For first-generation college student Jose Granados, a senior majoring in exercise education, the path to graduation has been filled with health challenges that most students don’t have to face, but it has also been driven by a passion to help others.
After months of debilitating symptoms that made it difficult to attend classes or do much socially, Granados was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) in the fall of 2021. He acknowledges his family’s support during his health difficulties was invaluable, especially his mother’s support.
“It has been so impactful for my parents—I think because as a parent you want the best for your child,” Granados says. “My mother has been with me every step of the way, especially during the month when we didn’t know what was going on or what the diagnosis was. I am so proud of her.”
When Granados discovered the Eric M. Suhl Scholarship on the Disability & Access (formerly Services for Students with Disabilities) website, he felt less alone as a student with UC. Named after Eric Suhl, a late UT Austin alum who had UC, the scholarship supports students who are diagnosed with colitis, Crohn’s, IBS or any chronic medical issue.
“I saw myself in Eric,” Granados says. “There were so many things I identified with. We were both taking prednisone. He was reluctant to talk about his condition at work or with friends. He started being less social.”
Granados has learned the importance of focusing on the mental health aspect of having such a disease and is active in support groups for those with Crohn’s disease and colitis.
“I just wish I had the chance to meet Eric because I don’t know any other UT student who also is living with ulcerative colitis,” Granados says. “It would be great to find a community within campus to share our journey and what we’re going through because it can be a tough mentally. I think talking about it helps a lot with mental health.”
Although he is an exercise education major, Granados has always been interested in electrical engineering and has taken several electrical engineering courses. He sees a future in bridging exercise science, kinesiology and electrical engineering. Last year, he and a lab partner developed a low-cost ventilator for people with lung conditions including COVID-19.
“It was a way of taking what we had learned over the semester in the embedded systems class and combining it all,” Granados explained, describing it as a proof of concept.
The project has encouraged Granados to consider graduate school, possibly in electrical engineering. He is interested in developing medical devices that include wearable technology.
Granados is fluent in American Sign Language and, as a result, learned a great deal about the deaf culture and made many friends along the way. He also volunteers at the Texas School for the Deaf and has become active in the student-run group Disability Advocacy Student Coalition.
“I think it is very important for us to be able to advocate for ourselves,” he says. “You have to be a self-advocate when people don’t understand your condition.”