Skip to main content

At the Top of their Game: UTEP Announces 2018 Top Ten Seniors

Last Updated on May 02, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Originally published May 02, 2018

By UC Staff

UTEP Communications

Every spring, The University of Texas at El Paso Alumni Association presents the University’s most promising future alumni with the Top Ten Seniors Award.

Spring 2018 Top Ten Seniors.
The Spring 2018 Top Ten Seniors are, from left, Christian Morales-Castañeda, Tyler Joe Herrera, Paloma Vianey Martinez, Carlos Oscar Ontiveros, Rachel Ann J. Arreola, Victoria Marie Diaz, Malvina Guadalupe Muñoz, Victor Hurtado, Aileen A. Tapia, Lana M. Hussein.

Each recipient has demonstrated excellence throughout their undergraduate career at UTEP and are shining models of hard work and determination. They were selected based on a combination of academic achievement, involvement, leadership and service to the University and the community.

Nominees must have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or greater and be receiving their first undergraduate degree within the current academic year.

“The Top Ten Senior Awards are a wonderful tradition at UTEP, dating back to 1950, that celebrates the hard work and accomplishments of UTEP students,” said Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for UTEP’s Office of Alumni Relations. “This year’s Top Ten Seniors are great examples of individuals who have leveraged their UTEP experiences into amazing opportunities. They are leaders among their peers, innovators, researchers, artists and community activists. These students, chosen by a select committee, exemplify UTEP’s mission of excellence and will go on to proudly represent UTEP as accomplished alumni in their chosen fields. We can’t wait to see all of the great things they will do.”

The Top Ten Seniors for 2018 are:


Rachel Ann J. Arreola

MAJOR: Theatre Arts – Generalist Concentration

FUTURE PLANS: Attend graduate/film school, and work as a director and producer in the theater and film industry. During her time at UTEP, Rachel Arreola has worked on Capitol Hill and traveled to New York, Boston, Italy and Cuba. She feels that the education she received, along with her participation in various UTEP Edge experiences, has thoroughly prepared her for the professional competition she will experience after graduation. Arreola was actively involved on campus, and returned to Washington, D.C., as an Archer Fellow during the spring 2018 semester while interning at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of a capstone experience.


Victoria Marie Diaz

MAJOR: Biological Sciences – Biomedical Concentration

FUTURE PLANS: Attend medical school and become a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology.

Victoria Diaz believes that an education is what you make of it. Armed with that notion, she came to UTEP seeking opportunities and challenges to enhance her academic career. She was part of the University Honors Program and the Mentored Experiences in Research, Inquiry, and Creativity for Undergraduate Scholars (MERITUS), and completed a National Science Foundation BioNetworks summer internship at Rice University in Houston. Diaz also was one of 30 students in the second cohort of the A-PRIME TIME partnership, an accelerated medical education program.


Tyler Joe Herrera

MAJOR: Political Science

FUTURE PLANS: A career in the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer.

Tyler Herrera cannot help but smile when he looks back on his college experience because of the memories he made, the people he met, the experiences he had and the places he went. He interned for the U.S. Department of Defense at White Sands Missile Range and for U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. The congressman awarded Herrera with a certificate of distinguished achievement for his work during his internship with wounded veterans. Herrera served as a security studies research assistant for two years, during which he presented human trafficking research on Capitol Hill.


Victor Hurtado

MAJOR: Art History

FUTURE PLANS: Pursue a career in academia and research.

Victor Hurtado’s participation in high-impact experiences while at UTEP positively impacted his academic, professional and personal life. He gained a passion for historic preservation and strongly advocated for the protection of El Paso’s historical and cultural legacy through an internship with the Texas Historical Commission in Austin and the Texas Trost Society’s Architectural Preservation Committee. Hurtado served the University as a peer leader and developed student tours and presentations to instill an appreciation for UTEP’s Bhutanese architecture. He presented his paper at the 2017 National Security Studies Colloquium and participated in a study abroad program in Morocco.


Lana M. Hussein

MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering

FUTURE PLANS: Work as an engineer for an energy company.

Lana Hussein had two full-time job offers from major oil and gas companies lined up months before she graduated. She credits her UTEP education with setting her up for success. She served in leadership roles with the EXCEL Freshman Leadership Program, the Student Government Association, the Zeta Tau Alpha women’s fraternity and the National Panhellenic Council. As a BUILDing Scholar, she researched breast cancer, diabetes, 3-D cell printing and biomedical engineering. Hussein completed an internship with Texas Gas Service, where she found a passion for positively changing people’s lives through engineering.


Paloma Vianey Martinez

MAJOR: Art History

FUTURE PLANS: To become an internationally recognized artist.

Paloma Martinez is eternally grateful for her UTEP experiences. She embraced every opportunity presented to her. Martinez was selected to intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She studied art in Florence, Italy, through a study abroad experience, completed an artist residency in the United Kingdom and was invited to represent her home country of Mexico at the Tokyo International Arts Fair. Marcos Bucio, consul general of Mexico in El Paso, selected Martinez to paint a mural depicting the unity of Mexico and the United States.


Christian Morales-Castañeda

MAJOR: English and American Literature

FUTURE PLANS: Return to UTEP as a full-time staff member with the Division of Student Affairs.

During his time at the University, Christian Morales-Castañeda became fluent in French, learned to sing and was exposed to cultures around the world. He served as a Miner Ambassador, was the founding president of the Society for Collegiate Leadership and Achievement Honor Society, and held leadership roles with the Student Alumni Association, the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity and the Student Government Association. The confidence he gained through his leadership enabled him to do things he never thought he could, such as backpacking through Europe and speaking in front of crowds with ease.


Malvina Guadalupe Muñoz

MAJOR: Biological Sciences – Biomedical Concentration

FUTURE PLANS: Attend UTEP’s Graduate School to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

At UTEP, Malvina Muñoz pushed herself to become a leader. She served as president of the student organization Miners Against Hunger and was a key player in the establishment of the Campus Kitchen Project at UTEP, whose mission is to end hunger and malnutrition in the community. She worked closely with the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank and UTEP leaders to bring a food pantry to campus. She credits her active membership in various organizations on and off campus with thoroughly preparing her for graduate school and anything else her future holds.


Carlos Oscar Ontiveros

MAJOR: Biological Sciences – Biomedical Concentration

FUTURE PLANS: Attend medical school, then pursue a career as a physician-scientist.

Carlos Ontiveros’ work in biomedical research began as a high school senior after he knocked on the door of German Rosas-Acosta, Ph.D., associate professor in UTEP’s Department of Biological Sciences. He expressed his interest in studying influenza, and days later he was in the lab. Ontiveros enrolled in UTEP’s Phage Hunters program, a Freshman Year Research Intensive Sequence course. He participated in the University’s prestigious Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, a scientific fellowship program funded by the National Institutes of Health, and studied Zika virus as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow at Scripps Research Institute.


Aileen A. Tapia

MAJOR: Industrial and Systems Engineering

FUTURE PLANS: Move to Houston to start a development program with Accenture.

As a Latina and first-generation college student, Aileen Tapia faced many stereotypes that challenged her decision to pursue engineering, but her UTEP support system set her up for success. She joined the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and traveled to Ensenada, Mexico, with a multidisciplinary team to implement a project through the Engineering Together Sustainable Communities program. She participated in several research experiences and took part in five internships with companies including Boeing and Eaton. Tapia enrolled in the B.S./MBA fast-track program with the intent of merging her engineering background with business.