Originally posted May 15, 2015
By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service
For the third time in 10 years, Grace Babarinsa will don a black cap and gown and join a procession of graduates and candidates from The University of Texas at El Paso during Spring Commencement 2015.
The Nigerian native is one of about 2,500 students eligible to participate in the three ceremonies at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, May 16 in the Don Haskins Center. The morning ceremony is for the College of Liberal Arts, the afternoon for the School of Nursing and colleges of Education and Business Administration, and the evening for the colleges of Science, Engineering and Health Sciences.
Babarinsa will earn her doctorate in Teaching, Learning and Culture. It comes on the heels of her Master of Science in mathematics in 2005 and Master of Education Instructional Specialist three years later.
She looked forward to a career in higher education that includes research and teaching, hopefully in El Paso, but she used the occasion of her latest graduation to reflect. She thanked relatives and members of her academic families for their support and marveled at what she was able to accomplish as a wife and mother of three young children who worked three jobs at times to make ends meet.
“I’m so excited,” said Babarinsa, who added that several members of her family will fly in from Nigeria to celebrate with her. “I am so looking forward to this. It brings me a sense of joy and relief. This is a dream come true for me.”
The anticipated 2,515 graduates and candidates, including those who plan to earn their degrees during the summer, are close to the record 2,577 the University recognized during the spring 2013 ceremonies at the Haskins Center.
Among the highlights of UTEP’s 2015 Spring Commencement will be the awarding of the University’s first Master of Defense and Strategic Studies degree to Peter Klundt. He participated in the May 14 hooding ceremony, but would not attend Saturday’s Commencement because of a previously scheduled business trip.
Klundt is an El Paso native and second-generation Miner whose grandfather, Jud Milton, called the historic 1966 NCAA men’s basketball championship over the radio when Texas Western College, now UTEP, defeated the University of Kentucky. Klundt earned his bachelor’s degree in intelligence and national security studies in 2013.
He said he was grateful UTEP offered the fully online graduate degree because it allowed him to continue his full-time job and family commitments. He called it a testament to the University’s academic growth.
“(UTEP) has played a pivotal role in my academic success that will hopefully transfer into my eventual career,” said Klundt, who wants a job in the intelligence or operational analysis fields.
The Master of Defense and Strategic Studies launched in spring 2014 and is one of two such degrees offered by a U.S. university and the only one offered outside the Washington, D.C., area. It was created to serve a constituency that wants to work for the defense and national security communities.
“Our graduates are ready to assess conflicts around the word,” said Larry Valero, Ph.D., director of UTEP’s National Security Studies Institute. “They understand situations are not only about military force, but about diplomacy, economics and information operations.”
This year’s spring ceremonies also are unique because they will be conducted at the same time as the Conference USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at nearby Kidd Field.
The thought of graduation had not sunk in to Aaron Grijalva a few days before Commencement. He was still focused on finals and his job as a student assistant in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. He will walk the stage during the afternoon ceremony to receive his bachelor’s degree in economics.
“I think it will hit me Saturday morning,” said Grijalva, an El Paso native who thanked UTEP for its role in helping him to grow academically and personally. He was active in student groups including the Student Government Association and the Delta Sigma Pi professional co-ed business fraternity. “I’ve had a great experience. The best part has been the networking. I’ll miss the relationships I’ve built here.”
His summer plans are to get a job, study for the GMAT and then “apply like crazy” to graduate schools.
While most students will cruise into Commencement like Babarinsa, Klundt and Grijalva, others will be reminiscent of Lorenzo Federico Madrid, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering in 1929 from the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy, now UTEP.
Paul “P.J.” Vierra, assistant director of advancement communications, researched Madrid, a longtime civil engineer in El Paso, and found that he was given until 8 p.m. the day of Commencement to complete his degree requirements because that is when the ceremony started.
The record shows Madrid, a native of San Elizario, Texas, beat the deadline and was able to celebrate with his classmates.
UTEP will stream the Commencement ceremonies live beginning at 9 a.m. for the College of Liberal Arts; 2 p.m. for the School of Nursing and the colleges of Education and Business Administration; and 7 p.m. for the colleges of Science, Engineering and Health Sciences. The live stream is possible thanks to a partnership between the University, KFOX-TV and CBS4.