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Emmy Award Winner and CEO are UTEP’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni

Last Updated on July 09, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Originally published July 09, 2018

By Christina Rodriguez

UTEP Communications

Every year, The University of Texas at El Paso and the UTEP Alumni Association honor a group of men and women whose achievements stand out as monuments to dedication, integrity and hard work – they are the UTEP Distinguished Alumni.

“When you look at the two women selected as Distinguished Alumni, you can’t help but feel proud of what they have accomplished,” said Maribel Villalva, UTEP assistant vice president for alumni relations. “As the co-host of Univision’s ‘ Despierta America,’ Karla Martinez has risen to the top of her industry and is the face of Latin America as she is welcomed into millions of Spanish-speaking homes every morning. Crystal Long is a true example of UTEP power and perseverance, rising through all of the ranks at GECU to become its CEO.”

The Distinguished Alumni award is the highest recognition bestowed upon alumni of the University. They will be recognized during the University’s 2018 Homecoming activities, scheduled for Sept. 30 – Oct. 6.

UTEP’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni are: 

Crystal Long GECU

Crystal Long

MBA, 2014

Crystal Long is a first-generation college graduate who currently serves as president and CEO of GECU, the largest locally owned financial institution in El Paso.

Long was born in Lubbock, Texas and moved to El Paso with her family when she was eight years old. She began her career at GECU as an entry-level file clerk in 1979. Later, Long pursued higher education to advance her career and worked toward a college degree while maintaining a full-time job and raising a family. Her persistence paid off when she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Management and later an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Long progressively moved up the ranks at GECU to a teller, supervisor, manager, and vice president. Already a top leader at her institution, her desire to keep learning and growing professionally wasn’t satiated. In 2011, she became a proud Miner when she joined The University of Texas at El Paso’s Executive MBA Program (EMBA). 

Long says she is humbled and honored to be recognized as a Distinguished Alumna, a recognition she feels should be shared with her family, friends, colleagues and community members, who all have been part of her journey.

“Having become a UTEP graduate, I believe I’m better positioned to advocate for the value of a college education in the workplace and am proud that, through my example, others have chosen to attend college,” Long said. “You simply can’t help but be changed by exposure to new concepts, people and perspectives. I am very grateful for that.”

Karla Martinez

Karla Martinez

B.A. Electronic Media / Communication, 1998

Karla Martinez is the co-host of Univision’s highly rated national live morning show, “ Despierta America.” While a student at The University of Texas at El Paso, the Chihuahua native got her start in broadcasting at KINT-FM (Channel 26), Univision’s affiliate station in El Paso. In 1995, the young reporter was scouted by the Univision Network, becoming a Texas correspondent for the national newsmagazine “ Primer Impacto.” Later she served as a reporter for the network’s top entertainment news show, “ El Gordo y la Flaca,” and host of Univision's popular youth-oriented lifestyle program, “Control.”

In addition to her role with “ Despierta America,” Martinez has co-hosted numerous Univision specials and in 2013 co-hosted ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “The View” alongside one of her role models, Barbara Walters. She has been named one of People en Español’s 25 Most Beautiful People and 25 Most Powerful Women, and one of Vogue Mexico and Latin America magazine’s 2018 100 Most Influential People.

Recently, Martinez added Emmy award winner to her list of accomplishments when “ Despierta America” won an Emmy for Outstanding Morning Program in Spanish. She also has authored “ El Poder de Una Sonrisa” (The Power of a Smile), a book focused on ways to overcome life’s bad moments.

“I am an example of a dreamer and am happy to be able to represent UTEP students with my story,” Martinez said of her recognition as a Distinguished Alumna. “This is a recognition for all of them. Being an immigrant makes me feel so proud to be recognized for not only what I accomplished but the example I leave others; showing them that anything, no matter where you come from, your story or past, anything is possible.”