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Nearing centennial, UTEP president talks history, how she came to be at the helm
By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- Coming up on UTEP's centennial, the woman at the helm of the university speaks to KFOX 14.
She tells us how she got her start and we find out how far the school's come since she became president.
"I came here after going to graduate school in Austin and I took a job here teaching linguistics and Portuguese, never thought I'd end up being president, but one day I woke up and I was. So, ever since then, I've been trying to do the right thing," said Dr. Diana Natalicio, president of UTEP.
Natalicio has been at the helm of the University of Texas at El Paso for 25 years.
But education wasn't always at the forefront.
"I went to a high school that set very low expectations. Very few of us even thought about going to college," Natalicio said.
Natalicio, who grew up in St. Louis, was the first in her family to go to college.
"Education turned my life in a totally new direction. When I graduated from St. Louis University, I went to Brazil on a Fulbright. I lived in Brazil, I'd never traveled on an airplane, never been away from home, and here I was in Rio de Janeiro learning Portuguese," Natalicio said.
Not only did this opportunity completely change the way she saw things, it made her want to give back.
"I made up my mind that one of the things I wanted to do was to create opportunities for other people, for other students, the way the Jesuits had done for me," Natalicio said.
Her time at UTEP has been one of many firsts and accomplishments.
She's the first female and former faculty member to be named president of the university.
During her tenure, UTEP's enrollment has greatly increased and the number of degrees awarded in the last 10 years has doubled.
"UTEP is a perfect place for me because there are a lot of talented young people in this region. This region was historically undereducated, grossly undereducated, particularly the Latino population," Natalicio said.
She's proud of how far the university's come but has no plans on slowing down.
"We've made a lot of progress, but there's still a lot of work to do. That second century can't come fast enough. We've got to get going," Natalicio said.
Natalicio is also the longest-serving current president of a four-year public university in the entire state of Texas.