Steven Macapagal, a math and economics senior from Houston, has given back to the Economics Peer Mentor Program as much, if not more, than he’s received from it.
Economics wasn’t always the career path that Steven thought he would take. Upon entering UT, he was rejected from his first choice of major – biomedical engineering. However, what at first seemed like a disappointment led him to discover his true passion in economics.
“I love that economics is a broadly applicable field; at its heart, economics is a methodical examination of how people behave,” Steven said. “This has helped me work through countless issues. Some are of national importance, like the effects of potential national default and student debt, and others of personal interest, like the optimal time to buy my ACL ticket.”
Educators in the economics department were the ones who seriously impacted Steven’s decision to stick with what at first had been his backup plan.
“My professors – Dr. Hamermesh, who taught me to think big picture, and Dr. Slesnick and Dr. Kendrick, who both taught me to fine-tune my thinking – were the ones who solidified my passion for the field,” Steven said.
Inspired by his new major, as well as his professors, Steven set out to help others get the same sense of fulfillment through economics as he did. That’s when he found out about EPMP.
The program, which helps incoming economics students to navigate their first year on campus, provides them with a mentor within the economics department who can answer any questions students have about college, whether they’re academic or personal.
Steven, who’s been involved with the program since its beginning, has mentored four other students, all of whom he is still in touch with and many of whom still ask him for his advice. Crystal Luviano, a former mentee of Steven who is now an EPMP mentor herself, calls Steven a “superstar.”
“Steven is very detail-oriented and organized,” Crystal said. “He is very dependable and people can always rely on him, which is essential to be a good mentor. Steven didn’t just help me with one thing, but many small things I didn’t know before. He continues to teach and inspire me as fourth years in college.”
The program hasn’t only been a way for Steven to give back to other students, however. It’s also helped him to develop planning and organizational skills that are essential in a professional setting, as well as given him insight into how he interacts with those around him.
“The most important thing I’ve taken away from this program is the importance of communication,” Steven says. “No other program has given me multiple opportunities and feedback on the way I converse with other people via email or by simply talking to someone face to face.”
Steven graduated in December of 2013 and is beginning his professional life through the Teach for America program. Assigned to the Rio Grande Valley, he’ll be teaching math to high school students.
“Because of my experiences with EPMP, I realized the impact someone’s educational background can have on his or her college career, so I wanted to tackle educational inequity head on,” Steven said. “I’m looking forward to using the skills I developed as a mentor to make my classroom a successful one.”
In the long run, Steven wants to work in personal finance, helping people plan for retirement or saving for their children’s college education. He is also considering teaching money-management skills in the classroom.