The University of Texas at Austin
  • Gaining the edge on graduate school

    By Stephanie de Luna
    Published: Jan. 4, 2012
    Senior Ashley Garcia's internship with a graduate student mentor deepened her interest in research.Photo: Valeria Molina

    This story originally appeared on the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement blog, DDCE Central.

    Ashley Garcia‘s involvement in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) Pre-Graduate School Internship led her to the prestigious Ralph Bunche Summer Institute at Duke University last summer, where she performed intensive research on political party corruption and Mexican drug trafficking. Her project, “Mexicanos al Gritode Guerra: What is Causing the Drug War in Mexico?” was one of only 10 selected for presentation at the American Political Science Association conference in September.

    Garcia’s story is just one of the many success stories among the 1,200 students who have participated in the Pre-Graduate School Internship since it began in the fall of 2003. The internship allows undergraduate students to discover what they ultimately want to accomplish in the future by working with graduate students and faculty in academic fields that are of interest to them. The program accepts freshman to seniors in any major at the university.

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    Garcia, a Radio-Television-Film and Latin American Studies senior, took part in the program this past spring. In the fall of 2010, Ashley heard about the IE internship through Manú Avilés-Santiago, the teaching assistant for her U.S. Latinos in the Media class.

    “One afternoon he sent out an email telling the class he wanted to be a mentor for a student interested in grad school,” Garcia said. “That semester, I was thinking about grad school, but I really didn’t know the process on how to get there.”

    Hoping that a mentor would guide her in the right direction, Garcia applied and began interning with Santiago. During the course of her internship, Garcia shadowed her mentor and even attended a media studies conference in New Orleans.

    During the spring semester, Garcia heard about the Bunche Summer Institute, which encourages students to pursue academic careers in political science. She applied to the program and heard of her acceptance a few weeks later. The summer institute covered her airfare, housing and meals, along with a stipend.

    “It was four weeks of pure research and reading,” Garcia said. “I had 15 books to read in four weeks, plus articles.” Garcia also had to take GRE prep courses.

    “It was very intense, but it was definitely worth it,” she said.

    Garcia accredits the IE Pre-Graduate Internship for preparing her for graduate fieldwork.

    Ashley and Manú

    Watch a video of Garcia and her mentor Avilés-Santiago speaking at Gone to Texas.

    “The biggest thing I learned in IE is to not be scared to talk to professors or graduate students,” Garcia said. “There are people out there interested in your work. I thought I was the only one interested in certain specific issues, but thanks to IE, I know that I’m not.”

    Garcia is currently applying to graduate schools across the nation including: Stanford, UC Berkeley, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Georgetown and Brown.

    “I love to do research, find things, answer questions,” Garcia said. “I would like to have a more active role in the future. I can see myself as a policy maker or a professor.”

    Rick Cherwitz, founder and director of the IE Pre-Graduate Internship emphasized that the goal of his program is to help students mold their own futures. “I’m equally proud of the students who find out that they don’t want to go to grad school as the others who never thought about it and now are,” he said. “This program is and should be student driven.”

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    • Quote 2
      Carlos E. Morales said on Jan. 25, 2012 at 10:36 a.m.
      Ashley's story is another testimony to the great things happening on the 40 acres today. The Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) program sees increases in student enrollment every semester -- a sure sign of the ubiquity of IE. When IE can successfully permeate the business sector (that is, the 'real world'), and not only pair students with graduate mentors and professors but with members of the field they wish to pursue, IE's effectiveness will reach and even greater level. But we don't have to wait until then to acknowledge the amazing bounds already made. Ashley's story clearly shows the effectiveness of the program -- There are myriad testimonies on IE's website that reiterate its organic philosophy and the waves of change it has already brought to how we, as a University -- address interest in a career of academia.
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      Carlos E. Morales said on Jan. 25, 2012 at 10:11 a.m.
      Ashley's story only furthers the fact that the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program (IE) is growing into a serious component of higher education. Every semester, the numbers of students registered for IE grows -- a reflection of the need for a program such as this to exist across all venues. For students considering graduate school -- as Ashley did -- there isn't really an academic internship, where they could explore the conduits of academia and higher education. But IE fills that gap and provides students with an means of discovering the world of graduate school. And once IE can successfully transplant itself into the business sector (that is, the "real-world") and not only place students with graduate students and professors but with members of the area of work they're are interested in as well, then the need for IE across the state and country will become solidified. But we shouldn't wait until then to acknowledge the benefits of IE, because as evidenced by Ashley's story (and many more successful testimonies available on IE's website:, IE is already making waves in educational attainment.
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      Randy Cox said on Jan. 24, 2012 at 5:26 p.m.
      This is such a good program, and it does a masterful job of setting up connections between undergraduates and potential graduate programs. Additionally, it provides preparatory resources for students to learn the skills (writing/reading) necessary for success in graduate education. Hats off to Dr. Cherwitz and the IE program.
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      Michael DeLeon said on Jan. 22, 2012 at 3:44 p.m.
      Ashley and her mentor's story are great displays of how the IE program allows students to nurture their academic opportunities and passions. The IE process aids in bridging together the thinking and engaging of research for undergraduate students. This process affords the student to navigate both the research itself and their future college/graduate level work. These engagements are great tools to shift the education paradigm. In these two videos, RIchard Cherwitz as well as Tommy Darwin explain how the fostering of the IE Process can assist students.
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      Marie Krebs said on Jan. 22, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
      I love hearing about UT's progressive programming. As a parent of a UT alum I am so proud of the University. The fact that IE is now working with middle and high school students indicates their commitment to our future leaders. Bravo!
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      Jelisa Robinson said on Jan. 22, 2012 at 10:09 a.m.
      Wow! I hope that students continue to use these fantastic resources like the IE program to make a path for their career. This story was so inspiring. I hope to do my own research one day.
    • Quote 2
      Ruth Chlebowski said on Jan. 22, 2012 at 8:29 a.m.
      Hats off to Ms. Garcia and the IE program. I wish such programs and opportunities had been in place when I was a student. Not that I was ever intimidated about approaching faculty members, as Ms. Garcia was, but I never could connect the dots and link university research with real-life, societal problems as she and her colleagues have. This is a brilliant direction for the university of today and the future--an institution that develops and applies complex research to the challenge of repairing the world.
    • Quote 2
      marlayna glynn brown said on Jan. 17, 2012 at 5:29 p.m.
      If one person can change the course of a life, it would be nearly impossible to compute the value of this program. I might have to hire one of these talented grads to help me compute the best answer. In the meantime, one could view to imagine how many lives can be uplifted via this valuable program.
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      Phuong Tran said on Jan. 16, 2012 at 10:21 a.m.
      This is exactly what students need...opportunities to explore their options. I remember when I was in college I wasn't sure what all of mine were, but with mentorship and guidance, I was able to explore mine and excel. This is exactly what IE does for students which is vital in today's changing post-undergrad world. Congrats to Garcia for being able to be able to take her degrees and do something she is passionate about making her a citizen-scholar!
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      Paulina Sosa said on Jan. 15, 2012 at 9:47 p.m.
      Wow this is going to be great! Looking back at my video, I can always readily support other students' endeavors with IE!
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      Krysti Turnquest said on Jan. 9, 2012 at 9:26 p.m.
      It's so great to hear about all of the wonderful ways IE has helped undergraduates figure out what they're post-undergrad plans! I did IE my senior year in Spring of 2010 with a grad student in sociology and I really credit the program and the relationships I was able to foster there with helping guide me in my career path. When I was making a decision about graduate school and what I wanted to pursue, I couldn't even fathom what it would be like. The IE program really helped demystify the graduate process for me and made it feel so much more accessible and worth pursuing. I'm so glad UT has a program like this that can hopefully help many more students the way it did for me!
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      Asiago said on Jan. 9, 2012 at 4:16 p.m.
      Ashley is a very passionate person with a desire to learn. I know that she will graduate fulfilling UT's core purpose to transform lives for the benefit of society. She is a living example. Cheers to her spirit and motivation to have our students engage in changing the world.
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      Justin Jefferson said on Jan. 8, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
      This is an amazing experience! Great job Garcia and Avilés-Santiago! I know exactly how she feels as I have had a similar experience in the path of discovering my passion and achieving my dreams! The IE internship is an organic experience that has helped many students dabble in other fields so that they can really assess what they want for their academic and professional careers. It also takes a great mentorship because my mentor inspired me to explore all the options in my field of interest. So Ashley congratulations and I know you will do great things!
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      Carlnita Greene said on Jan. 8, 2012 at 12:17 p.m.
      An inspiring story about how IE helps students to pursue their passions. Ms. Garcia's work represents the very best that UT students can offer to change the world when they are supported by a program like IE that provides students with mentors while encouraging them not only to ask questions, but also to seek viable solutions to those questions. It is especially refreshing that, as Dr. Cherwitz states, this program is one that is student-driven which allows them the ability to determine what are the most significant and/or pressing issues of their time which inevitably will shape students in their future roles as educators, professionals, leaders, and global citizens.
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      Ashley said on Jan. 7, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.
      Manu and Rick, Thanks for such a great opportunity. Without the IE program, I would not have the experience I hold today. My best wishes for the future IE generations.
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      Roxanne Garza said on Jan. 7, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.
      What an amazing and inspiring article! Stories like this make me extremely proud to have been a part of such a powerful program. IE truly gives undergraduates (and graduate mentors) the opportunity to discover their passions and find the best path to build a future around those passions. Kudos to Dr. Cherwitz and everyone else that has worked so hard to expand this program!
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      Tracy Dahlby said on Jan. 7, 2012 at 9:18 a.m.
      This is an inspiring story about a wonderful program that is a testament to the power of active, real-world learning. Hooray for IE, its students and mentors! Hooray for its founder, Rick Chernitz!
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      Sarah Kettles said on Jan. 6, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.
      What an excellent example of what the IE program gives students! My experience in the program really showed me what I can do with my education. I am incredibly grateful for what the program has given me. Congratulations, Ashley, on getting so much out of it too! Here is a link to a video that I did to summarize my IE experience.
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      Johanna Hartelius said on Jan. 6, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.
      Garcia's project illustrates perfectly the IE vision of undergraduate education. She is mobilizing her academic expertise for the purposes of genuine engagement in a serious social and political exigency. Furthermore, as a Latina student, scholar, and activist, she is a beautiful example of what happens when those systemically underestimated are taken seriously. I, for one, cannot wait to see what she and her IE cohort accomplish next...
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      Deone Wilhite said on Jan. 6, 2012 at 3:27 p.m.
      I love this article! This is the kind of confidence that ALL undergraduates students need to be infused with and I am so glad that there is a program on campus like IE that mentors and assist undergrads toward graduate school. Given the concern over retention and graduation rates on campuses, this is a program that needs to be expanded! And Ashley, as a UT alum, I am so proud of you (and a little bit jealous!!!).
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      Oscar D. Ayala said on Jan. 5, 2012 at 1:21 p.m.
      A great story of how Garcia and Avilés-Santiago have utilized IE to discover and pursue their own dreams! With the "no strings attached" approach by the IE internship, students are exploring and breaking boundaries in their field(s) of interest. IE interns are able to shape their own experience and gain knowledge that will help them keep moving forward in their career. The IE mentorship is one of the key ingredients that has not only helped students find their own passion, but has also inspired IE alumni to give back those experiences as mentors for future leaders!
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      Rich Reddick said on Jan. 5, 2012 at 10:47 a.m.
      What a wonderful story and an exemplar of the impact of IE. Ashley is heading places thanks to this opportunity and Manú's excellent mentoring. Precisely the sort of outcome Dr. Cherwitz and Dr. Kimberly Griffin at Penn State discovered in our research on IE mentors in our article "Answering President Obama's Call for Mentoring: It's Not Just for Mentees Anymore," which was published in Planning for Higher Education last year (
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      Gary Beckman said on Jan. 5, 2012 at 8:57 a.m.
      This excellent article concerning the success of two obviously wonderful students demonstrates (yet again) the transformative power of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) program at UT. As a UT alumn working in the realm of Arts Entrepreneurship education, IE has served as the philosophical basis for the arts entrepreneurship programs I've developed at two universities - and my students have been similarly impacted! Readers should know that IE is spreading across the country and at my present employ - North Carolina State University - we will be piloting an IE effort in our College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2012.
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      Art Markman said on Jan. 5, 2012 at 7:55 a.m.
      I have advised students in this program before, and it can be a transformational experience for students. UT is a big place. The IE program helps to make it a smaller place. I encourage my graduate students to get involved with IE students and to make them part of my lab community. The IE program is a real gem.
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      Rob Shook said on Jan. 5, 2012 at 7:09 a.m.
      What a great, relevant example of not only the importance of internships, but also the importance of mentoring. Many of the skills I learned in an 8-month internship still serve me well at that same employer ... now 24 years into my career there. Something tells me. that Ms. Garcia will also find herself serving others as a mentor. It *does* get passed along!
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