interning for an employer, serving as ambassadors for special campus events, meeting and interacting with high profile guests and much more,” said Louie Rodriguez, assistant to the vice president for student affairs.

Each UTEP college and school named 10 Century Scholars for participation in the 2012 program at no cost to the students. Other participants were identified through key student organizations or departments in which they are student employees. Scholars were selected by deans, faculty and staff on the basis of academic achievement, community engagement and ability to have a positive campus impact.

Richard Pineda, Ph.D., associate professor of communication and associate director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies, served as faculty-in-residence for the inaugural program. UTEP partners are Beth Brunk-Chavez, Ph.D., associate professor of rhetoric and writing studies; Ann Branan Horak, Ph.D., director of religious studies, Joanna Perrillo, Ph.D., assistant professor of English; Bill Robertson, Ph.D., assistant professor of Education; and Armando Aguirre, assistant provost.

Community partners include El Paso-area professionals attorney Francisco Dominguez of Dominguez & Coyle, P.C.; Carlos Gallinar, city planner for the City of El Paso; Wallace Hardgrove, budget and finance manager, El Paso County Auditor’s Office; Kim Hendricks, pharmacy director of Hospice El Paso; Clara Hernandez, chief public defender, El Paso County Public Defender’s Office; Adrian Leyva, area manager at AT&T; Erica Nowak, recruiter, Disney Worldwide Services, Inc.; Norma Rivera Palacios, assistant public works director for El Paso County; Fred Perea, human resources manager, El Paso County; attorney Vic Poulos of Volk, Poulos & Coates, L.L.P. and owner of Zin Valle Vineyards; Charles Staniszewski, client relationship manager for ADP; Julie Tarwater, program officer, El Paso Community Foundation; and Lt. Col. Johnnie R. Walker of the Army Evaluation Center at Ft. Bliss.

Reports from participating students indicated that the program overwhelmingly made them feel more connected to the UTEP community, with feedback ranging from “That UTEP invested time, money and staff to make me a better leader has moved me greatly and inspired me to continue to help others,” to “I feel like a Miner long term.  I’m coming back for my Ph.D.”

Students also identified three leadership skills that they felt they need the most help in developing: self-awareness and confidence; critical thinking and questioning; and leading through uncertainty. Next steps for the program include development of follow-up programming to address these needs and keep the group engaged. Planned workshops include graduate school, resume writing, public speaking, conflict resolution, interview skills, case studies, and cross-college networking sessions. Fellowship and scholarship opportunities will also be promoted among the group.

“This has been one of the most exciting projects that I’ve worked on at UTEP,” Pineda said. “It’s the perfect mix between student affairs and engaging students at an extracurricular level, but with the structure of an academic curriculum. I’m excited not only because of this award, but also for the continuation of this program next year. It really has the potential to have an impact on not only our UTEP students now but also in the future.”