Posted Dec. 11, 2019 — After transferring from the University of Texas at San Antonio to the University of Houston, Emily Cortinas realized a nursing degree may not be the right fit. She felt discouraged, she said, until she found the College of Education’s major in human development and family studies.
HDFS teaches students about the various life stages, addressing topics such as family dynamics, emotional intelligence and learning theory. Cortinas said she loved the course work, writing papers and the internship opportunities.
“My GPA went up to 3.8 from 2.8 because I enjoyed it that much,” said Cortinas, whose high academic standing qualified her to lead the graduation processional and sit on stage as a banner bearer at the College’s commencement this Saturday.
She currently works as a college readiness assistant at Worthing High School, where she uses what she’s learned and helps students apply for college, scholarships and jobs.
Before graduating this weekend, Cortinas made time to answer some questions.
Why did you choose to major in human development and family studies?
I chose HDFS because it was a wide umbrella of opportunity. You could work in a school. You could branch off into social services or into human services. I didn’t have a specific idea of what I wanted to do, but I knew it would be in human services.
How has the UH College of Education prepared you for your dream job?
There is free reign seeking practicums and internships. When I did practicum, I did it in early childhood. I liked the kindergarteners, but I knew my heart was more with high schoolers, so I switched over to high school and picked the college center because I thought my advice would work best for kids who could learn from my mistakes and do better.
I was able to secure a job at the end of my internships. Diversity, early childhood, adolescence — all of it just melted together into my future career.
What do you do for fun?
Nowadays, I have fun decorating my office and the college center. I want students to hang out in the college center, feel comfortable. I made a Christmas tree out of college pennants with the graduation cap as the star. I also like hanging out with my six dogs.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received while at UH?
The last day of class this semester Dr. Toya Conston, the head of the HDFS department, sat down and we had a real talk where she explained what life was for us after graduation. She mentioned that we definitely won’t start where our dream job is; we won’t be there right away. There’s a lot of things we have to go through and lessons to learn before we get there — we’ll get there eventually.
What advice would you give to someone interested in your major?
Human development and family studies has a lot of group work. There’s a lot of discussions, and I would I would tell them to never skip assignments no matter how small they may seem because in the end it’s important. Make friends because those friends will follow you throughout all the course work, and having friends there to support you and not having to scramble to find people to be in your group is really helpful.
What are you most excited about after graduation?
Sleep! I’m kidding.
Since I focus so much on school and wanted to make A’s, I never really traveled. So, I’m excited to actually go out of state for once.
What advice do you have for fellow Coogs?
Buy parking early, utilize all of the resources around you, like the Rec, career fairs and clubs, and make friends.
Read the rest of the Graduation Spotlight series to learn more about the fall 2019 banner bearers for the College and departments of Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership & Policy Studies.
— By Lillian Hoang
— Photo courtesy of Emily Cortinas