The first Graduate and Professional Students Association event of the semester, in partnership with the UNM Alumni Association, took place Thursday night in the SUB ballroom.

Called Café GPSA, the initiative was created with the goal of guiding students through graduate school and teaching them about networking and interpersonal communication skills, and introducing them to active workers in the community who can offer their personal testimonies.

GPSA Chief of Staff and event organizer Mark Narvaez said the project was born out of a desire to create new and stronger partnerships with organizations around campus.

“Basically the idea is providing a bridge between the graduate student community and alumni,” Narvaez said. “To be able to meet with alumni at particular career focuses and career disciplines, so they can do some networking, get some context, get some tips, experiences and stories about making that bridge between graduate schools and the next step, which is a career.”

GPSA offers grant-funding opportunities to graduate and professional students, giving them the option to travel, research and present their work at conferences.

“We represent, we promote — we protect anyway we can — the needs and concerns of graduate professional students at UNM,” said Glenda Lewis, GPSA president. “We are hoping that through this type of environment, graduate students could possibly have more insight into options that are available, and not just graduate students — we are hoping even undergraduates take advantage of this opportunity.”

GPSA was founded in 1969 at UNM and, since then, it has been supporting the interests and concerns of all graduate students that the association governs.

Present at the event were graduate students, members of the Alumni Association, graduate professors and a guest speaker: attorney Brian S. Colón.

Networking was the main topic of the night, as Colón explained to students and professionals, through personal experiences, how important is to make contacts and to always keep in touch with them.

“Your success will always be proportional to the success you help others to achieve. Networking is about authenticity and engagement” Colón said.

Colón emphasized the fact that he — a country boy who came from a poor family — could become an attorney and break the chain of poverty in his family for the first time.

Marina Minina — a Russian student who came to UNM in order to complete her master’s degree in language, literacy and sociocultural studies — said she is fascinated by the University, and the opportunities she is hoping to have at an academic institution that opened its doors to her.

“In events like this, I can meet people from different fields and communicate with them. It makes me feel comfortable here, and I know they can provide me very useful information for my future projects,” she said.

The purpose of the event was to give tips to current graduate students on how to do networking, said Sue MacEachen, associate director for alumni relations.

“We do not charge students. As long as they have a degree, anybody can join. Having the opportunity to connect and network is the thing,” MacEachen said.

Colón said that events like this, and what he learned through GPSA, have become invaluable to him in his professional life.

“Information is your friend when it comes to networking, and if I am effective today in the community, it’s thanks to GPSA,” Colón said.

Victor Santos is a journalism student at the University of New Mexico. He can be reached at