ALUMNI SUCCESSES: Alumnus lives TAMIU international mission, makes impact

ALUMNI SUCCESSES: Alumnus lives TAMIU international mission, makes impact

By Matthew Balderas
Bridge Ombudsman
Published Monday, Sept. 14, 2020

[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of profile articles on the successes of various TAMIU alumni, written by a TAMIU alumnus who recently returned to his alma mater to work on a graduate degree. Matthew Balderas is also a former editor-in-chief of The Bridge.]

First-generation college graduate Osvaldo “Ozzy” Guzman describes getting accepted into TAMIU as one of his family’s most significant accomplishments. After graduation, he continues to raise that bar ever higher.

“I had taken a lot of the experiences that I had undergone in my undergraduate studies,” Guzman said. “I got to be exposed to a lot of leadership [and] I got a lot of opportunities to expand on my abilities personally and professionally. Once I graduated, I headed off for Istanbul, Turkey, where I ran a camp as an English mentor and a camp coordinator and worked with around 25 to 27 students at a time in multiple locations.”

Photo courtesy Osvaldo Guzman

Seeing the impact an English-speaking mentor added for his students, his desire to continue to be a resource for others grew.

“I was able to see first-hand how outside-the-classroom teaching impacted students,” Guzman said. “That idea came further into fruition following Istanbul, Turkey, because I then went to a country in Southeast Asia called the Republic Timor-Leste, where I served as a teacher-trainer and a teacher for the United States Peace Corps.”

Even though he graduated with a degree in business administration and a concentration in international economics, Guzman describes teaching as an integral component of his character and who he is.

Photo courtesy Osvaldo Guzman

“In 2015, I left for my first internship in Washington, D.C., and discovered diversity in so many areas: in people, in different ideals, in different value systems,” he said. “When I came back to Laredo, I was more passionate than ever to spread that enthusiasm to other students. 

“Since that moment, I had returned … I had a self-driven purpose to show other students what I saw and felt.” 

He accomplished this by founding ALPHA, the Association of Latino Professionals for America, on campus and began a mentorship program for the Laredo community.

“With ALPHA, we not only went to national conferences … where the experiences allowed for not only myself but for my team to be more well-rounded leaders … that followed on to the idea of, ‘How else can we take what we learned and bring it forward to the community?’” Guzman recalled. “That led to creating mentorship seminars between student leaders at the University and students at the high school level.”

Photo courtesy Osvaldo Guzman

The transition from mentoring students in English proficiency in the U.S. to abroad was smooth, but Guzman never predicted the rough patch that laid ahead.

“I was working with host country nationals on putting forward a community grant project where we would secure more technology for the school as we had already done the year before … [and] maximize our time together to create more resources for teachers and students,” Guzman said. “[Upon leaving that meeting,] I had just received a call about an evacuation that was going on, which was the direct effect from COVID.

“We needed to evacuate immediately from Timor-Leste and, moreover that, it wasn’t just us–the Peace Corps community in Timor-Leste–it was Peace Corps global.”

Although his teaching experience was cut short due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, he realizes teachers’ fear of being in the classroom is real and offers advice.

“One of the things that really made our jobs just a little tougher was the access and inaccessibility to resources,” Guzman said. “My advice for teachers would be to maximize your resources; we have some of the most advanced technology in the world, here in the United States. I encourage teachers to use all of it.”

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Prestigious conference awards TAMIU psychology graduate students

Prestigious conference awards TAMIU psychology graduate students

By Angela K. Carranza
Assistant Editor

Published Monday, Sept. 14, 2020

Five TAMIU students recently earned recognition from one of the highest professional organizations in their chosen career field.

From Aug. 6-9, the American Psychology Association held its yearly conference which included five TAMIU Master of Counseling Psychology graduate students who won poster awards.

Evelyn Campos and Alejandro Flores received Division 49’s Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Poster of the Year Award for promoting diversity and social justice. Their poster was called “Psychoeducational Groups for Latinos: Group Cohesion’s Influence on Fostering Safe Learning Environments.”

Alyssa Vera, Ivette Soto and Rebeca Salazar won Division 27’s Society for Community Research and Action Poster Award for their work titled, “A Stress Management Psychoeducational Group for Latinos: Outcomes and Cultural Factors Contributing to Group Cohesion.”

“Our students worked incredibly hard, [and] doing qualitative research is very taxing and time consuming,” Assistant Professor of psychology Ediza Garcia said. “Our students took data from 2,640 personal responses which were then transcribed and coded into a thematic analysis. So, [these projects took] an [immense] amount of hours [to complete].”

Garcia also serves as MACP program director, where she mentors psychology graduate students like Poster of the Year Award co-recipient Campos.

“We did a lot of research on what works better for Latino college students,” Campos said. “The fact that there is a lack of research [when it comes to Latinos in higher education] is outstanding and very important because I feel that Latinos in higher education is a growing population and there is not a lot of help curated to Latinos in the United States.

“As students of the MACP program, we are all trying to be there and offer support for Latino students in higher education.”

The effects of these projects will be reflected in the coming years and are intended to help other students.

“My most favorite part about this project is just being able to be there for these students and being able to let them know that they can come to a place where they feel safe,” Campos said. “[They] can tell us how they feel, knowing that their sessions are confidential and will be used to help future individuals.”

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CARES Act provides campus loaner laptops

CARES Act provides campus loaner laptops

By Gabriela Chapa
Bridge Staff Intern

Published Monday, Sept. 14, 2020

Purchasing 500 laptops for its new Student Loaner Laptop Program, TAMIU helps students continue course attendance during the fall semester.

As the times continue to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the return to face-to-face classes, Texas A&M International University released a new program where students can check out a laptop for the semester.

The Student Loaner Laptop Program was created through the TAMIU CARES Program with the goal of helping students who struggle with technology and want to continue their classes. TAMIU purchased these devices that are being distributed to students. Students enrolled in both Fall and Spring semesters will be able to keep the computer until the completion of their academic year on May 15.

Gabriela Chapa | Bridge
Biology major Monica Molina tests out one of the University’s laptops similar to the loaner Dell models on Sept. 3 in the Zaffirini Student Success Center.

This program is first-come first-serve and the application is now open for students to apply. The Office of Outreach will review applications and devices will be distributed after the 20th day of classes on Sept. 18. The students are welcome to apply anytime during the semester. The program will be open to students as long as devices are available. The laptops will be equipped with most of the software students need, including Microsoft Office, and the Office of Informational Technology will be there for whatever issues students might have. The laptop model for this program will be the Dell 3410, which is compact and portable for students to easily carry it around campus or move around their homes.

Scheiby González Fisher, executive director of TAMIU Outreach and Pre-College Programs, said this initiative was a way to help students persist during these difficult times.

“This is an initiative that the University decided to pursue for the students,” Fisher said. “It is something that TAMIU decided [jt] wanted to do to help students, especially considering the situation we are dealing with, with technology issues. We know that there are students that don’t have either … [a] working device or don’t have devices period, so the University decided [it] wanted to go ahead and purchase this equipment. The equipment was purchased with TAMIU CARES funds. With CARES, at the end of the day, we are trying to help and give back to the students.”

Gabriela Chapa | Bridge
The University’s new loaner Dell laptops receive a software update on Sept. 3 as they are prepared for students in the OIT office in the Sue & Radcliffe Killam Library.

TAMIU CARES Act funds are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020. This more than $2 trillion economic relief package is intended to protect U.S. citizens from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury website treasury.gov.

Interested students may submit their application by visiting the website go.tamiu.edu/laptop. Additional information may be learned from the Office of TAMIU Outreach and Pre-College Program at (956) 326- 2700 or email outreach@tamiu.edu.

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OPINION: TAMIU rejects quarantine order

OPINION: TAMIU rejects quarantine order

Alejandro Carbajal | Bridge

By Alejandro Carbajal
Bridge Illustrator

Published Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

I think disregarding the concerns of health authorities during these trying times will only prolong the fire. This is the stench of greed over the well-being of students and staff.

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City issues quarantine orders, not applicable to TAMIU

City issues quarantine orders, not applicable to TAMIU

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief

Published Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

Laredo Health Authority Dr. Victor Treviño laid down quarantine orders last week on two of TAMIU’s buildings only to later rescind those orders under state revocation.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Treviño had papers served to Texas A&M International University for a quarantine of the Academic Innovation Center and the Kinesiology, Wellness, & Recreation Center.

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge
Social distancing signs are placed all over campus, as seen Sept. 4.

“Under the orders issued by Governor [Greg] Abbott and other state law, the (Laredo health authority) does not have the legal power to issue quarantine orders to this University,” TAMIU President Pablo Arenaz wrote in an email on Sept. 2. “We have explained this to the LHA on multiple occasions, but they refused to recognize the limits on their authority and issued orders that are simply unlawful. As a result, a short while ago the Texas Department of State Health Services exercised its authority to revoke the orders issued by the LHA and eliminate the confusion unnecessarily created by the LHA.”

The City of Laredo powers provided to the health authority are simply to provide recommendations and guidance. This is not to be confused with the health director who runs operations and oversees public outreach and logistical response for the Laredo Health Department.

“This matter has been resolved,” TAMIU Director of Public Relations and Marketing Steve Harmon told The Bridge in an email. “As you may have heard, Dr. Treviño rescinded the quarantine notice, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the City of Laredo in our shared commitment to the health and safety of the University community and the community at large.”

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge
Facial covering disclaimers are placed at each campus entrance, as seen Sept. 4.

The Texas Department of State Health Services sided with TAMIU to keep its doors open since the University followed state guidelines.

The University tested 681 people, Arenaz wrote in an email on Sept. 2. Twelve came back positive. Only one attended class in person. As of Sept. 4, the TAMIU COVID-19 web page reported the following stats: TAMIU on-campus testing — Total tested: 782. Positive: 14. Inconclusive: 7. Estimated recovered: 2. Positivity rate: 1.79%.

In his Sept. 2 email, Arenaz pointed to TAMIU’s low positivity rate of then 1.76% as proof that the quarantine orders were unnecessary.

Comparatively, as of Sept. 7, the City of Laredo reports on its website testing 139,235 times. There are currently 668 active case results from a total of 12,094 confirmed cases. Of the positive cases, 121 were hospitalized, 11,053 estimated recovered and 252 deceased.

Social distancing, face coverings, washing and sanitizing frequently are some of the tools and routines being used to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Harmon continued in the email, “We thank our TAMIU community for their partnership in this … observe all possible preventive actions. Remain diligent every day.” He added, “This disease plays no favorites, but these practices have been proven to minimize the spread of the virus.”

Harmon provided a list of the different measures staff have taken, such as free COVID-19 testing, campuswide cleaning, enhanced HVAC filtering, socially distanced classrooms and meeting spaces, along with utilizing the help of public health and nursing faculty.

As much as these preventive measures are practiced, many students expressed their opinions and concerns of Arenaz’s and the University’s handling of the quarantine notice by the city on the unofficial TAMIU Student Network page on Facebook.

Among the comments, worries of having a science lab class during these times is a risk some students felt unnecessary.

“I understand where they’re coming from, but they must understand that it is not my decision to have them come into lab,” faculty adjunct Chris Rosales said. “They must have patience with us instructors as we are learning and going through this together.”

To be certain, not all of the social media posts are written from a well-informed status.

“When actions are debated via social media it is most often without the benefit of the facts of the matter,” Harmon told The Bridge in an email. “Soon, one person’s opinion becomes the next person’s fact and a flawed narrative is built.”

Harmon also noted Arenaz’s dedication and commitment to making the semester work are his highest priorities. The president earned a doctorate in microbiology.

“Every day, he works with our partners, the city, system, state and federal, to make sure that this campus is as safe as humanly possible,” Harmon continued in the email. “His commitment is total.”

Harmon concluded, “Like any entity here or around the globe, it is unrealistic to expect the University will have zero incidences. What all can be assured of is that the University will always do its very best to reduce the likelihood of incidence.”

This is not the first time Treviño had a disagreement over pandemic policies regarding education. On July 9, he signed an order for local elementary and secondary schools to conduct classes virtually. In late July, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a guidance letter stating that local health authorities did not have the power to issue sweeping school closures to minimize infection rates.

“I think [Paxton] mentioned I can’t close the school due to prevention of illness. But this is not prevention, this is already an outbreak in the whole city. This has nothing to do with prevention,” he told The Laredo Morning Times regarding that earlier disagreement.

His contract with the City of Laredo, which began May 1, lasts through April 30, 2022.

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OPINION: Perplexing pandemic times

OPINION: Perplexing pandemic times

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

So far as editor-in-chief for a second semester, it is already overwhelming but I cannot see anyone else doing what I do. I am sure anyone can do what I do, especially if they have organization skills–seriously.

Anyway, that was just me blowing off some steam, but blowing off steam can get people into strange situations or start something they never intended to start.

One of the things blowing up my realms of social media has been that Texas A&M International University and the City of Laredo are in some type of “battle.” This disagreement calls into question TAMIU choices regarding the pandemic. Leaving flex scheduling and both buildings, the Academic Innovation Center (that’s how you spell it, KGNS), and the Kinesiology, Wellness & Recreation Center, open for students and faculty. That quarantine order was later rescinded.

From what I read from a wide variety of local theories, reaching into the unknown, the reason for the initial quarantine order was because the previous Laredo Health Department director is now a consultant to TAMIU, or because the City of Laredo cannot force any of its orders onto TAMIU, or my favorite reach yet, because the University is being run by marionettes and is making administration and faculty its puppets with strings that stem all the way from College Station–reptiles in disguise is what I am getting at here. Hilarious stuff.

Then again, this might be the year where some believe such oddities. Students and everyday people are believing without seeing anymore. Twenty-twenty. 2020. The year that spawned bizarre theories out of boredom due to quarantine and overactive imaginations.

TAMIU is not safe from those same imaginations at all this year. I believe things will blow out of proportion a lot this semester and if things do not wind down, it’ll certainly flow into the spring.

I think this is all just people blowing off steam in the worst way.

Of course, it looks bad for our University to keep its doors open through a global pandemic but some of our international students might not have gotten enrolled if TAMIU went fully online (at least, that’s how it looked up until around July 14 when ICE and the Trump administration backed off of that international student requirement). Flex scheduling helps with situations like that, where funding may be dependent on face-to-face class offerings. We are an international university, after all.

This past summer, in July, new international students could take a full course load online without complications from U.S. Customs or the student’s respective embassy.

I’ve been here at TAMIU since 2006. There was that gap from 2012 to 2019 where I did leave, though. I believe I know already how this works, in a way. I was there for what my friends called “Swine 09” when the H1N1 epidemic occurred. It only lasted for a week but, even then, TAMIU knew to close its doors when things turned for the worse.

And currently, this pandemic, things are bad. Yet, we are living with it and adjusting to find some form of normalcy–even if that means going to a class face-to-face. You do not have to, but you can.

If someone tells you it is raining and someone else says it is not, you go to the window and check for yourself.

I am not saying I defend TAMIU’s rejection of the city order, but I understand why we students are making a big deal about this. We care so much for our school that we don’t want anyone here to contract the virus. TAMIU is home and we want to keep it as clean and safe as possible.

Here’s a shout out to the maintenance staff for doing the best they can with what they’ve got! Thank you for all your work.

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TAMIU celebrates 50th today

Today official TAMIU 50th anniversary

TAMIU 50th Anniversary

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OPINION: Internships, more hurt by COVID-19

OPINION: Internships, more hurt by COVID-19

By Tomas Cruz
Bridge Marketing Director
Published Monday, May 11, 2020

The Spring 2020 semester rapidly became one of the toughest semesters for many students’ academic journey at TAMIU. The coronavirus pandemic impacted not only our university, but the rest of the world.

As a Texas A&M International University senior, I faced many bumps on the road to finish my degree. This spring semester I was interning at a marketing/advertising agency for my COMM 4350 Internship course.

Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, many interns faced issues with internship locations closing and not being able to complete their hours. While some of us were able to work remotely, many others were unfortunately not able to return to their internship because numerous businesses temporarily closed. This prevented students from trying to put their academic skills into the work environment face-to-face and frightened those of us seniors looking at the job market after graduation. 

As a former student employee of the A.R. Sanchez School of Business Dean’s office, it was unfortunate I was not able to physically be there at work my last days. I would like to recognize the entire college for allowing me to work all four years of my academic journey, everyone was very nice and helpful to one another. I would also like to recognize the Center for the Study of Western Hemispheric Trade for allowing me to photograph their speaker series events and conferences.

Like many employees once the lock-down began, I had to work remotely from home and finish all my tasks from work, school and my internship. Even The Bridge student newspaper transitioned into more of an online publication. While it was a new and difficult situation for many, we are finally here at the end of the semester. I can officially say I received my bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in marketing. Although, it does not feel like it yet. Sadly, every graduate was supposed to walk across the stage this May, but commencement was postponed until August.

The cancellation of everything saddens most individuals. Commencement, internships, jobs, traveling and more, suffered cancellations due to this pandemic. However, life must go on and everyone should think positive. Many people’s lives are at risk right now and the best we can do is be glad we are alive and remain safe. Although we weren’t able to walk the stage this May, we will hopefully walk in August. For now, my only wish is for all TAMIU and everyone in this world to get through these tough times taking precautions and staying safe. 

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Spring graduation falls shy of fall semester

Spring graduation falls shy of fall semester

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, May 11, 2020 

This spring’s graduation occurs at the beginning of the fall semester on Thursday, Aug. 13, at the Sames Auto Arena, due to the pandemic.

On April 17, Texas A&M International University President Pablo Arenaz, appeared in a video in full regalia, in front of the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts organ, speaking to the 50th graduating class in TAMIU history. He said the graduation ceremony, along with summer commencement exercises, would be postponed until mid-August before the start of the fall semester because of the coronavirus pandemic affecting day-to-day routines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on life as we know it,” Arenaz told viewers of the video. “… The senior class of 2020, you have seen your last semester delivered online, and the traditions and celebrations that have always framed the senior year experience either canceled or postponed.”

Soon after saying so, Arenaz offered some good news that the postponed ceremony would still be held at the Sames Auto Arena, as so for the past four years.

“For we are TAMIU together, always,” Arenaz added.

Then around May 7, Arenaz spoke again in another video. This time in a full suit and tie, inside the Great Hall on the third floor of the Sue & Radcliffe Killam Library.

He brought up again the bittersweetness of graduation from the presentation of the flags representing various students’ countries, the student respondent speech’s heartfelt words and the roaring cannons of confetti that spray on the graduates.

Though, his new message was directly to the point–conferring of the students’ degrees.

“So by the authority vested in me, by the Chancellor, and by the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System, acting under the enabling legislation establishing this University, I hereby confer upon each of you the degree to which you are entitled with all its rights, privileges and responsibilities,” Arenaz said, concluding with “Congratulations!”

Arenaz then went on to say, “You have a bright future ahead of you. You have been prepared by outstanding faculty to enter the workforce, graduate or professional school …”

This message of good will was sent to all of the graduating class of 2020, but when unemployment currently resides at more than 20 percent due to the pandemic, Arenaz’s message falls on the fearful ears of job seekers.

“It … sucks,” former editor-in-chief of The Bridge and fall 2019 TAMIU graduate Matthew Balderas said about the current job market.

“I had one official job offer from a TV company and made it to second-round interviews with the Houston Astros and had just secured an interview with the Houston Dynamo right before they decided to suspend the sports season,” Balderas said.

“Unfortunately, the job offer and interviews fell through but I’m hoping once this is all over, I can backpack up where I left off, if at all possible.”

For some, Arenaz’s message of “graduate or professional school” might feel like a safer route.

“For now, I have entered into a master’s program with TAMIU for my MBA [with a] concentration of international business for the upcoming Fall 2020 semester,” Balderas said.

As of now, with businesses opening throughout Texas, and across the nation, no one knows what summer has in store.

“Our commitment on this is clear, but I must caution that we will not proceed should public health conditions force us to revisit the plan,” Arenaz said, regarding the rescheduled commencement.

“Class of 2020, I look forward to handing you your diplomas.”

For the latest updates, visit the dedicated commencement website at www.tamiu.edu/commencment/

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PHOTO GALLERY: Pandemic life

PHOTO STORY: Pandemic life

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
and
Alejandro Hernandez
Bridge Staff Writer
Published Monday, May 4, 2020

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