Texas Border Business
By Amanda L. Alaniz
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Reporting about local festivals, holiday parades, community events, and – most importantly – sharing people’s stories is UTRGV senior Colleen DeGuzman’s forte as a part-time reporter for the Rio Grande Valley newspaper “The Monitor.”
“When I think about work, I really don’t consider it work, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “It’s truly such a joy to be writing about my community. I’m a features reporter for ‘The Monitor,’ and I can’t imagine a more fun job than listening to stories and telling them all day, every day.”
DeGuzman, a McAllen resident, has been working at the newspaper for nearly three years and will soon be adding UTRGV alumna to her résumé. She graduates on Friday, May 7, with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, with a concentration in print, and a minor in communication studies.
Finding her way to a degree in journalism was unexpected. At the beginning of her college career, she had the intention of following in her family’s footsteps and go into nursing. Her plans to study for a career in the medical field, she said, were set early on.
“All of high school, all of middle school, since I was a kid, it was health. I was going to be a nurse because it’s stable, and my parents are nurses. Everyone in my family is in the medical field,” she said.
During her first year at UTRGV, she took anatomy and statistics, some of the required courses for nursing. However, once she completed her first year, she started to notice she wasn’t enjoying the field and what she was studying.
“I realized my heart was not really in it. I’m interested in it, but I don’t think that it’s for me,” she recalled. “I like being creative.”
TAKING A LEAP
DeGuzman’s journey into the communication field was unpredicted. She had taken a critical thinking course that was located in the Edinburg Liberal Arts Building South where she remembered seeing the signage for the Department of Communication. It piqued her interest and she started asking questions to learn more.
She admitted she didn’t know what compelled her to take the junior course, “Writing for Mass Media,” her freshman year, but it was the class that helped her learn more about journalism and the functions of the press.
The class was taught by Dr. Gregory Selber, a UTRGV Department of Communication professor. He was the one who helped her solidify her choice to go into journalism and seek opportunities to really hone her craft, she said.
“He is the reason why I’m in this field,” she said. “One day we were walking, and I was asking him about a story I was working on. He said, ‘I could tell you were paying attention in class.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I hope you know that I am.’ He asked, ‘Is this what you want to do?’ I hesitantly answered yes. Now, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
When she made the leap into journalism from health care, her family didn’t quite understand what the field was about. She is the first in her family to be born in America; her parents immigrated from the Philippines.
“My parents asked, ‘What are you doing? You can’t just leave the medical field,’” she recalled with a smile. “In my culture, you strive for stability. And liberal arts, it’s really a gamble. You have to be good at what you do.”
Her family supported her decision and began to understand more when she showed them her first printed story in the newspaper.
“My first story was about the Hidalgo Christmas Parade in 2018. I saw my name in the paper, that was a crazy moment,” she said. “I saw the words I wrote on paper. I realized this was copied thousands of times, and it’s all over the Valley. When I showed it to my parents, they were so proud. I think that’s when they realized, ‘Okay, she’s got it, we can trust her in this field.’”
DeGuzman is looking forward to the next steps for her future. She’s already had a hefty résumé with her internships, including one for the NBC “Today Show.” The internship, she recalled, she simply stumbled upon it and applied.
Since it was broadcast, she doubted she would make the cut, but she wanted to get as much experience and knowledge about the communication field, she said. DeGuzman said interning at the “Today Show” was a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity where she also met producers who worked on the broadcast.
After graduation, DeGuzman will be heading to Austin to begin her fellowship at the “Texas Tribune.” She had applied for the fellowship before but didn’t get a callback. She noted it was discouraging since it was in the print field, but that didn’t stop her from learning more about her craft.
This time around, she was able to add more to her application, making her a strong candidate for the fellowship.
“So, I actually got interviewed. The woman said, ‘Hey, I recognized your name. I’m really glad you applied again because I can see the growth in your application,’” she said.
“I think that was really important. Because recalling my first semester in reporting I didn’t know anything. Now, I know I’ve learned so much. I think it was so important for me to wait a year for the fellowship.”
DeGuzman’s fellowship will begin in June and end in August.
BECOME YOUR OWN ADVOCATE
As for graduation, she is excited for the day and happy to see her professors in person on the day to say thank you.
“I’ll get to finally see them in the crowd and say, ‘This is because of you all.’ I’m excited to carry all the lessons, the well wishes, and all the small things they taught me about how to be a good person,” she said. “Thank you so, so much for caring about my education and well-being and caring about how students in the Valley carry themselves, precede and chase their own dreams.”
Her advice for other students is to seek out beneficial opportunities, to become their own advocate.
“You won’t always be qualified for what you apply for, but apply, reach out, and advocate for yourself. Because when you do more things, that’s when you’ll get good at doing those things,” she said. “Take advantage of the time and opportunities at your reach.”
The Spring 2021 Commencement will take place on May 7-8. Visit Spring 2021 Commencement for more information.