Commencement Close-Up: Business training at UTSA gives first-gen graduate-to-be Patricia Martinez tools to succeed

Patricia Martinez

Patricia Martinez

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(Dec. 19, 2012) -- Some might call it a coincidence, but Patricia Martinez knows better. One day this fall, she approached a recruiting table for DHI Mortgage in the halls of the College of Business. Later that day she attended an information session about the company. The next day she had a job interview. Two more interviews – and she was hired.

"I knew what kind of questions to ask and how to ask them," said Martinez, a management major graduating this December from the Honors College. "And, thank goodness I was prepared for such a rigorous interview process."

For Martinez, the road wasn't always this easy, and she wasn't always this prepared.

A native of central Mexico, Martinez moved with her family to Texas when she was 11 years old and started fourth grade not knowing a word of English. Today, at age 23, she will be the first person in her family to graduate from college.

"Being a first-generation college student, there was no role model in my family who I could go to for advice about college," she said. "Instead, I found those role models in the classroom. It was wonderful to realize that my professors, staff and fellow students wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to succeed."

UTSA provides access to higher education for many first-generation college students and is one of the largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the nation.

Finding it difficult at first to adjust to being on a campus with nearly 31,000 students, Martinez decided to get involved in student organizations such as the Business Scholars Program, a one-on-one mentoring program for first-generation college students offered by the College of Business Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD).

Founded in 2007, CSPD provides academic advising and career-preparation programs and services, which give business students a competitive edge in obtaining internships and securing employment.

"When I first came to college, I had no idea what it meant to be a 'professional,'" said Martinez. "Getting involved with the Center for Student Professional Development has made the biggest difference in my life."

During her first year at UTSA, Martinez took a work-study job at CSPD. A pivotal experience for her was going through the H-E-B Career Action Program, a 15-hour program of comprehensive professional development including resume writing, business and dining etiquette, professional dress, elevator speech practice, mock interviews and speed networking. Roughly 250 business students enroll in the program each semester. Approximately 2,500 students participate in CSPD programs and services annually.

Martinez recognizes how much she has changed because of her involvement with CSPD. "When I started the Career Action Program, I was extremely nervous to talk in front of people, especially in an interview setting," she said. "Thanks to all the practice I've had, I now have no problem speaking with anyone. The key is practicing. The Center for Student Professional Development provides that opportunity to practice in a safe and supportive environment."

We all know the familiar adage "practice makes perfect." But, in Martinez' case, practice makes employed.