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First M.A. in Psychology Students at Spring Commencement May 11 
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – APRIL 30, 2013 – Students Rosa Isela Law and Josefina “Josie” Gamez have a few things in common. Both will receive the first Master of Arts in Psychology to be awarded at The University of Texas at Brownsville during Spring Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11.
   
Josefina Gamez, left, and Rosa Law, right, are the first Master of Arts in Psychology graduates.
Josefina Gamez, left, and Rosa Law, right, are the first Master of Arts in Psychology graduates.
Several years ago, within five months of each other, they had also graduated from UTB and TSC with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, both being the first in their families to graduate from college.
 
“This commencement will be a joyous occasion for our family,” Law said. “Not only will I get my master’s, but my husband, Joshuah, will receive his bachelor’s degree in environmental science that day.”
 
Law, 28, who graduated from Brownsville’s Porter High School and earned her Bachelor of Arts from UTB in Dec. 2009, was named Assistant Director of Residential Life in the spring of last year, a job that requires her to live in student housing.
“It’s really an advantage to live at Casa Bella, having such a nice, convenient apartment for us and our 6-month-old daughter,” she said. 
 
Law’s area of interest is in industrial and organizational psychology, which she said is applicable to higher education.
 
“I have learned so much about group dynamics and personal traits,” she said. “I got my feet wet as the Orientation Coordinator for three years, starting when I was an undergrad; now my work involves interaction with students who live at Casa Bella as well as the resident assistants. We help RAs learn how to interact with students, and we also have workshops with students to look at their interpersonal relationships with the RAs and each other. This is essential to building community and cohesion in their respective buildings.”
 
he Office of Institutional Research and Planning. One of her campus jobs as an undergraduate was working with students in the Office of Student Life as a mentor for the Leadership and Mentorship Program (LAMP), where she conducted leadership workshops with students at Brownsville Early College High School.
 
“I really like working with young people,” Gamez said. “I enjoy interacting with them, helping them find the path that is right for them. When I was a mentor in the STEMS Club, I felt like I contributed to encouraging high school students to come to college and to consider majors in the STEM fields.”
As an undergraduate, Gamez minored in criminal justice; she became active in the American Criminal Justice Association, and is currently the chapter Vice President. She also received her Associate of Arts degree in social work, which required an internship; she worked in the crime victim’s department of the district attorney’s office, where she learned how to be an advocate for victims of violent crime.
 
Gamez said she feels she is well prepared for her next step of applying for a federal position with Homeland Security, and she is open to all possibilities, including relocation.
 
Law’s interest in student retention and graduation is what drove her to conduct research and write her thesis on how students in the Rio Grande Valley can overcome obstacles and be successful.
 
“We need to understand the dynamic of our student demographic, then determine how we provide the support needed so our students will continue their educations and graduate and go on to satisfying careers,” Law said. “Counseling is important – not just counseling on what classes to take, but on a more personal level – so a student knows there is someone they can approach to talk to about anything in their lives that they need to share. Also, learning how to self-evaluate is important to student success, as well as a good tool to use once out of school.”
 
Law is working on a pilot program that would help students in this area, to help raise their self-esteem and learn how to take control of their situations.
“Very few programs focus on personality traits,” she said. “I want to implement a program with our residents that will help enable students to build their self-esteem, believe in themselves and overcome obstacles.” 
 
Both Law and Gamez spoke of walking into the master’s program with some degree of apprehension, and they admit the road was never a slam dunk. Yet both said they feel remarkably proud of their accomplishment and feel it never would have been possible without the support of their graduate advisor, Dr. Jared Montoya, Department of Behavioral Sciences Graduate Program Coordinator, and their families, who will be eagerly anticipating their walk across the stage at Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 11.

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