When Amanda Cuevas was a senior majoring in speech communication at the University of Texas Pan-American, she envisioned herself doing graduate work in public policy at an East Coast university. But Cuevas’ faculty adviser and mentor, Dora Saavedra, envisioned a different future for Cuevas and counseled her to consider a student affairs degree program at Southwest Texas State University, now known as Texas State University at San Marcos. “So not very willingly, I got on the computer and checked it out,” Cuevas said. “And I realized, this is my calling – to be able to work with students and make a difference in their lives.” Cuevas, who earned a master’s degree in speech communication with a minor in student affairs at Southwest Texas State University, joined the staff at the UI College of Medicine in October 2002.
Tell me about your job.
My primary responsibility in this position, especially this time of year, is admissions and recruiting for the Medical Scholars Program, which is our M.D./Ph.D. program. We have one of the largest programs in the nation, and we also are the forerunner in offering an M.D./Ph.D. in the social sciences and the humanities.
Throughout the year, I work with Jenny Bloom, who’s our associate dean for student affairs as well as the administrative director for the MSP, giving a lot of talks on campus. We also recruit at conferences across the nation, send posters to potential recruits, answer many e-mails and make a lot of phone calls.
What are the criteria for admission to MSP?
On average our students carry a 3.5 GPA and score 32 on the Medical College Admissions Test. We’re looking for students who have a pretty extensive research background, good volunteer medical experience and are well-rounded individuals.
Last year we brought in a class of 29 out of 134 applicants. This year we’re hoping for an entering class between 20 and 25 out of about 100 applicants.
Currently we have a little over 150 students enrolled. On average, it takes a student eight years to complete both degrees. It’s a tough career path that they’ve chosen but a very rewarding one as well.
These students are really the cream of the crop. They’re going on to do amazing things, so it’s very exciting to see them through at least one portion of their journey.
What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
Admissions are very fast paced, and that can be very challenging. What I dislike most is when I have to tell someone that they’ve been denied admission into the program. I try to let them know that there’s another door that they’re meant to go through, but it’s hard when I have to be the one that has to share that news with them.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love being able to help see these students succeed. I think that’s what’s most rewarding.
What other types of projects do you work on?
I also help coordinate a lot of events in the College of Medicine, such as our ‘Preparing Future Physicians/Scholars’ seminar series, where we, our students, alumni or other researchers talk about various topics, such as their work or what students can expect along their career path.
We also have a ‘Bench to Bedside’ seminar series where physicians help make the connection between research and clinical medicine, and ‘Grand Rounds,’ where scholars present their current research.
On April 23, the college will hold its research symposium, which is a celebration of the kind of collaborative research that is done in the college. Drs. Michael Goldwasser and Russ Jamison will present their collaborative work, and many of our students will give short talks on their research, present posters and participate in clinical vignettes.
What kinds of things do you like to do off the job?
My husband, Luis, and I recently bought a house, and we’re working on some house projects to finish out our home. I’m looking forwarding to putting in our landscaping this spring. We recently moved here from Texas, so I like to keep in touch with family and friends. Luis is from Barcelona, Spain, and we are looking forward to a visit with his family there this summer.
I also enjoy reading and just had a poem published in Mentor, which is an online academic advising journal. I’m also applying for admission to the doctoral program in educational organization and leadership this fall.