Career Spotlight: History Professor

Me_Exec_Summ_smallerIrma Victoria Montelongo received her Ph.D. in Borderlands History from the University of Texas at El Paso.  Her fields of study include Gender and Sexuality, Latin American History, U.S. History with a sub-field in Immigration Studies, and Borderlands History with a sub-field in Race and Ethnic Studies.  Her research and teaching interests focus on race, class, gender, sexuality, and criminology on the U.S.-Mexico border. Dr. Montelongo became a fellow at the Center for Collaborative Online International Learning at the State University of New York Global Center.

Q: What are your job responsibilities?

A: I am responsible for teaching three classes this semester. Also, I am the program coordinator of the online classes that UTEP offers, I coordinate professors by signing them which class are they going to be giving online and also help to train faculty. Everything that has to do with online class I am in charge of that.

Q: What are the courses that you teach?
A: I am teaching Chicano Studies, which is Social Issues, La Chicana and deals with Mexican american women and also Colonias in the United States. I teach a lot of different courses and I enjoy to see my students attending to class.

Q: What is your educational training?

A: I have a Bachelors, Masters and a PH.D in History. Also, I have sub fields in Immigration Studies, Race and Ethnicity.

Q: How did you find your current job?

A: I found my current job by applying at the university. Thank God they gave me the opportunity to impart this course. I love to teach and see that my classes are interesting to them and, because El Paso has a lot of history with latinos, I think it is important for students to know about their ancestors and background.

Q: How did you prepare for this career?

A: I came to college late.  After high school, I started working and I got into college really late. But when I started to study again I enjoyed so much my bachelors that  decided to go for my masters and as well with my PH.D. Once you get started it is like non-stop.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: My favorite part are working with my students. I like to hear the good ideas they share to the rest of the class and the way they think about certain issues.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the job?

A: Being able to balance all the responsibilities. We have to teach, write, publish and we have to find out ways we can manage our time. It is sometimes difficult to find the time to be grading essays and exams, preparing for class, etc. Balancing the time to do everything that is required can be difficult.

Q:What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

A: I am involved in different activities within the community. One of them is the TASK Academy, which is for teenagers that have problems in their homes. We try to help the students, especially since most have problems outside of school.


Career Spotlight: Managing Editor

Lizette Ruiz

Position & Title:

Managing Editor



City & State

El Paso, TX


What are some of your job responsibilities?

My responsibilities include working with the editorial staff, which is made up of the Fiction Editor, Poetry Editors, and Spanish Editor. I am in charge of submission management, such as reading and evaluating submissions, and ensuring rejections and query responses are sent; copy-editing, proofreading, fact-checking, checking corrections, and preparing manuscripts for layout. I am also responsible for planing and executing a release date for the magazine’s publication. I work closely with the Executive Director and meet with him on a weekly basis to discuss any up coming events and updates.

What is your educational background? Describe your college experience and how it helped you prepare for your career.

I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso in December of 2013. Soon after, in the summer of 2014, I decided to pursue my Masters degree and graduated in the Fall of 2015 from Purdue University with a Master of Science in Communication. My degree in Creative Writing really allowed me to hone my writing skills. Writing has always been my passion, and being surrounded by writers who shared my love for writing and literature was amazing! I felt very inspired and empowered. It was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life because I was following my heart and studying what I love. My degree in Communication has allowed me to take my writing skills to another level. It has also allowed me to understand the Public Relations and Marketing aspect of any organization and how to communicate strategically. Since BorderSenses is a non-profit organization, I can apply the skills that I have learned during college and still continue to do what I love.

How did you find your current job?

I came across this position on Indeed, which is a website that lists employment openings.

What did you do to prepare for this career?

I made sure that I really understood the commitment and responsibilities that this position entails. I went over the responsibilities I would be in charge of and set a schedule for myself on when to work on certain things.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love the fact that I get to work with the writing community and writers here in El Paso and all over the world! We receive submissions from other countries and I always find that very exciting. I also love the fact that by working for BorderSenses, I am supporting local writers and artists. Also,the staff and members of BorderSenses are amazing, talented people and I feel honored by being able to collaborate with them and work with them. Most importantly, my favorite part of the job is being able to read the submissions. I love reading and this position gives me the opportunity to be able and discover new and amazing pieces.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Declining pieces is the most challenging part for me. I dislike having to say no to a piece.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?

Follow your heart and go to college! Attending college has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. It really helped my find myself and follow my dreams. Graduating from college also allowed me to gain a sense of agency over my life, which I love. In the end, I decided to do what I wanted to do and I am glad that I did.

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

I love to work on my own writing, read and try new things. I also love to travel. Plus, I always enjoy my time off and make the best of it.

Encouraging Girls in Computing

Daniela Miranda
Young Women in Computing Program Coordinator
Employer: New Mexico State University

Hometown: Chihuahua, Mexico

What are some of your job responsibilities?
I’m focused on outreach to increase the number of students in computer science. Help them find I run after-school programs and summer camps where girls learn about Snap, lego robotics, app inventor for middle school and introduction to Linux, Java Script and HTML. We attend conferences where such as the Grace Hopper conference where college students get good internships. I recruit and find opportunities. We are there for any girls who need us to present to help introduce girls we like to spread the word about computer science.

What is your educational background?
I have an accounting degree from Mexico. When I came from Mexico, I got a business degree. My family was here in Texas, so I came too. There are better opportunities here. My degree gave me all the tools to be able to succeed. I always had a part-time job so that helped me get a job.

What did you do to prepare for this career?
Never give up.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I like getting to know new people and meet young women and connect them with the opportunities that our program offers. We want to recruit more Hispanic young women, but most of the time the Hispanic population doesn’t know about opportunities in computer science. Because there are a lot of job openings. By 2020 there will be a lot of opportunities in computer science.

Career Spotlight: Engineer Libby Howell

Position & Title: Electrical Engineer/ Computer Network Assessor Auditor
Employer: US Army Research Laboratory
City & State: El Paso, Texas

What are some of your job responsibilities?
“We do certifications and accreditation of army systems for the risk management framework. Normally, I am a team lead so we go and access the army systems to make sure that they meet the minimum requirements as far as security poster […] so they don’t get hacked into. The requirements are part of the NISTA: National Institute of Standards of Technology. That’s one area, the other area is that I work for a directorate under the Army Research Laboratory that’s called Survivability Lethality Analysis. So we perform all types of survivability analysis and again, in support of the Army to make sure that they are survivable when they are being built. My area has to do more with information assurance. We test army systems as they are going through a developmental cycle to make sure that they could survive a cyber attack. So we run tests, we do penetration tests, and also […] evaluate the soldiers on how well they can detect, react, and restore their systems if there is a cyber attack.”

What is your educational background?
“I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering. When I first started working for the Department of Defense, I used to work the modernizing the radars that were used as instruments for testing out in White Sands Missile Range. That was my first job so […] I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t have an engineering degree.”

How did you find your current job?
“I was looking for a job locally […] and really there weren’t a lot of technical jobs. Most people either went to work for Fort Bliss or White Sands [for those who were engineers.] So I applied to White Sands and I got the job. Another interesting thing though, is that back then, I was the first female engineer they ever had. A year later another [woman] got hired. I mean they had females, but as secretaries and they had two female technicians, but was the first female engineer [at that one organization]….It was an organization that was called the Instrumentation Directorate. We basically were involved in modernizing or providing new instruments that were used to collect data.”

What did you do to prepare for this career?
“I studied hard. You know the reason I got into engineer is kind of weird. Math came easy to me and I liked it, but I didn’t know what to do with math [in the beginning]. I didn’t want to be a teacher, that didn’t interest me so I figured that engineering is the application of math. So that’s why I picked it. I didn’t know anything about EE (Electrical Engineering) when I was in high school. When I was in high school, it was very different from your guys went. There wasn’t any AP classes and all these special programs, you just did the basics. I was never really exposed to it.”

What is your favorite part of your job?
“It’s really the people, my coworkers. Nothing that we do is ever one person. We do a lot of test events so we do things as a group.”

What is the most challenging part of your job?
“What’s challenging is keeping up with the changes, especially for computers. Things are changing so rapidly, it’s a lot of stuff you have to know. You need to know the ins and outs because you need to know that in order to try to exploit the weaknesses.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
“It’s a great career…and there are so many applications in the engineering field. You can apply it to so many different things. As a EE you can work with car manufactures, aero-space industry, electronics, there are so many different applications that I think is a very good field.”

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
“I take art classes, I’ve always liked art. I read a lot. I like doing things with my hands so I take a lot, what they call continued education classes at the community college, that have to with crafts. I love crafts so I’ve taken mosaic, stained glass, metal embossing…I used to love art in high school. I at one point considered, doing something in that field. At the end of the year [next year], I would’ve retired. I would have had 32 years. I want to take a lot more classes, I want to do faces and people, but that’s a lot harder. I want to do wood working and learn to play the piano again. I also want to volunteer. I haven’t decided if I want to do a nursing home or a shelter for battered women.”

Latina in the Art World

ArtSuppliesIris Cahill is the Coordinator of Docents and Tours at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. The museum is well known for its collections of European and Latin American Art, and Iris, who has studied art for most of her life, is well versed in its artwork. She has become a prominent figure at the well-established art institution.

However, her rise to career and personal success was not an easy one. She faced doubts and struggles from the time she was small. She was raised in Puerto Rico by her single mother. Iris’s father had left the family when her little sister was just a few months old. She would never see or speak to him again.

Nonetheless her youth was not an unhappy one. Her mother and grandparents were dedicated to her upbringing, and they encouraged creativity from the time she was small, giving her art supplies like clay and colored pencils and also buying her violin and classical guitar lessons.

As a teen, she moved with her mother and sister to Hawaii, where she volunteered with the local community arts program, helping to design materials and organize events. At 17, while still in high school, she took introductory art classes at a junior college.

Thinking back on those years she says, “high school is about figuring out who you are and building those tools accordingly. I fell in love with being creative. Art is timeless. Art connects all cultures throughout history.”

Cultivating her love for art in her Introduction to Painting and Introduction to Sculpture classes, she decided to pursue a Bachelor in Fine Arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She then returned to Puerto Rico as an entrepreneur. There she started her own freelance graphic design business, designing book covers and websites among other things. Though she enjoyed her work, she felt instinctively that she was not yet finished pursuing her love of art. She followed her gut and decided to pursue a Masters in Art History at the prestigious Boston University.

But not everyone was as excited about her decision as she was. Friends and family discouraged her from pursuing a master’s degree. “What are you going to do with a Master’s in Art History?” She was often asked.  Iris entered the program nonetheless. She knew what she loved to do. Looking back she says: “If you are passionate and curious about something you can make it work for you.”

While in school, she worked at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as a Gallery Lecturer. Once she graduated she secured the position of Coordinator of Docents and Tours at the Blanton Museum of Art where she still works today. She says her favorite part of her job is teaching people about the artwork: creating a personal connection between the viewer and the work, and changing people’s minds about art.

Still Iris dreams about the future, and how to evolve in her pursuit of art. She says that she would like to further explore art’s role in psychology and counseling. She also wants to work to expose more teenagers to art. She has a message for young girls interested in learning more about their own passions: “Opportunity is out there for teenagers.” The Blanton Museum itself welcomes volunteers of all ages. The museum is open free to the public and stays open late with dance and music performances, Spanish tours, and even yoga in the galleries on the third Thursday of the month!

This summer, the museum opens a new exhibition entitled “Impressionism in the Caribbean”, featuring Puerto Rican painter Francisco Oller. Iris encourages Latinitas in the area to check out the exhibit or to just come by and say hello! For those Latinitas outside of Austin, she encourages them to check out art exhibits in their area. Most of all she wants to remind girls of the importance of exploring their passions.

Career Spotlight: Journalist

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

As a Latina, it brings a lot of pride watching other Latinas excel in their careers. This is the case with Rosy Zugasti, a Mexican reporter whose passion for journalism brought her to begin her education in the United States and whose language barriers did not prevent her from succeeding. In this interview, Rosy Zugasti explains the steps she took in her career.

What are your job responsibilities?
My responsibilities are to investigate everything that happens in the communities of El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces that in someway affect the people. Primarily, I inform the audience without bias.

What is your educational training?
I studied for my professional career in journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso. Before that, I studied English, communications and my basics in high school in Cuidad Juarez and then EPCC. Throughout my studies, I was involved in journalism activities like the newspaper and other school projects that helped me learn about being a reporter. I was also a radio announcer for KCCR when I was at community college. During my senior year in college, I did an internship with Univision El Paso

How did you find your current job?
I found my job because  I did an internship at Univision my last year of college. During my internship, I focused a lot on demonstrating that I was a hardworking person with a willingness to learn. That is why I was selected for a full-time job with the news station.

How did you prepare for this career?
I prepared during school and with extracurricular activities. For a future reporter it is very important to get involved in media early because that will open many doors for you.

What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is being able to have direct contact with the people. I like being able to give voice to those who need to be heard and to help the community.

What is the most challenging part of the job?
It is difficult when I have to report on tragedies or death. It makes me very sad to see people suffer. Sometimes it is hard to concentrate when a family is suffering.

 What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
I like to spend time with my family, playing the piano, going for walks in the park or going to the movies.

 What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
I would recommend that they start now connecting with people who work in media. There are TV stations and newspapers that allow youth to do internships at a young age to learn about the the work and get informed about media. It is also important to learn about all the aspects involved in mass communications.

Dreams On Pointe

© BE Studio Inc 2013For many girls, attending dance is a great way to have fun or to participate in an exciting form of exercise. For others, it is the passion that pushes them to the edge of exhaustion and then some, in order to be the graceful figure on stage. Becoming a professional dancer is something that has most likely crossed the minds of many young girls, but those who wish to pursue it as a serious career will find that it takes far more than attending the occasional class.

What many dancers do not realize is that reaching the professional level takes more than joining the dance team at school.  It takes sacrifice and a large amount of one’s time and dedication to the dance studio. The life of a dancer who wishes to pursue the role of a professional revolves around being healthy and maintaining stamina- all while pushing yourself to be better and stronger everyday. This pursuit is no different than becoming a professional athlete and requires the same amount of serious dedication.

Making it in this Industry

Careers in dance are not for the faint of heart, nor those who cannot stand a bit of strong-willed perseverance. From the perspective of a dance student who now teaches at the studio she established after working with a pre-professional company, Jessica Zamarripa, a native of Laredo, Texas and founder and creative director of Laredo School of Contemporary Dance says, “I have had a lot of students come and go… [because] dance requires a lot of time. It requires a lot of sacrifice… even now as a dance teacher, I have to sacrifice my personal life. But I have no regrets, it’s all going to be worth it.”  After dancing with pre-professional contemporary dance company Ballet East of Austin, Texas, Zamarripa established Laredo School of Contemporary Dance to fill the need for a pre-professional dance industry in Laredo


On her thoughts about what it takes to make it in the industry: “You need to have the heart to be in this field. It does not matter if you have the natural ability alone, the other part is your willingness to work through the monotony of countless rehearsals and repetitions.”

Careers in dance start and end in youth. The earlier you train, the better the chance of improvement and the more things you retain over time. Once you figure out dance is the career for you, the hours spent at the dance studio become something to look forward to, no matter the price- and this price will be your hard work and dedication. According to Zamarripa, those who seek immediate results “belong in the audience, watching dance.”

Career Spotlight: Reporter

Name: Denise Olivasdenise-olivas-image-jpg

Position & Title: Reporter/Anchor

Employer: KVIA

Location: El Paso, TX

What are some of your job responsibilities?
I am a reporter for Good Morning El Paso and co-anchor for ABC-7 at Noon. Some of my responsibilities include gathering stories, conducting interviews, and writing and editing stories for newscasts.

Describe your educational background and how it helped you prepare for your career.
I graduated from Riverside High School in 2004. Immediately following I continued my education at the University of Texas at El Paso. I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Communication – Electronic Media. The classes I took in college taught me how important writing is in a journalism career. It is a very different style of writing that takes a lot of practice.

How did you find your current job?
I started at KVIA in 2009 as an intern. Several weeks after my internship ended, I was called back and offered a job opening as a producer/writer.

What did you do to prepare for a career in the media?
I made sure to finish my college education. My internship at KVIA also gave me a front row experience of television news and all the work it takes to put a newscast together.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy meeting the people of El Paso and the stories they have to share. I like telling their stories and appreciate that they allow me to do so. I also enjoy covering breaking news.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Breaking news and deadlines are the most challenging. It always keeps me on my toes. As a reporter, I always have to be ready in the event something major happens.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
Education is key!

What do you do for fun when you are not working?
I really enjoy working out when I’m not at work. It really helps relieve stress and keeps me strong and healthy.

Becoming a Media Superstar

María Elena Salinas, an inspiring role model for Latinas, has had an amazing career at the Spanish-language news station. María is a journalist from Los Angeles who has grown and developed throughout her career at Univision.

Being born and raised in California to two Mexican immigrants gives her the on-the-ground knowledge of several aspects of the Latina experience. Her hard work that has turned into successful reporting and shines light on the strength and resilience that every Latina embodies.

According to her page on Univision News’s Tumblr, Salinas “has interviewed every U.S. President since Jimmy Carter and has been face to face with dozens of Latin American heads of state, rebel leaders, and dictators.”

For entertainment, for relaxation, or for information, television channels are ready to connect with their audience. Latinos, in particular, are eager to immerse themselves into the discussion about current events.

Univision covers the news that Latinos in the United States want to know more about, and their ratings are constantly improving and breaking records.

As TV By the Numbers reports, “the Spanish-language network was the No. 1 broadcast network among Adults 18-49 on 38 nights in 2012.” Not only is Univision an option for those who would like to watch the news in Spanish, it is also grabbing the attention of coveted young viewers to watch and work behind the scenes.

Hard-hitting and professional reporting by the Univision team allows Latinos and other viewers to know that our community has a pulse–and a powerful one at that. If you are interested in pursuing a career in journalism or following in the footsteps of María, you can start immersing yourself in journalism by becoming an intern at a news station, taking back-stage tours of media stations, or even asking about shadowing opportunities.

Immerse Yourself

There are opportunities you can take a hold of to experience what goes on at their news stations. Victoria A. Perez interned at Univision’s station in El Paso, Texas. She carried out diverse tasks from answering phone calls to working with the cameras and news anchors. Her most rewarding moments included writing stories that were then broadcast on the weekend news programs.

To find out more about what internship opportunities are available, contact your local media stations or visit your school’s campus and see if they work out internship positions with students and your local Univision station.

Career Spotlight: Principal

Elizabeth Maldonado uses her experiences as a student as well as an educator in her efforts to better how children are taught in her community. Having grown up in a neighborhood that lacked resources, Elizabeth Maldonado developed a passion for teaching in low income areas, where students are often overlooked and slip through the cracks of the educational system. Elizabeth Maldonado places every effort into her work. Her efforts are inspired by the need to ensure that her students and children will grow up into a world that values the right to a fair education for everyone, no matter class, race or gender.

What is your educational background? Describe your college experience and how it helped you prepare for your career.

I had always wanted to be teacher.  For as long as I can remember, teachers have always positively influenced my life.  Thus, after graduating from Jefferson High School, I attended The University of Texas at El Paso with that goal in mind.  I don’t think I was mature enough to take college serious and frankly, it took a long time to complete my bachelors degree.  The inspiration I had to complete my degree was because I was a full time mom to two girls and I wanted to be a good role model.  After completing my degree, I returned three times to the university to earn additional certification (ESL Endorsement); Masters in Education in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students with Special Needs; and then additional certification in Educational Leadership.  I believe I am a lifelong learner and because of this, one must not remain stagnant because every new thing you learn only makes you better in your career.

 How did you find your current job?  

I would say the job finally found me.  Growing up in south central El Paso and actually attending the school where I am now the principal was not an accident, but was intentional.  As a middle school student, I promised I would return to my school and give back to my community.  For the longest time, I forgot this promise.  When I least expected it, the position for principal was open. This was at the right time in my life and when I felt I was truly ready for the challenge. So, I really think people should give back to their community once they have the ability to do so whether it be in volunteerism, resources, or mentoring, one should never forget their roots.

 What did you do to prepare for this career?

I focused on my education first and foremost, but also on my experience as a teacher.  I truly believe that a good teacher makes a good leader.  Also, I work very hard.  I am passionate about what I do and I truly love the position I am in, this is the best preparation ever.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Interacting with the students;  Middle school students are unique.  They are coming to their own at this age and are so interesting.  This is the best part of my job, just interacting with them whether it be at a game, a dance, lunch, or in the classroom, they never fail to surprise me with their antics.

What is the most challenging part of your job?  

The most challenging part of my job is the lack of resources education has in general.  When you work in a school that is unique such as mine, you must be an advocate for the students, teachers, and community.  Monetary resources are scarce and sometimes not equitably dispersed.  I find that I must really fight for the little I get because it is in a lower income area.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?

Reflect to really know that this is the type of position you want to enter.  Not only will you meet the challenges of inequity simply because of gender, but also because of race.  Although we have come a long way as Latina women, there are still many barriers to overcome.  Thus, get an education.  With education, a Latina woman can do anything.  Maintain your family relationships.  It is with their support and encouragement that you will succeed.  Learn to persevere.  Our culture is slowly undergoing a paradigm shift. In a marriage, be careful to marry or co-exist with the right partner.  The traditional Hispanic roles of the mother being the one who cooks, cleans and rears children must change if you are to have a successful career.

 What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

When I am not working, I like to spend time with the family obviously.  But also, one must hone their own interests.  I love going to movies or watching movies and collecting key quotes from movies.  I know it’s a little strange, but I have been doing this for quite a while.  I also love spending time in the outdoors camping.  Although my idea of camping is sleeping in an RV.  I love to read.  I LOVE music and collecting music.