Monday, August 03, 2015

Commencement Close-Up: UTSA alumnus says 'don't let anything stop you'

juanlivas

Juan Livas
(Photo by Mark McClendon)

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(May 9, 2011)--For years, Juan Livas watched as domestic workers waited patiently for the city bus in Laredo.

"I wondered how much they made, what they spent their money on, and whether or not they made enough to adequately support their families," said Livas.

Those questions led to Juan's thesis titled "The Utilization of Earnings," and his master's degree in sociology awarded Thursday, May 5 during the College of Liberal and Fine Arts commencement ceremony.

"Going far in my education is something I do because of my Mom," he said. "She made a lot of sacrifices for me over the years. She told me this week how very proud she is of me defending my thesis and now graduating with my master's. That really means a lot to me."

Livas recalls the sacrifices and the constant moves his family made in Laredo during the first 15 years of his life -- moves required just to make ends meet. "We would find a place to live, settle in and then the rent would go up. We would find a new place and eventually the same thing would happen," he said. "It was difficult."

When Livas was 19, the family faced another difficult time -- the death of his father.

"He was an influence in my education, and when he passed away, I became really motivated to keep going. My Mom took on everything. I had to get my education to give back to her."

Livas worked 35-40 hours a week, often juggling two jobs, while carrying a full course load as an undergraduate and graduate student. He received his bachelor's degree in sociology from Texas A & M International University in Laredo and now that he has his master's, he said there is no stopping.

"Of course I'm like any graduate; I would like to get a full-time job. But I would also like to take a few years off from school then go back for my Ph.D.," he said with enthusiasm.

Livas plans to continue his research in Mexican American studies and immigration, but until then, he is basking in his accomplishment as the first in his family to receive a master's degree.

Harriett Romo, UTSA professor of sociology, and Raquel Marquez, UTSA associate professor and department chair of sociology, supervised Livas' thesis. He considers both as his mentors.

"I have seen Juan persevere in order to complete his degree. Even after his personal circumstances forced him to return to Laredo, he continued to collect data and to write his thesis," said Marquez. "It's been very rewarding to see Juan mature in his writing and research skills. Students he may teach in the future will flourish under his supervision, because the Juan that I have come to know will place the same level of commitment toward his students as he did to his own graduate experience."

Romo said Livas' experience, working full time while going to school, is a familiar one at the university.

"Juan and the other students like him at UTSA are very motivated to succeed in higher education and to give back to their communities," Romo said. "He will be an outstanding role model for young students in his community of Laredo and he will do a great job as a future college teacher and researcher," she added, pleased with the accomplishment of her student.

Livas is already seeing a difference. He said that many of his friends are now thinking about not only getting a bachelor's degree but completing a master's program.

"In life, you will have positive and negative experiences but it's up to you to learn from them, grow because of them and become a better person," Livas said. "Don't let anything stop you.

 

 

Did You Know?

For acclaimed UTSA writer, poetry rhymes with life

Robert Penn Warren said: “How do poems grow? They grow out of your life.” That is certainly true for Carmen Tafolla. An associate professor of practice with the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, Tafolla has authored more than 20 acclaimed books of poetry and prose, including "The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans." It won the Tom´s Rivera Children’s Book Award in 2009.

Tafolla is a San Antonio native who grew up on the West Side. Attending a private high school, she realized that the literature did not positively portray her community or the people who lived there. She determined to change that in her writing. In published works for both adults and children — more than 200 anthologies, magazines, journals, textbooks and readers in four languages — Tafolla reflects on the rich Mexican-American culture of San Antonio in which she grew up.

Did you know? Tafolla was San Antonio's first Poet Laureate, from 2012 to 2014, and currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Texas.

Read More »
Events
Aug. 4, 6 - 8 p.m.

Free Teacher Tuesday: Los Tejanos Workshop

Discover resources and strategies for teaching Tejano history and culture and get a special educator's tour of the new long-term exhibit, Los Tejanos.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Aug. 6, 5 - 7 p.m.; 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

6th Annual Texas Higher Education Symposium

This annual symposium is an opportunity to discuss Texas higher education issues and trends with Texas higher education scholars, state and local government officials, students, and campus and local community members.
Downtown Campus

Aug. 9, 12 - 5 p.m.

Vaquerocation 2015

This cowboy-themed programming, offered in conjunction with Our Kids Magazine's Kidcation Week, gives families the opportunity to visit with cowboy docents, enjoy readings and visit activity tables.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Aug. 17, 11:30 p.m.

Midnight Light

Join President Ricardo Romo, The Spirit of San Antonio Marching Band, students, faculty and staff to light the monument at the Main Campus entrance at the stroke of midnight.
John Peace Boulevard Entrance, Main Campus

Aug. 18, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

President's BBQ on the Plaza

Join university President Ricardo Romo on the Bill Miller Plaza for his annual free BBQ lunch.
Bill Miller Plaza, Downtown Campus

Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

President's BBQ on the Lawn

Join university President Ricardo Romo on the Convocation Center lawn for his annual free BBQ lunch.
Convocation Center East Lawn, Main Campus

Aug. 22, 6 p.m.

UTSA Alumni Gala

The UTSA Alumni Association hosts this annual gala honoring the Alumna of the Year, Alumnus of the Year and the Alumnus of the Year Lifetime Achievement award winners.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Dr.


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