Anthropology Senior Veronica Luna

Veronica LunaThe IE Pre-Grad Internship Program has been the most rewarding and beneficial experience during the last four years at the University of Texas-Austin, in both my academic and personal life. Working with my graduate mentor, Linda Prieto, and supervising professor, Dr. Doug Foley, has helped secure my plans for graduate studies by enabling me with valuable information and helpful advice. My mentor has served as a role model and exposed me to academic life as a Latina, something the typical minority student at UT would never experience.

As managing editor of the Anthropology and Education Quarterly, she allowed me to sit-in on review meetings of submitted manuscripts. Exposure to the academic culture in that setting served to demystify my perceptions of graduate school and somehow made my goal more feasible and realistic.

As a minority student, I was able to gain knowledge about how white and non-white academics, who share my scholarly interests, interact and relate to each other. Prior to these experiences, I pictured a cold, competitive atmosphere where one was constantly critiqued, and although this may be the case in other fields, I was motivated and inspired by the professors and graduate students I met. This informal education is an example of an unexpected benefit from the IE program and is an experience that I wish all minority students could have.

Having Linda as a mentor has meant that I am able to interact with a fellow Latina who is pursuing very similar interests and that I greatly admire on a personal basis. The IE program has been twice as meaningful and fulfilling having a mentor that I can relate to and connect with, both academically and personally.

Another activity I pursued as part of my internship was attending conferences and writing reflections on what I had learned. For example, I attended a conference on the Virgen de Guadalupe that my parents accompanied me to and besides being very interesting, this was an opportunity for my family life to enter the university setting. As a retired teacher and life-long intellectual, my father was especially excited at the chance to attend a scholarly conference. Being a native Austinite, I have lived at home with my parents for most of the four years, but that was one of the only times my parents had entered the academic world with me. In addition, I attended a conference where three representatives from each Mexican political party gave speeches in support of the presidential hopefuls. Again, I invited my parents and my mother was especially glad at this opportunity, being a Mexican immigrant herself. Connecting my family with events on campus allowed me to reaffirm that even though my family background is by no means wealthy, knowledge is public property and there needs to be more interaction between the university and community. The conferences I attended as part of my IE internship allowed me to incorporate my family life into my academic experiences and created opportunities for my parents and I to engage in scholarly dialogue in our home.

During this semester, I also researched different opportunities I could pursue after I graduate, as well as graduate schools and programs. Even though I consider myself a highly motivated person and would have done this research on my own accord, Linda and Dr. Foley's advice and guidance were invaluable. Feeling like I could make an informed decision about my future was incredibly empowering, no longer did I feel like just an undergraduate with a desire to study anthropology in graduate school. Now I feel more knowledgeable about what theoretical frameworks I want to use to pursue my academic interests and have even narrowed my list of potential graduate schools and programs to five. If it were not for the conversations I had with Linda and Dr. Foley, I would have pursued graduate school with great apprehension and self-doubt, but after participating in the IE internship, I am confident that I am a highly competent candidate.

Also, I gained invaluable networking skills and developed a greater ease in talking with professors, something that in the past had definitely not come easy to me. It seems that applying to and surviving in graduate school involves a great deal of networking and connecting with people, but I had never had the opportunity to informally interact with professors and graduate students. Now, I feel more confident in my ability to engage in conversations with academics and ask the right questions to assure my success during and after graduate school. It has been such a revelation to know that professors and graduate students are very willing to offer helpful advice and that the successful person is the one who is not afraid to ask questions and increase his or her social capital.

The IE program offers the liberal arts students the opportunity to better their social and networking skills to make to make themselves more appealing in the job market and when applying to graduate school. As a result of the program or participating in this internship my last semester of college, I was able to explore how my last four years could best be used to further my dream of attending graduate school.

Being involved in this internship was the most appropriate way to end my four years and help me reflect on my past experiences and plan the future. The internship helped me to recognize how all my experiences had focused around the same themes and they were resources I could use to create opportunities for myself in the future. From working in low-income, low-performing Austin area schools for three year to volunteering to serving on the Student Volunteer Board, I realized that my interests in Anthropology and Education could fuse together in graduate school. I did not even know that Anthropology of Education and Sociology of Education were fields that I could pursue in graduate school! When I would engage in conversations with Linda discussing conferences I had attended or an interesting scholarly article I had read, it was exciting when I could offer insightful comments drawing upon my knowledge and experiences. The self-empowering process was so helpful in developing my own voice in my academic discourses and allowed me to recognize that I even as an undergraduate, I had exercised a great deal of freedom in deciding my future and my potential was very much in my control of what I wanted to become.

My experiences through the IE Program are valuable resources that I will draw upon for years to come and I intend to use the IE philosophy in the future. My graduate mentor's guidance and the opportunities she afforded me have reshaped my conception of academia and lifted the cloud of mystique that surrounded graduate school.

Veronica's experience is featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Veronica's story is featured in the Austin American-Statesman

Veronica's story is spotlighted in a UT web banner feature