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Alumni return to help recruit at Career Expo
By Office of Public Affairs
(956) 665-2741
Posted: 09/30/2011
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Felicia Castillo said when she was growing up in the Rio Grande Valley she didn't know about the Raytheon Corporation until she came to a career fair at The University of Texas-Pan American.


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Elsa Walthour, pictured left, a UTPA senior majoring in business management, asks NASA recruiter Holly Triska about job opportunities at NASA during the Career Expo at UTPA Friday, Sept. 30.
This year, Castillo, a 2008 graduate of UT Pan American in mechanical engineering , returned to campus Sept. 30 as an operations engineer with Raytheon hoping to let young people know about the opportunities at her company during the annual Career Expo held in conjunction with HESTEC.

"I like connecting with these students and trying to get them going through the right steps," Castillo said. Castillo said Raytheon now has many UTPA alumni working for one of the world's largest defense and aerospace systems companies.

"We get feedback from the company that all the people they hire from here in the Valley are really hard working people. They're driven and they simply work harder than the rest," she said.

Approximately 50 local to worldwide businesses attended the recruiting event organized by the Office of Career Services. In recent years, the expo was opened to students and alumni with any major or classification, not just students or graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), said Lourdes Servantes, career services director. Servantes said the event has been successful in helping students make initial contacts with companies searching for qualified employees.

"This really starts the connection, it's where the process starts. It happens here at the booths. It happens during the week at information sessions offered to students. We have 12 interview booths and anywhere from 40 to 60 students will get interviews on the spot," she said.

Many companies, such as Raytheon, IBM and H-E-B, have attended the expo since it began with HESTEC and this year several recruiting booths were manned with primarily UTPA alumni, Servantes said.


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U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Israel Villarreal, pictured left, talks to UTPA students about job opportunities with the Navy during the annual Career Expo Friday, Sept. 30. Pictured with Villarreal from left to right are Juan De Leon, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering; Jorge Castillo, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering; and Maximilian Villarreal, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.
This is Eduardo Castilleja's eighth year of returning to the expo to recruit for Target. A 2000 finance graduate from UTPA, Castilleja is a store team leader at the Target on North 10th Street in McAllen.

"It feels great because this is where I got my education, and it is where it all started. Now to be able to come back ... and talk about your corporation and the growth and development that you can do, it's awesome," he said. "It's great to come back and talk to students who are getting ready to go out there and start in the real world and put their education to work. This gives them a huge opportunity."

Jason Garcia, who just graduated from UT Pan American in May 2011 with a degree in electrical engineering, came back to campus from Baltimore, Md. where he recently went to work for Northrop Grumman. Garcia praised the help he received from career services in landing his job and the academic preparation he received at the University.

"You think Pan Am is a small school and maybe you should go to somewhere like UT Austin, but I got the preparation here. I've heard stories where in the bigger colleges you don't even meet your professors. They're dealing with teacher assistants and here every day we are interacting with our professors," he said.

Garcia said he was enjoying talking to students and letting them know about the opportunities available to them.


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Gerardo Morales, pictured left, talks with P&G Process Engineer Albert Marin during the annual Career Expo at UTPA Friday, Sept. 30. Morales and Marin are alumni of UTPA. Morales earned his bachelor's in mechanical engineering in 2007 and a master's in engineering management in 2011. Marin graduated in 2009 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
"It's good to come back and just keep reminding them, hey, you can succeed," he said.

Expo attendees were also able to learn about internship opportunities.

Melissa A. Burt, education and diversity manager at the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes (CMMAP) Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, told visitors at CMMAP's booth about their 10-week summer internship program for 10 students each year who are interested in learning about weather, climate that is open to a wide range of STEM-related majors.

"We give them stipends and we pay for their housing, their travel to and from Colorado and provide them with professional development training. They are also able to visit some of the research labs throughout Colorado," she said. "People participating in our internship usually are interested in becoming professors at large research universities or liberal arts colleges. Or they become research scientists at places like NOAA or NASA."

Several of the recruiters had some words of advice to young people just choosing a field of study and a career to make them more marketable now or in the future in a competitive job market.

At the Texas Instruments (TI) booth, Juan Gonzales was a member of a four-person team manning their booth - all graduates of UT Pan American. A 2007 graduate in mechanical engineering, Gonzales now works for TI's facilities department. He said students thinking about a career in his area at TI should have an early exposure to engineering, math and science and be able to make analytical decisions. He said good communication skills are also important.

"Once you are in the field as a professional, you should be able to talk to people, that is really a plus. Fifty percent is engineering, the other half is maintaining relationships with people. You must be a people person," he said.


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Texas Instruments was one of more than 30 companies and organizations that set up shop at UTPA Friday, Sept. 30 for the annual Career Expo. All of the Texas Instruments representatives at the job fair are alumni of UTPA.
Jon Anderson, a physical therapist at the Ensign Group, which owns long term care and skilled nursing facilities and outpatient clinics nationwide, four of which are in the Valley, said his company was looking for occupational, physical and speech therapists and nursing graduates. Beside a strong academic background, Anderson said his company also seeks people with the ability to communicate effectively.

"We are ultimately about customer service. As a nurse or a therapist, you are constantly dealing with the public," he said. "We want people with strong communication skills and who can work well with others."

Hundreds of students and alumni took advantage of the opportunity to connect with a large number of companies gathered at one location.

Joshua Orozco from Palmview will graduate in May 2012 with a major in computer engineering, a UTPA program recently accredited by ABET he noted proudly. He was able to talk to Raytheon, Walmart, the Navy and Army, and Proctor & Gamble. He said because of minimal opportunities in his field in the Valley, he was willing to relocate. Orozco will soon be participating in a local internship and recommended upcoming students look into internship opportunities.

"If you have an opportunity, get an internship in your sophomore or junior year. Then by the time you are a senior your résumé is perfect," he said.

Senior Aurora Alaniz, who is a management major, said the expo was a great opportunity to start talking and meeting people.

"It is important to meet employers face to face to start the networking process," she said.

She said she's never doubted that UT Pan American graduates could go out and compete with students from other schools.

"I have actually found that employers come down here because they know that the culture exemplifies a good work ethic. They are specifically looking for people from Pan Am because of that," she said.

The Career Expo was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force.