Four students earn first graduate certificates awarded at UTPA
Posted: 05/17/2010
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The Department of Communication at The University of Texas-Pan American awarded its first six graduate certificates to four students at a ceremony May 13 at the McAllen Teaching Site.

The graduate certificates - Media Relations and Strategic Communication and Communication Training and Consulting - were two of six graduate certificates approved over the last year and a half now offered in three of the colleges at the university.

Pictured left to right with the first graduate certificates awarded at UTPA - both in the Department of Communication - are Tanzeer Ahmed, Yanci Swenson, Natasha Reyna, and Kathleen Cano-Kelley. They were awarded their certificates at a ceremony held at the McAllen Teaching Site on May 13.
"You are the first group to actually be awarded a graduate certificate at UTPA," said Dr. Cynthia Brown, vice provost of Graduate Studies, who congratulated the students. "The fact that you earned the certificate will be on your transcript - not just that you took the courses. It shows you have taken the coursework that the faculty at Pan Am deems to give you the expertise in this particular area."

Brown said the university implemented the graduate certificate programs to increase the number of graduate education opportunities at the university so they were comparable to those available in the rest of the country, and to increase UTPA's graduate school enrollment.

Other graduate certificates available are Mexican-American Studies in the College of Arts and Humanities; Healthcare Administration and Leadership and Advanced Business Administration in the College of Business Administration; and Global Security Studies and Leadership in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, congratulated the students in taking this step to pursue graduate education.

"This step will enhance your credentials and develop your skills and knowledge in your discipline," she said. "I encourage you to continue. Finish to the end of that master's program."

Brown said there are many professionals already working in their field who are reluctant to make the big step back into graduate school especially if they have been out of school for awhile.

"The graduate certificate program gives them the confidence to come in and take nine hours," she said. "Then they take nine more hours, by that time they are halfway through so they might as well stay and get their master's degree."

To be considered for admission to a graduate certificate program, a student must have a bachelor's degree and a desire to obtain skills in a specific area of study. Any additional admission requirements for graduate certificates are determined by the department. The graduate certificates offered by the Communication Department, for example, require a GPA of 2.75, a written essay, official transcript and three letters of recommendation. The communication-related certificates include three 3-hour courses, two in the core area required by the master's program and another tailored to the particular interest or skill the student has.

Two students - Natasha Reyna and Kathleen Cano-Kelley - were awarded both certificates at the ceremony. Yanci Swenson was awarded the Communication Training and Consulting Certificate and Tanzeer Ahmed was awarded the graduate certificate in Media Relations and Strategic Communication.

Reyna, a kindergarten teacher in the La Joya ISD, had earned her bachelor's degree from UTPA in communication studies in 2002. Already in the communication studies master's program, Reyna admitted that she had been apprehensive about going back to school after such a long time but started taking one class at a time with her fellow graduate and friend Cano-Kelley. They will both graduate in August 2010 with their master's degrees.

"It is just something I wanted to do. It was a challenge to me," said Reyna, who plans no changes in her current career. "However, it answers that 'you never know question' - you never know what could happen. Maybe I'll switch my career from teaching one day or maybe we won't need as many teachers anymore. It prepares me for the future."

Reyna said when she heard about the courses being offered through the graduate certificate program that she could take as part of her master's program, she rearranged her remaining courses so she could get the certificate. She also enjoyed taking the class at the McAllen Teaching Site, rather than driving to Edinburg after a full day of work.

"I live in Mission so it was closer to home," she said.

For more information on graduate certificates, contact the Office of Academic Affairs Graduate Studies at 956/381-3661 or visit their Web site at, then click program requirements.