RTF Pre-Grad Intern Rosa Pruneda

Rosa PrunedaBefore taking part in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium, the idea of moving on to graduate school had never crossed my mind. Coming from a family of four siblings and being the first to attend a university, a Bachelor's degree was considered the highest of all accomplishments for my family and me. Although my family is very supportive of my academic goals, plans and decisions, the idea of moving away from Houston, Texas, where I was born and raised, was a considered a risky move. We have always been a very close family and it was unusual for one of us to leave our home. Can you imagine how hard it was to move to a completely different city?

Throughout high school, I became very involved in dancing traditional Mexican Ballet Folklorico. After dancing for about two years, I realized that I had a serious passion for the arts but more importantly, for my traditional culture and background. My parents were both born and raised in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and dancing Mexican Ballet Folklorico allowed me to feel a connection to my parents, my grandparents, my traditions and my roots. I continued dancing when I moved to The University of Texas at Austin with UT Ballet Folklorico and I absolutely loved it!

While dancing with UT Ballet Folklorico during my first-year at UT, I was fortunate enough to meet Ashley Nelcy Garcia, a past IE intern. After finding out about all that she had accomplished while participating in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium, I decided that I would ask her for more information on how to get involved with IE. Ashley then introduced me to her graduate student mentor, Manuel Aviles-Santiago. After Manu and I got to know a little bit about each other, he decided that we would work great together and agreed to be my mentor this semester through the IE Consortium.

The first time I met with my mentor, Manu, we discussed the different interests that I had and my thoughts on graduate school. I had never been asked what I thought about graduate school because honestly, I always felt that graduate school was completely out of my league. As I began telling Manu about my passion for my Mexican American background, education, and the arts, he encouraged me to seek opportunities and get to know people who could help me find my way. One of the assignments as an IE intern was to find out more about professionals working in our field of interest. I was asked to interview at least two professors that were focused on our field of interest and find out more about their journey throughout their undergrad and graduate school years. I contacted two Mexican American studies professors, Dr. Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez and Professor Anne Martinez, and asked them if I could interview them for my assignment. Thankfully, they agreed to meet with me and gave me a great insight into their careers paths. I couldn't have asked for a better assignment than one that would push us to take that step to get to know professors and create a relationship with them. As a public relations major, we are always told that networking is very important! I can definitely see the effect that simply meeting these professors on a one-on-one level had on me. After interviewing these professors, I found out that their experience through both, their undergraduate and graduate years, was never easy for them. It definitely took hard work, perseverance and dedication to get to where they are now and that was simply a huge motivation for me to strive for my goals. I also realized that although, both professors had taken the same paths towards becoming Mexican American professors at one of the best universities in the world, they both had a very distinct path that led them to where they are today. I began to consider the path that I was currently creating for myself. I assured myself that I was taking the right steps towards accomplishing my future goals.

Working alongside Manu this semester has been of the most unforgettable experiences throughout my college years so far. I won't ever forget how important the advice and support that he has given me has been for me. Because of Manu, I have realized that I am capable of achieving great things when one simply learns how to take chances. My work with him this semester was focused on learning more about graduate school and the steps that I have to take in order to begin planning for graduate school. Also, to get an idea of what I specific area I wanted to focus on in graduate school. Before the IE Consortium, I had absolutely no idea what graduate school entailed and I obviously never imagined that it was a possibility for me to one day move on to grad school. Ever since the beginning of the semester, my view on grad school has definitely shifted and I am better informed about the options that I have available for me if I continue working hard throughout my undergraduate studies.

This semester, my mentor encouraged me to participate in the VOCES Oral History Project through the College of Communications. My challenge was to create a five-minute documentary about the life of a Hispanic figure that participated in World War II. With about an hour of interview footage, photos, and background music, I created a final video and submitted it. Although I wasn't very convinced that my video would be good enough, my mentor assured me that it would be worth it and that I would greatly benefit from it. After having my video judged and critiqued by three Hollywood producers and directors, sure enough, I was awarded first place. I couldn't even begin to explain my excitement and my appreciation for my mentor's encouragement. After the awards ceremony, he approached me and simply stated, "I told you so! I knew you were capable of pulling this off." To this day, it amazes me at how much one single person's encouragement and support can influence you to accomplish so much.

Thanks to the IE Consortium, Manu and I were awarded a travel grant and will be traveling to San Francisco, California to attend the Latin American Studies Association International Conference in late May. I couldn't be happier to have participated in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium this semester. My experience at The University of Texas at Austin would have been completely different if it weren't for the IE program. Through IE, I have met wonderful mentors, faculty and students that have all been very supportive. I have grown a great appreciation for the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium and I am hopeful that I will be able to continue working with the program in the future.