Student Profiles: Julissa Corona
Major: Social Work
Why did you pick UTEP?
After graduating with my bachelor’s degree from Methodist University in North Carolina, I started researching graduate programs. As a military spouse and a mother, I sought programs that would allow me to grow with my family. Once my husband was assigned to Fort Bliss, I quickly started considering the Master of Social Work Program at UTEP. I was fascinated by the diversity and uniqueness of UTEP and the mission of the Social Work Department. After I visited campus, I knew UTEP was home. I loved the people and geographical location, was inspired by the professors, and fell in love with the campus.
What sparked your interest in social work?
My first job after graduation gave me the opportunity to work with individuals experiencing psychotic disorders. I had the opportunity to look into my clients’ world and the many social issues affecting their situation. At the same time, I worked with social workers who motivated me to serve others in a way that disregarded ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, and/or gender. They helped me understand the concept of meeting the client where he/she is and the love of serving marginalized and oppressed populations. I saw the need for bilingual social workers who were culturally sensitive and prepared to support the Hispanic population. After that experience, I continued to learn about the social work values and the multiple possibilities of practice.
Tell us about a service-learning or research experience you’ve had at UTEP.
I have been blessed with so many opportunities at UTEP, including working on the Voices and Images Photovoice project, directed by Dr. Eva Moya, which is a piece that advocates for the homeless community, as well as participating in the 14th
Feminist Gathering of the Caribbean and Latin-American in Montevideo, Uruguay. There, I joined three other students from UTEP in leading a conversation regarding the complexity of the intersectionality of gender, ethnicity, and class from the perspective of a border community.
Additionally, in partnership with Hebert Rocha, MSW Student, and Dr. Moya, the talk radio program Salud y Cultura Fronteriza/ Health and the Borderland Culture was developed. The program took place during fall 2017 and it consisted of 13 weekly programs where the strengths of the region, resources, and social issues were discussed by professionals from different disciplines. The guests included professionals representing local entities such as Centro San Vicente, Project Vida, Consulado General de Mexico en El Paso, Familias Truinfadoras, UTEP Social Work Department, and the Dean of the College of Health Sciences, Dr. Shafik Dharamsi. The program will continue during the spring and it will give students from the macro class an opportunity to practice social work in a macro setting. This project was possible thanks to the support of Dr. Moya.
Lastly, I have been accepted to the 2018 Practicum in Advocacy of the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, NY during March 10-18. At the week-long practicum, I will participate as a delegate for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom of the United States (WILPF US). This opportunity was possible thanks to the support of Dr. Berger.
What are your career aspirations?
While I am attracted to activism, advocacy, and clinical mental health practice, I hope to continue educating myself and earn a doctoral degree. However, I am committed to serving others, and that is my goal and purpose. Wherever my career takes me, I hope to serve, to make a change, and to give my best. I want to be able to do meaningful work based on advancing social equality, social justice, and human rights.
What advice would you give to a student thinking about studying social work?
It is not always easy, but the rewards are so worth it. It changed me in so many positive ways.
After my tourist visa expired, over 13 years ago, I found myself in the shadows of dreams. I thought my dreams of going to college and becoming a professional were gone. I grew up in a very impoverished area of Panama and just making it to the U.S. was a huge success. Coming here was possible thanks to the generosity of my mom’s sister and my parents’ efforts. Since I was little, my parents instructed me to educate myself and that was key in my life.
My educational foundation, the limited English proficiency, and the lack of migration status almost got on my way, but I was determined. I learned English by repeatedly watching television shows at the age of 17. After years, I became a U.S. Citizen and proudly represent two nations.
After marring my soldier, working on my career while moving every three years has been a challenge. But, I made military life work in my favor and I’m blessed to be exposed to different cultures and people. I am two classes away from earning a Master in Social Work degree. I adhere to my values and work diligently for what I believe in. I don’t seek to be recognized, my purpose is greater than recognition. I put my heart into everything I do, and hope to continue to make small changes and use my life to help others.