Meet Our Students - Renee Viramontes - Quenching a Thirst for Knowledge
Major: Master of Rehabilitation Counseling
Are you a first-generation college student? If so, please share with us why you were inspired to go to college and why you picked UTEP.
I am not a first-generation college student. My father is a UTEP alum and has always stressed the importance of getting an education.
What sparked your interest in the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling Program?
After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in psychology at UTEP, I felt lost about what career I wanted to pursue. I knew I wanted to be in a field where I can help others, but had difficulty deciding what my next move should be. During that time, I received an e-mail from one of the professors in the MRC Program, inviting me to attend an open house event. I became drawn to the close-knit feel of the program and how it has made an impact on individuals with disabilities within the El Paso community. Furthermore, I admired how the professors spoke about the MRC program with such passion, thus sparking my interest in applying and learning how I could be of better help to my community. After I attended the open house, I immediately began the application process and feel that it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
What has been your greatest challenge academically so far, and what did you do to overcome it?
My greatest academic challenge so far has been making the transition to virtual schooling and counseling due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. I have always enjoyed working one-on-one with my professors in a classroom setting and seeing my classmates on a daily basis, but I immediately became worried when I learned that this type of interaction was no longer an option. Furthermore, I was concerned about how this was going to impact my practicum and internship site placements and hours. While the transition brought about many challenges, my professors made the transition to virtual schooling as smooth as possible. I made sure to maintain open communication with my professors and created a balanced schedule to help me stay on task and allow time for self-care.
What has been the most interesting experience you have had in the MRC Program?
The most interesting experience I have had in the MRC Program is being a part of the Veteran VVell-Being Lab (V3) as a Graduate Research Assistant. Under the direction of MRC professor Dr. Emre Umucu, I have been fortunate to experience research opportunities in the areas of positive psychology and chronic illness and disability. From being able to represent our lab’s work through research presentations, to having my name published in research articles, my experience has been nothing short of interesting.
Please share what you have learned in your internship experience that you feel has prepared you for your future career.
Before I started my internship, I only had experience working with youths with intellectual disabilities in a transition setting. However, my internship at PRIDE Industries has prepared me to work with older individuals who have a multitude of disabilities, such as chronic health conditions and mental health disorders. I have experienced first-hand how each individual’s disability has uniquely impacted their personal life and ability to find and maintain employment.
What advice would you give to a student thinking about studying rehabilitation counseling?
My first piece of advice would be to go into rehabilitation counseling with an open mind and a thirst for knowledge. The field offers vast opportunities for learning and growth, and one must be ready to accept new challenges and open their mind up to new ways of thinking and being. My second piece of advice would be to always communicate with your peers and professors! Both will be there to guide you in your studies and provide positive reinforcement.
For more information about the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling Program, please visit: www.utep.edu/chs/mrc/