2017 Centennial Masters Degree Awardee

During the fall of 1987, the Graduate College and the Division of Campus Life established awards to recognize outstanding achievement and contributions of graduate students at the University of Arizona who have shown academic achievement despite facing challenging social, economic, or educational obstacles.

Graciela Jauregui - Centennial Masters Degree Award RecipientGraciela R. Jauregui

Graciela Jauregui grew up in the small border town of San Luis, Arizona. She was the first in her family to complete high school and attend a four-year university. In 2013, she received a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and a Bachelor of Art in Spanish. This upcoming December, Graciela will earn a Master of Public Health in Public Health Policy & Management and a Master of Science in Mexican American Studies.

Growing up in a rural border town gave Graciela a unique perspective of the health disparities that exist within impoverished communities. Her early experiences as an untrained interpreter between English-speaking physicians and her Spanish-speaking family made her aware of the cultural and language challenges that were present in the United States. As a child, she recalls the struggle to find the proper words when repeating symptoms and medical diagnosis from one side of the examination room to the other. These early experiences instilled in her the desire to become a service provider.

This past year, Graciela conducted research along the U.S.-Mexico border and completed her thesis on Access to Healthcare for Undocumented Immigrant Detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Centers. She is currently completing an internship with the Office of Border Health at the Arizona Department of Health Services, and is working on a gap analysis between the U.S. justice system and the Mexican healthcare system, in hopes of bettering binational public health collaborations between both countries. She received first place for her community engagement project with farm worker communities in Winchester Height, Arizona at the annual UA Public Health Research Poster Forum.  

Graciela works as an administrative assistant for the Emergency Medicine and Emergency Medicine/Pediatrics Residency Programs at Banner-UMC-Tucson. In addition, she volunteers at Clinica Amistad, a free healthcare clinic in South Tucson, with No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization, and provides health education talks in Sonora, Mexico, with the Flying Samaritans.

In the future, Graciela hopes to attend medical school and serve underprivileged populations, especially Spanish-speaking, low-income, and underrepresented communities throughout the State of Arizona. Graciela’s ultimate goal is to combine her degrees in public health, Mexican American studies, and medicine to support and advocate for these communities.

Rebecca Renteria - Centennial Masters Degree Award RecipientRebecca Renee Renteria

Rebecca Renee Renteria graduated as a first-generation college student with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology in 2015. This December, she will graduate with a Master of Arts in Anthropology. Growing up on Tucson’s south side placed many obstacles in Rebecca’s long path towards a master’s degree, but these obstacles greatly influenced her desire to work with Tucson’s underserved and underrepresented communities.

Influenced by her childhood and her educational background in anthropology, Rebecca has become a strong advocate for diversity in the sciences. This has led to her active involvement with the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (LTRR). Rebecca has been an active member within the LTRR community. Over the past two years she has served as an EarthWeek committee member, a teaching assistant for anthropology and geosciences courses, a coordinator for LTRR’s summer school courses, and a co-instructor of record for the dendroarchaeology course.

Rebecca is also a staff member with Linking Southwestern Heritage Through Archaeology (LSWHTA), a program aimed at providing opportunities for local high school students to visit sites across the Southwest that connect them to their cultural history. In addition, the program provides a university experience through exposure to archaeology related labs on campus. Rebecca currently serves as program coordinator at LSWHTA and is responsible for community engagement, field school development, technology applications, and program development. Her tireless work has helped increase community participation in the program.

Addressing how communities in the Southwest have historically been represented in archaeological record, Rebecca’s masters research focused on late 19th and early 20th century homesteading families with Native, Mexican, and Anglo-American histories. This research, coupled with her community work, has shaped her interest in better understanding Xicanx (descendants of Mexican and Indigenous peoples) identities as they have changed over time. Rebecca hopes to pursue a PhD addressing this topic to observe how these changes might be perceived in archaeological records and personal and community histories. Additionally, she hopes to continue working in her local community helping members have a greater say over their cultural and heritage resources.