Category: Humans of TAMIU

QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

[Editor’s note: The following is the second installment in a series of articles about different Texas A&M International University students, faculty and staff who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their stories can be as inspiring to you as we found them to be.]

Staying at home 24/7 during an almost catastrophic pandemic can be daunting. However, for Texas A&M International University art student Elkin Cortez, he sees this as an opportunity to get back to his creative ventures.

Cortez possesses multiple talents, including art, photography and even a knack for making YouTube videos in his spare time. He says that now, more than ever, he can focus on his passions.

“I am spending a lot of time on my favorite activities during this quarantine,” Cortez said. “Activities such as painting, drawing, videos and photos.”

For many students, the transition from regular college life to a secluded online routine can be challenging. Cortez came to TAMIU from Miguel Aleman Tamaulipas and returned home when the campus transitioned to online classes.

“My routine changed completely because I was living on campus and now I am at home with my family,” he said. “Therefore, the living routine is different.”

COVID-19 undoubtedly altered people’s lives but there are always ways to reshape this new way of life. Students now have time to explore new hobbies and get creative at home. Because of what is going on in the world, new leisure activities can be helpful, both physically and mentally.

He said that although many students are in different situations, he still encourages them to get as creative and productive as possible.

“Try to be as efficient as you can with the time you have,” Cortez said. “Try to strengthen your skills or develop new ones if it’s possible.”

Submitted images | courtesy Elkin Cortez
Elkin Cortez paints in his room during the stay-at-home quarantine.

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QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 1

TAMIU together: dealing with the pandemic

By Angela K. Carranza
Bridge Staff Writer
Published Monday, April 20, 2020

[Editor’s note: The following is the first installment in a series of articles about different Texas A&M International University students, faculty and staff who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their stories can be as inspiring to you as we found them to be.]

Daniel Rodriguez
TAMIU senior

During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals discover how to keep themselves busy in many different ways. For example, some take up different hobbies: cooking, reading, gaming, etc. But for Texas A&M International University senior Daniel Rodriguez, a variety of hobbies keep him occupied throughout the day.

“I have been living alone for quite some time now, which has forced me to cook and be more independent,” Rodriguez said. “I have also gained some hobbies back, such as: gardening, playing Sudoku and playing video games.”

On another note, Rodriguez said life changed when his self-quarantine began.

“In this time of quarantine, I have been thinking about how we often live life in a rush,” he reflected. “This realization made me take more time with things at a slower pace.” 

Submitted photos | courtesy Daniel Rodriguez

Daniel Rodriguez cooks at home during his self-quarantine.

Ruben Reyes
TAMIU sophomore

Quarantine impacts students in many different ways. Some students see it as an advantage to finally beginning the things they had no time for previously, but others find it difficult adjusting to this period of self-isolation. At home, find many distractions.

“My entire routine has completely changed,” sophomore Ruben Reyes said. “It is really hard getting adjusted to this, being at home, 24/7. I was used to going to school at a certain time, going to work at a certain time, and now that we’re stuck at home there’s really nothing I can do.”

In contrast, there are also many things Reyes has been able to dedicate his time to.

“I’ve pretty much been gaming and spending time with my friends online,” he said. “During these last few weeks, I’ve been virtually meeting online with my friends on Discord. We just hang out as if we were hanging out in person, except through Discord.”

Reyes also runs a gaming YouTube account where he uploads gaming videos.

“Lately, I have been able to do more content creation, mainly because I am sponsored by a gaming organization through YouTube, and I did not get the chance to do this as much during the semester because of classes,” he said.

Interested persons may view his YouTube channel: rubenkings.

submitted photo | courtesy Ruben Reyes

Maria Hernandez
TAMIU student

During this self-imposed quarantine, many individuals adapt quite differently.

“Quarantine has mainly impacted me with my schoolwork,” Texas A&M International University student Maria Hernandez said. “It is harder to concentrate because my family is with me all the time. And there are not many places that I could go to do my schoolwork.”

For some, the forced introverted life might seem repetitive.

“Well, basically, [I’m] just doing house chores, homework, watching TV—the minimum stuff,” Hernandez said. “I have also been getting into doing arts and crafts with polymer clay. I usually just decorate things, like I have recently been decorating plant pots.”

She said she is also quite fond of self-quarantine.

“I get to be with my family and live with them,” Hernandez said. “I don’t live with my family, but in this quarantine I have been spending my time with my family.”

submitted photos | courtesy Maria Hernandez

Alyssa Veronica
TAMIU junior

This self-quarantine life has many different impacts on Texas A&M International University students. For some it turns harsh, yet for others beneficial.

“I would actually say that quarantine has benefited me,” TAMIU junior Alyssa Veronica said. “I finally have time to do things around the house. Now I can actually cook. I have been cooking all my meals which is great because I love to cook. And before I hadn’t had the chance to do so because of school.”

“I’m very into nutrition, I like to watch what I eat and find different healthy options that are easy to make,” Veronica said.

In addition, she finds some things too restrictive.

“I think the least favorite thing about quarantine would have to be the restrictions, in terms of going out,” she said. “Like, you can’t go to a friend’s house. You can’t hang out with anybody.

“But my most favorite part about quarantine is that I don’t really have to wake up for class, get ready and find parking. So I would say my favorite part is not having to worry about parking.”

Many students posted about parking issues online in the TAMIU Student Network page on Facebook prior to the impact of COVID-19. 

Veronica turned a not-so-happy situation to her advantage as now finds time to do things she really loves. Despite these “difficult times,” as many people are calling them, some find it important to always look for the bright side in every situation. 

submitted photo | courtesy Alyssa Veronica
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DustyCup event canceled

DustyCup event canceled

By Joel Caballero
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

Considered by some to be the most competitive event, both mentally and physically, between student organizations, DustyCup was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Student Government Association at Texas A&M International University, which sponsors the annual event, planned to host it this semester on April 4. The event normally brings student organizations together for the opportunity to compete for bragging rights and for the winner to take home a trophy and a grant.

DustyCup is typically hosted after the Big Event, a Universitywide community service event for the local community. The event was expected to not only have a physical portion but also one for academics with general topics and TAMIU history.

SGA Vice President Mariana Rodriguez said there is more to the event than some realize.

“It promotes student engagement,” Rodriguez said, “giving organizations the time to network between one another. To add, it is fun to see how competitive it can get.”

The Traditions Committee coordinates the event and revamps it each year.

“I would love to see as many organizations as possible [get involved],” Rodriguez said, prior to the cancellation. “The event is for them to step back from studies and group business to create bonds and partnerships. Plus, let’s keep the University traditions strong.”

This year, the committee planned to swap activities and partner with TAMIU recreational sports to see what else could be brought to the table.

“Organizations should expect to see new activities this year,” DustyCup Coordinator Lesley Escalera said, prior to the cancellation. “We are always excited to partner with Rec Sports; the combination of their ideas and the committee’s always makes a successful partnership.”

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Mariachis strive for excellence

Mariachis strive for excellence

By Jason Reyes
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

Often performing at celebrations, the Mariachi Internacional took the opportunity to perform at Discover TAMIU to represent Hispanic culture.

“We kind of want people to see that [Texas A&M International University] has mariachis and has that Mexican culture,” lead vocalist and trumpet player Danny Perez said. “The mariachis represents Mexican tradition and values.”

 Along with performing at Discover TAMIU, the mariachis expected to take part in the upcoming mariachi festival originally scheduled for Apr. 23. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that event is most likely canceled.

“Mariachi does play a big part in TAMIU because it is a part of the Mexican culture, and the Mexican culture is the biggest culture here,” violist Angela Carranza said.

Mariachi Internacional is led by Director Oswaldo Zapata and consists of music students, and those from other disciplines, wanting to learn more of the musical side of South Texas culture.

“One of the biggest events we are having is called Sonidos de Mexico and it is going to be by concert,” Perez said. “We’re going to have all these workshops where different kids from different high schools come and work with this professional mariachi, one of the best mariachis in the world, named Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan.”

The TAMIU mariachis pride themselves in their Hispanic background.

“We always try to go to events that promote Mexican culture, such as El Grito,” Perez said. “El Grito is an event the [mariachis] have been performing for the longest time and it’s always trying to spread that Mexican culture and legacy [they] want to leave. It started back in 1980 and now it’s just growing every single year.”

These mariachis also take pride in their performances, working to ensure audiences remain engaged.

“The thing that I love about performing is when I look at people and they are smiling,” Perez said, “because it reminds them of their childhood or that nostalgia of growing up with mariachi music … It brightens their day.”

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Rise of esports at TAMIU

Rise of esports at TAMIU

By Ruben Reyes
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

The TAMIU Smash Club is composed of students who play “Super Smash Bros.” for relaxation and competition.

Over the course of the semester, students formed bonds, thus enhancing the college experience for most. Management information systems major Luis Arriaga said his studies of networking exceeded his expectations in the TAMIU Smash Club.

“I want to have events that bring competitors from around the United States to [Texas A&M International University] and compete with our local Smash players,” Arriaga said.

Arriaga hopes to persuade TAMIU into looking at programs or scholarships for esports.

“TAMIU lags a little behind, but recently, the TAMIU [Recreational Sports Center] bought three gaming monitors and a Nintendo Switch … so there’s definitely support from the staff for gaming.”

    Arriaga’s passion for gaming comes from his love for competition. In recent years, esports continues to grow all over the world due to famous titles such as, “League of Legends,” “Fortnite” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.” These video game titles all share one trait in common: competition.

According to the Esports Ecosystems Report 2020, the esports market will likely surpass $1.5 billion in revenue by 2023. U.S. cities build esports arenas for tournaments. Esports gained mainstream media attention around the world. It’s an activity anyone can easily compete in, or spectate.

“As long as there are figureheads in the community, there is a chance that esports could grow into a prominent culture in any university,” Arriaga said.

Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez is well known within the “Super Smash Bros.” community. Lopez is one of the notable players who inspires many people to enter “Super Smash Bros.” tournaments around the world. He is a player who continues to dominate the “Super Smash Bros.” competitive scene by consistently taking major tournaments with prizes ranging up to thousands of dollars.

Arriaga embraces the passion for the “Super Smash Bros.” community on campus and hopes more interest will come in the future. Arriaga hosted several tournaments, including a few approved by TAMIU. The club hosted the Battle at the Border tournament in late July 2019. The tournament was stacked with more than 120 players in attendance, including talent from Arkansas and Honduras, competing for a grand prize of $600.

The success of the TAMIU Smash Club inspired various students to create more organizations of their own for esports. Students voiced interest in creating clubs for other games, such as “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.”

The TAMIU Smash Club participated in a collegiate league in early 2019. Gavin “Cosmic” Gonzalez traveled with TAMIU Smash.

“Playing in the collegiate team was, honestly, a very fun experience,” Gonzalez said. “It felt just as if I was competing in another sport. Being able to represent my school along with traveling with good friends to these events—definitely something I’m going to remember.”

As one of the team’s dominant players, he eliminated nearly every member of Schreiner University’s team during the collegiate crew battles against other Texas universities.

“Having to come up with strategies and changing our lines up on the fly, to beat whoever we were up against, is something that I thoroughly enjoyed,” Gonzalez said. “Having your team and spectators cheer your team on was also a nice feeling.”

Arriaga hopes campus esports will take off to never-before-seen heights. Esports is something he believes should not be ignored or skimmed over and should be treated equally to traditional sports.

“Esports is easier to get into than many other sports but it’s just as hard to master, so we can see greater interest from people to enter esports at TAMIU due to the accessibility, compared to other sports,” Arriaga said.

Arriaga remains optimistic that TAMIU will continue to support the esports community and the TAMIU Smash Club for more semesters to come.

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Inside the race for Mr., Ms. TAMIU

Inside the race for Mr., Ms. TAMIU

By Cesar Neira
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

Reaching out to the student body is the most important part of their campaign strategy, a sentiment expressed by Mr. and Ms. TAMIU. Jose Alvarez and Abigail Zuniga received their crowns, an event that caps off the annual tradition of Texas A&M International University Spirit Week.

“It all starts with the urge to become more involved with the student body,” the 2020 candidates said of their campaign.

From Jan. 30 to Feb. 8, they utilized an interactive campaign strategy on the TAMIU campus to have a greater impact on the student body. Being able to meet and communicate with the student body was of the utmost importance in their campaign process, they said.

“We wanted to have as many interactions as we could with the student body,” Alvarez said. “To achieve this goal of ours, we decided to have, like, mini-events where we could meet everyone we could.”

 They designed the mini-events around the idea of the candidates being able to give back to the student body in order to create a positive atmosphere on campus.

“We just wanted to give back to our fellow students with a fun treat or game that could cheer them up or make their day,” Zuniga said. “Overall, we just wanted to be a positive figure in the day of our classmates.”

Alvarez and Zuniga held many events throughout the week.

“On the first Monday of the campaign, we had Mangonada Monday, where we gave out free mangonadas to whoever stopped by us,” Zuniga said. “On Tuesday, we had Taco Tuesday with the same concept as the prior event.”

In order to receive their free treat, students waited in line to be served by the candidates. The intent behind this strategy was not complicated.

“It didn’t take too much thought in making sure this was the correct way we wanted to approach the campaign,” Alvarez said. “We just wanted to put ourselves out there and get to know as many people as we could.”

The student lines waited to be served, showing how many people the candidates could meet.

“The strategy 100-percent worked the way we wanted it to,”Alvarez said. “As soon as we saw the smiles on our classmates’ faces, and the amount of people we met. We knew we had done it the right way.”

The candidates enjoyed the campaign and said they would do it all over again if they could.  Being crowned Mr. and Ms. TAMIU means becoming public faces of the University.

According to the TAMIU website, “During their yearlong reign, Mr. and Ms. TAMIU will represent TAMIU at University and community events, serving as ambassadors for The International U.”

The pair of campaign mates do not shy away from the responsibility of representing the University.

“There is a great responsibility in being crowned Mr. and Ms. TAMIU, but that is a responsibility we would love to have bestowed on us,” Zuniga said. “We want to take on this responsibility and represent the University in the best way we possibly can.”

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Golfer showcases talent on green with every swing

Golfer showcases talent on green with every swing

By Gabriella Prather
Bridge Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2020

At a young age, her life altered when a sport gravitated to her and it changed everything, Natchawan Serisamran, a TAMIU senior golfer.

Serisamran majors in psychology and minors in computer science. She is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, and decided to come to Texas A&M International University because of the hot weather Laredo has to offer, so she can play year-round golf. She was introduced to golf by her parents, who were players as well and she decided to give it a shot and play.

Since beginning, she found a coach who helped her hone her game her for 12 years. Coach Kitipong Srithongkul said he is one of the top-10 golf coaches in the country. He coached PGA players and an Asian tour. Since age 8, Serisamran played golf for 14 years; now, at 22, she says she couldn’t imagine her life without the sport.

Even when the University coach took a day off for the team, Serisamran thought otherwise.

“I felt like my day was waste[d] and I didn’t do nothing,” Serisamran said.

While golfing, she said she feels extremely comfortable yet not overconfident. She said being an athlete made her a better person and prepared her mentally and emotionally, not just for herself but also her teammates. While under pressure, she said it is always best to distract herself from her surroundings so she can focus on what happens and on the game itself.

Regarding the importance of her becoming a student athlete, she says the benefits of being on time, pushing herself hard on the green and, most importantly, working harder to maintain the grades and her GPA—because without them, she wouldn’t be where she is.

“Being a student athlete is tough,” Serisamran said. “You need to manage your time nicely ’cause you don’t have [as] much time as normal students.

“Do what your first priorities are.”

Gabriella Prather | Bridge
TAMIU golf player Natchawan Serisamran of Bangkok, Thailand, poses for a photo.

Serisamran said her favorite golf player, Jordan Alexander Spieth, inspired her to become the athlete she wants to become. Spieth, a creative player, began at a young age and reached the top at a rapid pace—eventually making a name for himself in the world of golf.

She is one of TAMIU’s youngest athletes and the thought of her playing for an entire decade might be difficult for some to comprehend yet it might inspire others to push themselves as she did.

“It’s important that golf, or whatever sport is your priority, don’t give up whatever happens,” Serisamran said. “You will be treated well and you will have your team to support you and aim for the goals that best suit you the best.”

In the 2018 UH-Victoria Fall Classic, Serisamran took 5th place with cards of 16over-160 and 3-over-75. On the Oklahoma Intercollegiate, she four-way tied for 11th place after carding a 10-over-152. She took 15th place at the Jack Brown Memorial.

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New Volleyball Coach Joins TAMIU

New volleyball coach joins TAMIU

By Itzel Luna
Bridge Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2020

After a 6-19 overall record for the 2019 volleyball season at Laredo College, Brittany Harry has been named coach of the Dustdevils. Harry comes into TAMIU with 14 years experience.

Director of Athletics Griz Zimmermann looks forward to Harry’s addition.

“I am confident that the best days of our program are ahead of us, and I believe that Harry is the right person to take us there,” Zimmermann said in an interview with TAMIU athletics.

Harry’s last five seasons at Laredo College accumulated an 84-65 record. Before that, she served as volleyball coach at Vincennes University for three seasons; her team took an 88-38 record throughout the seasons.

Harry coached four players to All-Region honors and two players to the Region XII All-Tournament team.

She also coached at Spartanburg Methodist College in Region X, in South Carolina, and led her team in back-to-back appearances in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Championships.

“We are looking forward to her bringing her success with her here to our volleyball program,” Zimmermann said in an interview with TAMIU athletics.

Despite previous seasons, Harry is optimistic for 2020.

“I’m fired up for the fall already,” Harry said.

“This is a growing and learning process.”

Courtesy | TAMIU Athletics
New TAMIU volleyball coach Brittany Harry

She said the team is getting used to coaching transition.

Within the last month of practicing with the team, Harry says she loves the energy from this group of women.

“I definitely get a good vibe from this group,” she said. The team is working hard in the gym, she adds, and feels like they really want to improve.

Despite the less-than-stellar 2019 record, Harry feels the Dustdevils crave more.

“They’re definitely not satisfied with their results, so I do feel like they’re hungry in the gym, and [they’re working on] strength and conditioning to really make enough progress,” she said.

Implementing a new tool to help players stay in shape over breaks is a factor in their 2020 progress.

She wants to provide physical, mental toughness challenges, and a nutrition log that can be completed over the summer break so players can be held to a standard to remain focused.

“Hopefully this challenge will help them stay a little bit more accountable over the summer with workouts,” she said.

Sophomore middle hitter Anna Smith said Harry’s coaching style is energetic.

“She’s here to work, and she’s ready to get things done.” Smith said. She adds that Harry pushes the team to get better. “[Coach says,] ‘Every single ball is an opportunity to be better.’”

Smith said Harry pushes them to a higher standard.

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Creating rainbows from Laredo to Philadelphia

Creating rainbows from Laredo to Philadelphia

By Alejandra PeÑa
Bridge contributing writer
Published March 30, 2020

With a couple of solutions, the formation of a rainbow was expected to lead the TAMIU Chemistry Club to victory in its visit to the American Chemical Society National Meeting.

This Philadelphia conference ended up being cancelled due to the SARS-CoV-2 cornoavirus pandemic, which causes the disease known as COVID-19.

“As the Chemistry Club, our mission is to make the students aware that chemistry isn’t as hard or scary as they think,” Chemistry Club Vice President Kathia Gloria said.

The conference was scheduled from March 22 to 26. It would have been the third consecutive year for the University’s organization. They expected to bring back an award.

“The Chemistry Club students have presented research at the ACS National Conference going on five years, but this [would have been] the second time they [would have presented] a student chapter success poster and a chemistry demonstration during the conference,” Associate Professor and ACS student chapter’s faculty adviser Kameron Jorgensen said.

Courtesy | Kameron Jorgensen
TAMIU Chemistry Club members, right, demonstrate how to create a rainbow from solutions during Discover TAMIU 2020.

There are two parts to the organization’s presentation. There is the student chapter success poster and the chemistry demonstration. The poster consists of what the organization has done around the community as well as in the University.

“The ACS Student Chapter officers [would have presented] a poster to discuss the success of the TAMIU student chapter and how they have done outreach and promoted chemistry on the U.S.-Mexico border,” Jorgensen said.

The chemistry demonstration is a “short chemistry experiment that showcases a specific concept in chemistry in a quick-and-easy manner,” Gloria said.

This year’s demonstration consists of an activity intended to keep the audience interested, as well as show the importance chemistry plays in people’s lives.

“The demo we [have been] conducting this year is called ‘Rainbow Papers.’ We [dip] black construction paper onto water with a few drops of clear nail polish. The nail polish will form a thin film on the paper that, once dried, will reflect light, causing it to appear as a sort-of-rainbow,” Gloria said.

The club performs demonstrations throughout the year on campus and in different locations to generate interest.

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Thompson discovers treasure trove

Author discovers treasure trove

By Allan Rodriguez
Sports Editor
Published March 30, 2020

From secrets kept hidden in a shoe box, an award-winning history professor used letters and photographs to create his newest book.

Growing up in the mountains of western New Mexico, Regents Professor Jerry Thompson often wondered why there were no visits from his grandparents and why his mother never spoke about the other side of the family.

“It seemed like they did not exist,” Thompson recalled.

The truth came out right after his discovery of a shoe box hidden by his mother. He discovered letters and photographs that revealed secrets about his family line and about his grandfather—a Cherokee cowboy by the name of Joe Lynch Davis.

“In the early 20th century, Davis was at the center of rampant cattle rustling, deadly gun battles, a bloody range war, daring bank robberies, equally audacious train heists and prodigious court proceedings, which eventually resulted in 14 years in Leavenworth[, Kansas,] Federal Penitentiary,” Thompson wrote in his new book “Wrecked Lives and Lost Souls.”

Rolando Santos | TAMIU Public Relations
Regents Professor Jerry Thompson smiles on campus for a publicity photo.

Thompson never met his grandfather, yet he got to interview someone 20 years ago who did.

When Davis got out of jail, someone by the name of Niece asked him about his reasons for those lawless actions. Davis replied, “It was just what kids did back then.”

“Had I knew that he existed, I think I could have gone out there, found him and maybe said, ‘I am your grandson. Talk to me,’” Thompson said.

Thompson is the author and/or editor of 27 books. He won several awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

“It is always a great thrill when you are invited to give lectures like that one I gave last week and be invited to speak to the Civil War Round Table in Houston or Dallas,” he said. “It is always good to see your old friends and people pat you on the back and say, ‘I read your work.’”

Among his other publications are “Vaqueros in Blue & Gray”; “A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia”; “Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas”; and one of his most sold books, “Laredo: A Pictorial History.”

Rolando Santos | TAMIU Public Relations
Award-winning history professor and author, Regents Professor Jerry Thompson

Thompson joined the TAMIU faculty 33 years ago.

“There have been times where we have been so hooked on his lecture that we accidentally go over the class time,” history major Jose Meyo said. “Nevertheless, the way he is involved and the way he has motivated me and my fellow classmates has inspired me more to finish my history degree here at TAMIU.”

Meyo said Thompson is a vault full of archives and no one can get access except here at TAMIU.

“He’s a great professor, even though he’s completely opposite from my views,” junior Cristian Rios said. “He encourages every-one in the class to not be afraid of speaking your own views.”

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