Master Scholar builds a network to achieve career goals

April 28, 2016
Valderrama and his wife, Catalina.


When Esteban Valderrama left Colombia to pursue his education and a career in the U.S., he worried about leaving his family and support system behind. Yet, he knew that to excel in the field of engineering, he needed to create a professional support system as well. It was the combination of learning and networking potential that made the Master of Science in Engineering program and the STEM Scholar opportunity at UW-Platteville so appealing.

As part of the STEM Scholar program, students are paired with a mentor and a champion. These volunteers are industry professionals who share their years of experience to guide the students in the classroom and in their careers. Valderrama said this guidance has been instrumental to his success thus far.

“It has been a very satisfying experience; before the STEM Scholar experience I just followed the classes without thinking what I wanted for my future. But now, with the help of the mentors and champions, I have a plan of where I want to be in the future,” Valderrama said. “The STEM Scholar experience has helped me to set up and focus on short, mid, and long term goals, as well as recognize and overcome the obstacles that might get in the way to accomplish my goals.”

Many of the goals Valderrama has developed focus on a future career as an engineer. He is currently a Research Assistant at the University of Texas at San Antonio for the Biophysics Computational Laboratory and hopes to advance with that institution after receiving his master’s degree and Professional Engineer certification. Valderrama believes that the versatile set of skills and experiences provided by his degree program will help him accomplish this and similar goals throughout his career. 

“What I love most about the program is that it is not tied to a specific field; rather it provides me the opportunity to select courses based on my career needs, interests, and goals,” Valderrama said. “I have always thought that education is the key to fulfilling my dreams. I consider that if I have a very well-structured life plan, I can accomplish my goals, always taking into account that all the sacrifices have their own compensation.”

And while his education and professional networks play an important part in his career goals, there is one other person that Valderrama knows he could not succeed without — his wife, Catalina Salamanca. “She is not just my companion, she is my inspiration. She is not just my wife, she is my life; so I thank her for everything, because she gives me wings.”

To learn more about the STEM Master’s Degree Scholarship, which is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, please visit click here. If you have a background in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines, you could be eligible for up to $10,000 in scholarship funding.

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