Criminal Justice alum Miguel Gutierrez, a former executive chef, knows the value of hard work and teaches kids to not be afraid to fail.
This magna cum laude graduate knows what it means to succeed. Gutierrez grew up in a low-income, single-parent household in Brownsville, TX and moved to San Antonio in 2007. He landed a job as a waiter for Benihana Japanese Steakhouse. He eventually climbed the ladder after proving his worth and earned a position as executive chef. After working tirelessly as an executive chef, Gutierrez decided he wanted more for himself and enrolled at the University of Texas at San Antonio to find his true passion.
"I used to work 60 hours a week -- wake up at 9am and work until 9pm," said Gutierrez. "I would work 6 days a week and sometimes 7. I decided I wouldn't let work determine my life," he said.
When Gutierrez enrolled in school, it changed his life. Gutierrez started at a community college first, where he earned an associate's degree, but he did not stop there. He transferred to UTSA to get his bachelor's degree, and now he holds a degree in criminal justice and a minor in public administration from the UTSA College of Public Policy. While at UTSA, he became a member of two honor societies, one of which is Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. Mike, being the hard worker that he is, juggles his graduate studies and two jobs. During the day, he works as a UTSA student assistant for the College of Public Policy. In the evenings, when he does not have class, he tends to his second job, working for SAMMinistries, a homeless prevention services non-profit organization in San Antonio, teaching life skills and college preparedness to at-risk teens.
Gutierrez did not have much while growing up. His father was incarcerated, but Gutierrez wanted a better life for himself.
"I want something better for my future children and want to give them more than what I had," said Gutierrez.
"I went into criminal justice because while growing up, I would learn about jail, probation, parole, courts, and it's nothing that really intimidates me," he said.
Gutierrez wants to focus on helping juveniles and hopes to one day work as the chief of juvenile probation and implement innovative strategies for rehabilitating juveniles. This, he believes, is his true calling.
"Being able to provide intervention services for at-risk youth when they are young will help them transform to be better," said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez is currently enrolled in the UTSA criminal justice & criminology master's program. The faculty in the undergraduate program were a huge part of his success and they informed him of options for further study.
"If it were not for the faculty there, I probably would not have gone for my master's degree," said Gutierrez. The faculty motivated me and wanted me to succeed," he said. Since he excelled in his undergraduate studies, he was recommended, after one semester, for the VIP nomination, an incentive for high-achieving students to enter the master's program.
Gutierrez believes in paying forward his knowledge and wisdom, and he frequently gives advice to some of the youth he works with, especially when some of them have given up after experiencing hardship and lack of opportunity.
"Don't fear failure," he says.
"Just because you failed at something before doesn't mean you can't achieve later. It's up to you to make something out of yourself," says Gutierrez.
Gutierrez currently volunteers for the Salvation Army and the San Antonio Food Bank.
Miguel Gutierrez, '15, graduate student, criminal justice and criminology