UWW student spotlight: meet Juan Luis Rivera Huertas

Monday, March 18, 2013

As a winner of a $1250 scholarship from the Jeffrey C. Taylor Educational Opportunity Fund, 43 year old Juan Luis Rivera Huertas of Springfield, MA shared a little with us about his academic journey as a UWW student, how he balances school, work and family, and how this award has made it all a little easier. His advisor: Lisa Fontes.

Every non-traditional age student has a story. What’s your story? 
In my search for a path to follow I have been truly like a leaf in the wind. As an artist and someone with a spiritual soul, if you'll accept that, I have been discerning in my life a vocation with the Lord while at the same time searching for a career path that would preferably involve the fine arts.
Why did you choose UMass Amherst UWW to complete your degree?
After being recommended the program by a professor at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) I checked out the program, and then UMass UWW became the right choice for me. UWW's design of taking all those life experiences and learning I've had to help form a particular bachelor's degree fit just for me is a very special way of showing what I in particular have accomplished; a degree expressing the educated me rather than another copy of an established education system.
The education system is like a production line producing copies of the same product, albeit containing the same quality perhaps. While UWW is like a rarity and specialty shop producing unique and rare products you can only find in those special corners of a market. I am glad to be in that process of special unique products. 
What is the best part about being a UWW student for you?
I get to technically give myself my own personal degree. I get to design it out of my own personal life experiences. To me it's better than the accomplishment of finishing an established structured curriculum that doesn't take into account much of what I have experienced in relation to my field of study. UWW takes that into consideration and makes it part of the curriculum so that the result is a more complete composite of the person's education.
What are you studying?
My interests are the Arts, Design, and Architecture/Construction, and I have done my recent studies at STCC in Civil Engineering, so my concentration will entail a built upon the degree in Civil Engineering but with some aspects of the design of structures in the sustainability field.
What does winning this scholarship mean to you?
It means less worries and being able to concentrate on my studies.  It means another hand to help me climb this mountain and reach my goal. I am very thankful to those who have offered it, and for granting it to me in this occasion.
What’s been your favorite class at UMass Amherst so far?
Right now I started with just two core classes from the program. I like both so far, and I am enjoying them. The one on Reflections on Technology has some interesting readings and discussions that I enjoy with respect to technology.
What have been the benefits of taking your classes online?
I have a son who is soon to be 3 yrs old, and he is not in school yet, so being around him to play with during pauses from my studies, etc. is great. And also, I enjoy not having to necessarily prepare because I have to go out on a day that may be raining or cold.
How do you balance work, school and other responsibilities?  
I try to organize myself to give time for everything. I work second shift and get out at 11:30pm so I take an hour or so to do the university work in the peaceful night without interruptions. And I organize and prioritize my responsibilities to do them at a convenient time, and perhaps on the way to do something. Like we do groceries on Sundays after mass so it's all done while we are out.
What advice do you have for other students finishing their degrees?
Make sure that they are active in their field of study, even if they aren't employed so they can keep current and fresh with their education and maintain themselves as good prospects for employment. And as UWW demonstrates, education is a life long journey, so keep learning.
What are your future plans professionally and personally?
I plan to work in some field of Construction Design with a focus in Sustainable Buildings. Personally my wife and I are contemplating where we are going to have our house to live in, whether here in the USA, in Italy, or in Ecuador.  Those are our possible locations. So hopefully with a career in the Design and Construction business we'll be in a better position to achieve our goal and offer our child a better future.
Tell readers something cool about yourself that no one would guess about you?
I got the opportunity to live in Rome, Italy. That to me was cool and I wish to be able to go again with my wife and son some day. And while I was living there, on an occasion to see one of the Harry Potter movies with a friend, we got to see Samuel L. Jackson pass by on the red carpet at the opening of the movie S.W.A.T. That was unexpected. We just went to see the Harry Potter movie and we had to wait because of that event. I think it was worth the little wait. He was the only actor I've seen outside of the movies.