University of Texas at Brownsville, U.S. Leading Institution in the HETS e-Mentoring Program

Hispanic students at the University of Texas at Brownsville are receiving new help in earning their college degrees and an invaluable head start on their future careers, thanks to the university’s leadership role in an innovative e-Mentoring partnership.

The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) is a founding member of the Hispanic Educational Telecommunications System (HETS), the first U.S. bilingual online distance learning consortium dedicated to serving the higher education needs of the country’s youngest and largest ethnic population.

UTB is a leader in the development of the acclaimed HETS e-Mentoring Program, which provides participating students, free online support from top professors and leading Hispanic professionals in fields matched to each student’s career goals.

Approximately 50 UTB students have participated since 2002 in a program that provides them “anytime” Internet access to trained mentors. UTB professors representing an array of academic disciplines have integrated the popular program within their courses at a university with a predominantly Hispanic student enrollment.

“For our students, especially those representing a minority population that continues to be under-represented in most professions requiring a college degree, this program is making them aware of the great opportunities that await them,” said Dr. Mahmoud Quweider, Chair of the Department of Computer Science at the UTB College of Science, Math and Technology.

“This program offers a great opportunity for students to be involved in and be in touch with industry professionals who can put the course they are taking into perspective with respect to their future careers. Students also benefit by reading the success stories of their mentors who are working at some of the most prestigious corporations in America,” Quweider said.

Like students at other HETS member colleges and universities, UTB students receive guidance and support from professionals who also serve as role models in a national program designed to increase Hispanic higher education student retention rates and to increase Hispanic representation in U.S. workforce and management ranks. Students also learn the technical and communications skills in high demand in today’s competitive corporate arena.

“My students had the opportunity to interact with professional mentors, most of them from the IBM Corporation, in the area of Information Technology,” said Dr. Juan Iglesias, an assistant professor in the UTB Computer Science Department.

“They exchanged valuable information that helps promote student retention and professional development, and they learned new skills such as how to conduct a successful job interview and how to deal with the transition from college to work,” Iglesias said. “This was in addition to hearing inspiring success stories.”

HETS developed the first bilingual e-mentoring and higher education support services Internet portal, the Virtual Learning and Support Plaza, at www.virtualplaza.org, as an interactive, online meeting place and cultural comfort zone for students and mentors participating in the HETS e-Mentoring Program.

The HETS e-Mentoring Program is available to students at HETS member colleges and universities in Texas, California, Florida, New Mexico, New York and Puerto Rico, and is continually expanding its network of volunteer e-Mentors.

AT UTB, which has been at the forefront of engaging students in the HETS e-Mentoring Program, the results have been remarkable, Quweider said.

“You can see the consensus that the program is making a difference for our students and for their future career expectations. Our students have had great confidence instilled in them, and are starting to look forward to their graduation day,” Quweider said.

For more information about HETS and its projects, visit www.hets.org and virtualplaza.org.

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