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Talisa Puentes-Ortega

Creating a Community of Mutual Support

Now a government biologist with the USDA, Talisa Puentes-Ortega first began her career — and her relationship with Regis—as a senior in high school. "I applied as part of a senior in high school program," she says. "We had to send out ten applications, and Regis ended up being one of them. Seeing my application and my essay, they offered me a scholarship. It was life-changing."

In fact, it was more life-altering than she could have imagined at the time. Several years after she graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she received an offer to advance her career that brought her back to her old stomping grounds to earn her M.S. in Environmental Biology. She gained more than a degree, though — she found a community that continues to support her.

Talisa Puentes-Ortega’s desire for a personalized experience led to cultivating a community that continues to help each other thrive.

Talisa Puentes-Ortega

Why Talisa returned to Regis

"After finishing my bachelor's in biology, I took time to explore what I wanted to do with my degree, and while I was working an internship in southern Colorado, I was offered a higher status in my field — but I needed to return to school.

I began exploring programs to pursue, and naturally reached out to the faculty at my alma mater. When they told me about the M.S. in Environmental Biology they had started offering, returning to Regis was an easy choice. I’d originally picked Regis for my undergraduate studies because I came from a small New Mexico high school of not quite 1,000 kids. I didn’t want to be just one more nameless, faceless member of a crowd. What I wanted as an undergraduate — and what I knew I would get in a masters level environment at Regis—was a more personalized experience."

Talisa Puentes-Ortega

Hands-on graduate-level experience

"Regis University’s M.S. in Environmental Biology is a program that combines course work, field work and options to pursue either a research project or an externship. The program’s goal is to help graduates emerge fully prepared to become advocates for the health of our planet as they enter the environmental workforce.

And I do mean fully prepared. When I returned to Regis, I experienced the usual nostalgia. I thought, "Wow, look, I’m back, I can call my professors, I can sit in the bio suite and do my homework." Beyond that, though, I felt a focus from my classmates — and, most importantly, from the school and faculty — on leveraging the program to achieve real success. My peers and I arrived with the mentality that we knew we had already been in the world and working for a while. Now, we were at a stage in our lives where we could visualize the next step. We just needed Regis’ help to get there."

Finding a community at her level

"Our professors met us at that level of focus and dedication we were at, both in and out of the classroom. They supported us with a program that supplemented our work in professions ranging from private consultants to supporting Native American tribes and more. They reinforced our existing abilities by honing our communication, analytical and statistical skills. For those of us who chose to do a graduate research project, the faculty also directed experiences that could take place in environmental, lab or additional field work settings.

One of the biggest benefits I’ve experienced personally is the community we formed. Staying in contact with colleagues in my program has been a huge help, and we were encouraged to rely not only on each other, but on our professors. We can reach out to each other to say, 'Hey, I have an interview for something, can I talk to you about it?' and everyone — students and faculty alike—makes themselves available."

The role Regis continues to play in Talisa’s life

"Today, as a government biologist with the USDA, I can look back and easily say that Regis has played an enormous role in my success. As an undergraduate student, I knew I had to go to college, I knew what interested me and Regis helped me learn more about it. At that point in time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but after I graduated, my mindset shifted. When I returned to my alma mater for my M.S. in Environmental Sciences, I was on a specific path. I had a clearer idea of where I was going. With the ability to complete the program in one year, my peer community and the faculty’s support, Regis University gave me the masters level education I needed — and the experience I wanted — to achieve the next step in my career."

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