Turning generational wisdom into a dream career in EWRE

Feb. 22, 2024

Accelerated Master's Program student in Agricultural and Resource Economics recounts how she discovered her future career goals and how it has shaped her academic journey.


First-generation college student; youngest of four. Arizona-born. Art. Books. Outdoors. 

This is how Roberta Gracia briefly describes herself and how she spends her free time, but when she isn't delving into her arts or going on weekend hikes with friends, she is head-first in her academics while maintaining a part-time job. 

Roberta Gracia is currently completing the Agricultural and Resource Economics Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) while earning a B.S. in Environmental and Water Resource Economics (EWRE). The AMP pathway provides students the opportunity to complete traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees in 5 years instead of the common 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of a master’s program. After May 2024, Roberta will be a full-time graduate student and completing her final year of her master’s coursework. 


Discovering a Passion for Water Resources 

When deciding where to continue her education, Roberta's family had the largest influence on her. They provided undivided support and encouragement for her to attend the University of Arizona and to follow her passions. She explained, “My family has always supported me through everything and they have always believed that I could do anything I put my mind to.” 

Roberta initially planned to seek a chemical engineering major but she found EWRE to be a better fit. She was quickly accepted into AREC for the EWRE degree program and soon was eager to learn what this major had in store for her academic journey. She said, “At first, I wasn’t very happy that I didn’t go into chemical engineering, but after my first year at AREC, I realized that it was meant to be for me. Things always happen for a reason and I am forever grateful to be part of EWRE and AREC.” 

Roberta discovered what she wanted to do in her career at an early age– all because of a broken water pump. While spending time with her grandfather on an average day in Nogales, Sonora, he taught her how to fix and install a water pump. This led to her spending the whole summer working alongside her grandfather fixing water pumps, identifying areas that needed tending, and utilizing the water resources in the area to optimize the technique. She shared that her grandfather never studied or went to school for the work that he does, he simply taught himself by reading about the processes and learning as he goes. 

Roberta said, “My grandfather is the most important person in my life, and seeing him achieve all that he knows by only reading about it, inspired me to show him that if there is anyone who can follow his footsteps, it will be me. Having his support, his wise words, and his guidance have been the most important factor throughout my life.” 

Roberta’s family has been her moral compass since the very beginning. She shared her story of being raised by her grandparents and her single mother, and how they are still the most important people in her life to this day. With the continued support from her family, Roberta proudly shared that she’s made the Dean’s List every semester of her academic career, and she has exceptionally passed all of her courses while in AMP. 


Why choose an Accelerated Master’s Program? 

When asked what she found most rewarding, Roberta responded with the fact that she is saving herself a whole year by completing her degree with the AMP. A year that can now be filled with more strides towards her personal and career goals. 

Roberta said, “My main goal for my graduate career is to not give up. No matter how hard the process will get I want to be able to keep going and not give up midway. Like my grandfather once said, “Si alguien mas puede, porque tu no?” meaning ‘If someone else can, why can’t you? I live by this saying because it is true. Only you can stop yourself from getting to where you want to be.” 

She says the most challenging parts of completing the EWRE degree and the AMP are time management practices to accommodate her work and school schedules, securing financial aid, and learning coding. With such a busy academic schedule for both her undergraduate and graduate courses, maintaining a part-time job, and everyday life, it can be a workout juggling it all.  

Despite the challenges, Roberta has remained persistent and committed to her chosen path to completing two degrees. As the fourth individual to complete AREC’s AMP, Roberta has excelled in her academics and goes above and beyond in her support for the department, and promoting the program by advocating for new improvements to the program and visits classrooms to talk to prospective students. 


Advice from a successful AREC & AMP student for future Wildcats:

  • Take advantage of available faculty; to talk about assignments, projects, or just life. 

  • Take advantage of constructive feedback & mentorship. 

  • Consistently work on improving your time management skills; it’ll never be perfect. 

  • Welcome more math courses than are needed, and also complete coding classes.  

  • Make time for yourself to socialize; join clubs and organizations to meet new people.


Roberta explained that the AREC faculty is another reason that she strives with determination towards her goals and has continued strong throughout AMP. 

She explained, “I would like to thank [the faculty]. Professor Zuo, because of being in AREC 304, I decided to stay with this major and knew this was what I wanted as my career. Professor Aradhyula, for always being available and answering all my questions both in undergrad and graduate school. Professor Josephson, for supporting me and believing in me ever since my freshman year. Professor Rahman for being so joyful and making his classes ones that I wouldn't want to miss any day. Professor Thompson for helping me decide to pursue AMP. Lastly, Danielle Buhrow [Academic Advisor], has been through it all with me. I appreciate and can say she has a very special place in my heart because, without her support and guidance, I would not be this far into my career. Thank you all for always being there.” 

To learn more about degree programs in Agricultural and Resource Economics, click here.  

To learn more about the AREC Accelerated Master’s Programs, click here.