When Rebecca Hernandez graduated from Donna High School four years ago, she entered uncharted waters when she enrolled at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Now poised to graduate on Saturday, Aug. 18, Hernandez said UT Pan American helped her come out of her shell and discover her love of marine biology.
During her time at UTPA, Hernandez participated in research with Dr. Brian Fredensborg and Dr. Kristine Lowe and traveled throughout the United States and to Budapest, Hungary to present her work.
"I used to be a really shy person, I guess you could have described me as being very introverted, but these past couple of years research has become a big part of my life ... and you have to go out and give presentations and meet people; you kind of break out of your shell and meet really good friends," said Hernandez, who will receive a bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. "I've had really good experiences because of that ... it's brought me more than I ever hoped it would."
Hernandez is one of 715 graduates upon whom The University of Texas-Pan American will confer degrees from its seven colleges during two summer commencement ceremonies at the McAllen Convention Center.
The ceremonies will be at 9 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. At the morning event, UTPA will graduate 113 students from the College of Business Administration, 75 from the College of Education and 179 from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. At the afternoon ceremony, the University will bestow degrees upon 153 students from the College of Arts and Humanities, 86 from the College of Health Sciences and Human Services, 69 from the College of Science and Mathematics and 40 from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Texas State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa will be the keynote speaker for both ceremonies. Hinojosa, has served the people of South Texas as a state representative and state senator for more than 20 years. He has received numerous accolades for his work in the Legislature, including being twice named one of Texas' top 10 legislators by Texas Monthly magazine, being named "Legislator of the Year" by the National Organization for Women, and receiving the John Henry Faulk Award by the American Civil Liberties Union among other awards.
Hernandez said she is glad to be graduating and is looking forward to her future. She plans to pursue a master's degree in marine biology.
She credits her success to the support and experiences offered to her at UTPA. She said she had the option to attend school in Oregon and at Texas A&M University, but decided to stay closer to home to pursue her education, a decision she said was the right one.
"I've looked at everything I've done and I feel so accomplished," she said. "I'm glad Pan Am was a part of that."
For more information about the Summer 2012 Commencement ceremonies, visit www.utpa.edu/graduation.