The End of a Chapter!
Once upon a time this was my home. Literally! I lived there in the UTPA women's dorms back in my undergraduate days.
Today marked my last day at UT-RGV/UTPA. I spent the day packing up my office, walking around campus, and reflecting on what all this means. It's amazing how much one can be shaped by (and shape) a place. This institution has been a major part of my life for the past thirteen years, so saying goodbye is a little tricky. I thought this might be a good time and space to look back at what UTPA/UTRGV has meant for me, how I've grown, and hopefully, too, how my time here has benefited and shaped the university as well. So stroll with me, will you, down memory lane a bit?
This story goes back to 2004. I was seventeen, graduating high school, and was genuinely in love with life. I went to high school just across the street from campus. I ended up at UTPA for an incredibly practical and impractical reason. 1. They offered me $$$ and a free dorm room and 2. My first choice school, UT Austin, required me to attend a summer session, and I had a graduation trip to Europe planned during those dates. Initially, I wanted to attend UTPA for a year and transfer out, but life has a funny way of grabbing you by the arm and directing you towards your destiny.
As an undergraduate student, I took creative writing and literature classes and had some really wonderful professors that helped me thrive as both a student and as a writer. My first English class was with Dr. Caroline Miles, who helped me understand what feminism was. I took courses with Emmy Perez who introduced me to actually writing poetry. My favorite class was probably an editing class. Our project was to edit the school's literary journal. I got to serve as editor in chief! :)
When it was time to graduate in 2007, I decided to get my teaching license. But also, after speaking with an academic advisor who encouraged me to return to graduate school thanks to my high GPA, I decided to also pursue my MFA in creative writing. Really, I just wanted to keep writing poems.
I graduated in spring of 2011 and kept my job as an advisor. BUT! I also got an adjunct position at a local community college in the evenings. In 2012, I met my soon-to-be editor at a poetry event, and after a few conversations, he solicited my thesis manuscript. By the end of the year, The Garden Uprooted, my first full poetry collection, was published. I got the news while sitting in my little office there in Southwick Hall. I closed the door and danced.
Luckily, my job ended up not just being a one year temporary hire thing. Instead, I was rehired after a year for another temporary stint, and then in 2014, I became a "permenant" faculty member. I was so happy! Eventually, too, I was assigned different classes, including, perhaps most significantly, Creative Writing. I taught my first creative writing class in the summer of 2014. Actually, I got the news about publishing Goddess as I was teaching that class! :)
As much as I wanted to remain at UT-RGV, it soon became obvious that, if I wanted to continue to grow, I wouldn't be able to do that anymore. So, reluctantly, I began scoping out the job market. Which leads me to here! Cleaning out my office and getting ready for that next chapter!
Today was incredibly bittersweet. My life has been shaped so much by this institution. It's where I met the love of my life. It's where I found my way as a professional. It's where I've discovered my voice as a writer. I'm not the same seventeen year old girl from back in the day. UTPA/UT-RGV, you've made me into the strong woman I am today. Truly. Thanks to my professors, my colleagues, my peers, and my students, I've found my direction in life. And sure, my relationship with this university has had its ups and downs. But in the end, I'm incredibly grateful to have begun my journey here.
This place has been such a fixture in my life, so saying goodbye is scary, sad, and exciting too. I hope I gave back to this community, too, through my teaching, service, and writing. I hope I've not only been shaped by this university, but that I've, in some small way, shaped it, too. Goodbye, UT-RGV!