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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

First, a military career and then a UTSA degree

First, a military career and then a UTSA degree


JANUARY 3, 2020 — After more than 20 years of being in the U.S. military and becoming a mother, Judith Rivera can now say she also has a degree under her belt. 

The mother of two is one of the newest Roadrunners to join the alumni family after earning her bachelor’s degree in public administration at Fall Commencement. For Rivera, it’s been quite the journey to be where she is today. 

At a young age, she began working full-time in lunch trucks in California as a cook seven days a week while attending night school to earn her high school diploma. 

“It was far from ideal,” Rivera said. “So not wanting to be trapped as a cook for the rest of my life, I joined the Marine Corps in 1991.” 

She retired as a master gunnery sergeant. 

“UTSA will allow me to ensure…policy matters are being followed or implemented to make military enlistees’ lives better.”


However, being in the military also came with its own obstacles. From being away from her family and facing constant reassignments, Rivera also had to face being in a male-dominated field. 

“To be successful as a woman in a male-dominated institution, learning to deal with these hurdles allowed me to develop self-confidence and learn that no obstacle is too big,” she said. 

With no obstacle being too small as well, Rivera decided it was time to pursue her undergraduate degree—something that had been nearly a decade in the making. 

After moving to San Antonio, she enrolled at the community college level before transferring to UTSA with the help of the Distinguished Transfer Scholarship, which was awarded for exceptional scholastic achievement at her previous institution, and then began study in UTSA’s College of Public Policy. 

“UTSA will allow me to ensure governing policies regarding pay, leave, benefits and other administrative policy matters are being followed or implemented to make military enlistees’ lives better,” Rivera said. 

While it’s taken some time, Rivera said she knew what her calling would be once she was done. She plans to work at the San Antonio–based Air Force Personnel Center, where she interned for two summers. 

“I want to provide excellent customer service to all the men and women in uniform as well as their families,” she said. “From the beginning of this journey my goal and dream were to work for the federal government, and the faculty and staff at UTSA have helped me to reach that goal. I will forever be grateful.” 

Rivera’s oldest son now attends UTSA and her husband and youngest son are expected to start at the university as well in spring 2020.

Valerie Bustamante

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