There’s no doubt about it. Getting into medical school—or any pre-health professional school—is not easy. And for many first-generation scientists like Dr. Rodolfo Jimenez, the goal of pursuing a STEM degree comes with a new set of challenges.
To help his students conquer their academic hurdles, Jimenez offers one-on-one advising sessions and connects them with free resources at the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence. We caught up with Jimenez to learn more about his work and how he’s helping students pursue their passions—wherever they may lead.
What is your core mission as STEM Coordinator in the LCAE?
My mission is to ensure our STEM students are prepared for the next step in life – whether it’s graduate school or a pre-health professional school such as medical school, dental school or pharmacy. We want to let them know that science here at UT Austin is on a different level than what they’re used to. That’s not to say that they can’t handle it, but that they will be required to work harder than they ever have before.
In addition to academic advising, what other resources can you offer?
We’re here to provide free tutoring for specific classes. What’s really beneficial is that our student tutors have been in the exact same spot not too long ago. We hire our own students, so the ones who get the tutoring are the ones who end up becoming tutors here in the LCAE.
How are you helping students stay on their career paths – or in some cases find a different path?
We make sure to have some real talk with students to let them know where they stand. If they don’t have a 3.5 GPA their first semester, they’ll have less of a chance of getting into a pre-health professional school. We also want to let them know that going to medical school isn’t the only way to help people in the healthcare field. There’s many other fulfilling and rewarding career options – from public policy to hospital administration to social work. We want our students to know that they don’t have to stick to a specific path, and that they can continue to work in health and sciences, but it can look like something other than what they were expecting when they first came here.
What inspires you to come to work every day?
I see students who are in the same spot I was in when I first came to college. I came from Rio Grande Valley and was the first in my family to go into any kind of STEM field. I did OK during my first semester, but once I got into the harder courses, my grades started to slip more and more. I didn’t want to tell anyone about it because I was always known as the “smart jock” back home and didn’t want to be thought of as less. So when the students are struggling here, I want to pick them back up. I don’t’ want to see their GPAs slip so low that they’re limited to a certain amount of careers. I also want to teach them that failure is a part of life, and that sometimes through failure other opportunities become available.
The LCAE is located on the fourth floor of the Student Services Building (SSB). Visit their website for more information about the many free resources available to students of all disciplines.