Join Us: Celebrating the Contributions of Jaime Benitez

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

We will be celebrating the contributions of Jaime Benitez on October 23, 2018, and encourage you to join us!

As part of Hispanic heritage month in Washington D. C, we will be joining the ASPIRA Association at a forum to commemorate the exemplary life and extraordinary achievements of Don Jaime Benítez, Puerto Rican Patriot, educator, Rector, President of the University of Puerto Rico and member of the United States Congress, who dedicated his life to public service. We hope you can or are interested in attending this event.

This symposium will be held on October 23, 2018 at 3:30 p.m. in the gold room of the Rayburn House office building. It will consist of a panel on the current state and future of the University of Puerto Rico after the financial crisis and hurricane Maria. It will also address the legacy and imprint of Jaime Benitez as an intellectual and educator in the decades of 40 and 50. The Symposium will end with a reception.

ASPIRA Association has confirmed the attendance of a number of speakers and participants worthy of mention, such as the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, Honorable Representative, Jennifer González-colon; the president of the University of Puerto Rico Dr. Jorge Haddock; the interim rector of UPR Rio Piedras, Luis Ferro; UPRAA's own Jacob Lozada; former mayor of San Juan Héctor Luis Acevedo; the professor of the faculty of law of UDC RAFAEL COX ALOMAR; and vice president middle States, Hilda Columbus Plumey.

RSVP here:

For more information about this event contact: Hilda Crespo Hcrespo@Aspiradc.Org or call 202-483-7340.

Jaime Benítez

Hispanic Heritage Month 2018

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

Each year, National Hispanic Heritage Month is recognized from September 15 through October 15. With the 2018 theme, “Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions”, we celebrate the customs, legacies, and achievements of all Hispanic Americans who have helped shape our great Nation.

UPRAA would like to recognize the achievements of all Hispanic Americans during Hispanic Heritage Month by spotlighting a few of our own members! You can share in the celebration by tagging or DMing @UPRAA_org on Twitter, @UPRAA on Facebook, or by emailing Jose O. Torres at

UPRAA Facebook Post-hispanic heritage


Announcement of Our new Logo & Brand Identity

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

Introducing UPRAA’s New Brand Identity

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We are proud to announce the launch of the new UPRAA logo as part of the ongoing evolution of our organization’s brand.

UPRAA has grown and evolved over the years, and we felt it was time for a change. We have refreshed our branding to reflect who we are today and to symbolize our future. We believe the new logo reflects a more modern look and better captures what we’ve become since 2003: an organization dedicated to improving lives by supporting the academic goals of the University of Puerto Rico educational system, while better connecting UPR alumni in the Continental U.S. and abroad to each other and their community.

You’ll see the new branding anywhere we’re out in public, like our website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; very soon you’ll see it in all of our organization collateral and even at our Charity Golf Classic on October 5th, 2018.

Look out for more updates—like an updated website with a fresh look, improved functionality, and new features—as we continue to try to better serve our members!

If you have used the UPRAA logo in any of your marketing materials, please assist us in updating them. We appreciate your kind support. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin


San Juan, PR- With the mission to encourage and support the new and upcoming generation of professionals, alumni of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), living in the Continental United States, presented scholarships to twenty students of the UPR system. The Association of University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Friends Abroad (UPRAA), granted scholarships to the top 20 out of 200 applications submitted by students who demonstrated financial need and excelled academically in the science, technology, engineering, math and several other fields.

UPRAA gave $1,000 grants to each of the selected students. The funds for these scholarships come from fundraising sources and through the support of corporations like Ford Motor Company, Corvus Group, and Dominion Energy.

Jose Torres, President of UPRAA, said that there was more to excelling in the STEAM fields. In the selection process, reviewers took into consideration the letters of recommendation, the applicants written essay, and financial needs.

The 200 applicants were from all of the eleven University of Puerto Rico campuses. Nonetheless, from the twenty selected, three students were from the UPR Piedras Campus, four from the UPR Ponce Campus, ten from UPR Mayaguez Campus, two from UPR Cayey Campus, and one form the UPR School of Medicine.

From its beginning in 2003, UPRAA has granted over $180,000 in scholarships to UPR students. Torres mentioned, “Our philanthropic work demonstrates the impact that the University of Puerto Rico personally had in every one of us at UPRAA. Our scholarship program is what makes every UPRAA member. Knowing that we are touching and helping the lives of the upcoming generation is the greatest satisfaction that I, as president of this organization, can have. “

Even though most of UPRAA ’s events are held in the mainland (DC, Maryland, and Virginia area), Jose Torres urged that every alumni of the UPR system should join the organization, or if not, find a way to donate and give back to their Alma Mater. “We all must support the academic institution that gave us the foundation and tools to be successful professionals today. Any  contribution will help in one way or another to the future of Puerto Rico and our upcoming leaders.”

At the event, that took place on April 12th at the terrace of the main administrative offices of the UPR system in San Juan Puerto Rico, Dr. Darrel Hillman Beccera, Interim Chancellor of the UPR System, thanked the continuous support that the association has been giving for the past years. “Those who extend their hands to help this amazing institution, that has given much to Puerto Rico, is considered a true friend and ally. Today, twenty of our students are not only receiving a scholarship, but a gesture of motivation and support for them to accomplish their dreams and goals.” Dr. Hillman ended up his speech by thanking, once again, UPRAA for their amazing work and for maintaining a direct link although from afar.

Vivian Dávila, Public Relations and Communications Manager of Ford in Puerto Rico, was one of the special guests. Dávila highlighted that Ford has been supporting UPRAA and its scholarship program since 2013. “Ford’s mission throughout the world is to have a better quality of life in every city that we serve. At Ford, we focus on education as the spearhead to the progress of individuals and communities. Ford grants scholarships in the STEM areas as an investment to the future of mobility solutions. To find these solutions, we need experts in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields.”

UPRAA represents thousands of alumni residing in Puerto Rico and throughout the U.S. supporting charitable, scholarship, educational and mentorship programs. Its goal is to facilitate educational and networking programs to understand the economic situation in Puerto Rico better and stimulate active participation of the community to assist in finding solutions.

UPRAA recognizes distinguished alumni and Puerto Rican members of Congress

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin


During the Annual Holidays and Excellence Awards Reception held at the US Congress, UPRAA recognized a group of Distinguished Alumni and Puerto Rican members of the US Congress for their leadership and contributions to our community.  This exciting membership event, held on December 5th, in the Rayburn House Office Building, brought together a large group of UPRAA members, UPRAA friends, and leaders from the private sector. The event was graciously supported by Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who serves as Representative of the 3rd District of Ohio.


The 2017 UPRAA’s Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented to Juan L. Negrón, UPR-Rio Piedras; Francheska Reyes, UPR-Mayaguez; Jomar I. Martínez, UPR-Mayaguez; Josué Rivera, UPR-Bayamon; Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, UPR-Mayaguez; Rosanna Torres, UPR-Rio Piedras; and Nairka Joe Treviño, UPR-Mayaguez.  UPRAA recognized these distinguished leaders for their exemplary achievements and triumphs as a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico. Their dedication to lead initiatives across federal and private agencies represents the best of our Puerto Rican young professionals and serves an example for others to emulate.

UPRAA also recognized the following distinguished members of Congress with the Excellence in Public Service Award for their untiring work in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts for Puerto Rico:  Hon. Jenniffer González-Colón, Hon. Luis V. Gutiérrez, Hon. Raúl Labrador, Hon. José E. Serrano, Hon. Darren Soto, and Hon. Nydia M. Velázquez.

UPRAA President, Mr. Jose O. Torres, and the Interim President of the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Darren Hillman, presented the above mentioned awards.  Dr. Hillman, the Rectors of the various campuses, and several senior leaders of the University honored the audience with their presence.  Dr Hillman, the guest speaker for the evening, addressed the audience with a solemn message to all alumni and friends to assist in the recovery efforts of our Alma Mater and to unite in establishing our Alma Mater as one of the premier institutions in the world.

During the event, Mrs. Laurie Buckhout, President and CEO of The Corvus Consulting Group, presented a generous donation of $5,000 to support a Scholarship Program for ROTC students at the University of Puerto Rico.  Mrs. Buckhout, a retired US Army Colonel, expressed her gratitude to the many Puerto Rican officers serving in our military.  She asked the University of Puerto Rico to continue to develop these great quality officers; future leaders of our nation.

UPRAA Board of Directors express the most sincere thanks to all the sponsors for the contributions and continued support received through the Year 2017

Hurricane Maria Relief Fund

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Just two days after Hurricane Maria entered through Puerto Rico destroying everything in its path, members of the diaspora have come together to find ways they could assist their friends and relatives. The American Red Cross has indicated that as generous as it may be to collect personal goods and donations, it becomes very challenging to transport individual boxes of goods and get it to the people that need it the most. Therefore, it is best to collect funds and provide it to local organizations that already have local ties with the most vulnerable populations and will ensure the money goes to the right people.

To this end, UPRAA has established a Disaster Relief Fund for Puerto Rico to offer all alumni and Friends Abroad an opportunity to donate.  All funds collected will be channeled to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration’s United for Puerto Rico relief efforts.

In an Island where people have lost their homes and entire communities have been displaced, any contribution you can make will help make the difference. Thanks for your donation.


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UPRAA closes the year recognizing its Founding Members!

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UPRAA Founding Members from left: Ms. Grace Dewan, Mr. Tomás Esterrich, Ms. Sara Clemente, Mr. Mario Acosta, Dr. Jacob Lozada, and Dr. Margarita Benítez. 

During a special celebration at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D,C., UPRAA celebrated its last event of the year with a well-deserved recognition of its founding members for their contributions and continued support to the development of our alumni organization and the educational goals of our Hispanic youth. UPRAA’s Vice-President, Jose O. Torres, welcomed all in attendance saying, “tonight we celebrate all our great accomplishments during this year and to recognize the founding members who had the vision to make something bigger than themselves, make a difference in the lives of our youth, and to give back as they once received.”

The group of 13 University of Puerto Rico graduates came together in 2003 with a vision to establish an organization in which University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Friends located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area could converge in fraternal union to foster common interests and support charitable and scholarship programs. The founding members established an interim Board of Directors, completed the incorporation of the Association, and submitted the application for tax exemption, as prescribed by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. By November 2003, at a reception held at the Hall of the Americas at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, the President of the University of Puerto Rico and the UPRAA Interim Board of Directors, officially launched the Association led by its first President Dr. Jacob Lozada. “A dream come true; it feels like a well-anticipated class reunion,” Dr. Lozada commented.

Members of this exclusive group of professionals included Ms. Betty Paugh, Mr. Mario Acosta-Vélez, Dr. Margarita Benítez, Ms. Sara Clemente, Ms. Grace Dewan, Mr. Tomás Esterrich, Ms. Nalini Lamba-Nieves, Dr. Jacob Lozada, Mr. Adán Rodríguez-Arroyo, Mr. Armando Valdés-Prieto, Mr. José Vega, Mr. Javier Vélez-Arrocho, and Ms. Loida Velilla. The founding members continue to support the efforts of the organization and serve as mentors to current board members.

Robert Alvarez, Member of the Board of Directors, said that “UPRAA continues to offer programs geared to make a difference in the Hispanic Community” and invited all to be a part of it. As part of the Combined Federal Campaign, UPRAA provides all federal employees with the opportunity to provide charitable contributions to UPRAA’s Scholarship fund. UPRAA also highlighted Hispanic women during its Women Leadership Series for their distinguished careers and for serving as examples for our youth. UPRAA offers many sponsorship opportunities during all its events to include its primary fundraising event, the Hispanic Heritage Golf event at Andrews Air Force Base during the month of September.

Jose Torres announced that in 2017, UPRAA is launching its mentoring program to enhance our youth educational growth and to provide our members with ways to serve and opportunities to volunteer. UPRAA appreciates the support received throughout 2016 and asks you to join in our effort to make the difference in our youth lives in the upcoming year.

Click here to view pictures of the event!

Celebrating the contributions of our Puerto Rican diaspora to the Federal Government: An interview with Ileana Pérez Nieves

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

upraa_Out of the two million employees in the Federal Government, Hispanics represent only an 8.5% of the federal workforce, according to a report published by the Office of Personnel Management for fiscal year 2015. Despite the staggering numbers, there are Hispanics and Puerto Ricans in particular, who have become the epitome of federal service and excellence. Such is the case of Ileana Pérez Nieves, an UPRAA member and an alumna of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Mayaguez Campus.

Ileana Pérez Nieves works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), an intelligence agency under the United States Department of Defense. She serves as a program manager for the International Solutions Office, the office responsible for delivering systems connecting the National System for Geospatial-Intelligence and International Partners; which in turn facilitates collaborative support for national, defense and civil customers. Ileana has an impressive academic background: In addition to her Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from the UPR, she holds an Interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSE/MS) with specialization in Engineering Management and Leadership from Purdue University and the Thunderbird School of Management, respectively; and a Certificate in Global Management from the Thunderbird School of Management. Even more impressive is the fact that she completed all her graduate studies while being a single mother and working full-time. She is charismatic, intelligent and passionate about life and family.

Most recently, Ileana was highlighted by NGA during Hispanic Heritage Month for her outstanding compromise and contributions. Here is a glimpse into her profession, values and aspirations:

1. As a Hispanic and a woman, what is it like to work for NGA or the federal government in general?

It is definitely challenging, but at the same time it has its benefits. As a Hispanic and woman I feel that I have to constantly prove myself and my technical abilities, which at times can be challenging. However, being one of the very few Hispanic women, people notice you. For example, sometimes I am talking in the elevator at work and someone recognizes my voice (accent!) from the conferences calls. My agency is huge, therefore being noticed is a great benefit. Also, by knowing another language, I have been able to help my Agency with several translations which have provided me exposure to different organizations.

2. What has been your biggest accomplishment and your biggest challenge at NGA?

As most Hispanics the “language barrier” has definitely been my biggest challenge. Even though I am fluent in English, it took time to feel comfortable with the language. In order to compensate for that, since I moved to the United States, I started asking my co-workers to correct me when I am saying or writing something incorrectly.
I recently earned an award for “Making Information Technology (IT) Happen”. As a Hispanic woman in the IT business, this was a major accomplishment not only for me, but hopefully for other Hispanic women in the talent pipeline.

3. In your current job, what are you passionate about or what makes you thrive?

I am extremely passionate about working with our International Partners. I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, and in this job I feel I can do that without leaving the building. Also I really like and thrive working in high-pace environments. This job is full of emergencies and surprises, which is something I truly enjoy.

4. What are your short term and long term goals?

My short-term career goals include supporting one of the international sites for a couple of years. I believe that the knowledge gained from working side-by-side with users and customers will be invaluable for both my career and for the Agency. As far as long term goals, I see myself leading an IT department of one of the major Intelligence Agencies or as an Small Business Owner for an IT company.

5. You were recently highlighted in NGA during Hispanic Heritage Month, could you tell me about that experience and what it means to you?

It was such an amazing privilege that meant so much to me. I always try to make sure I represent my heritage the best way I possibly can, and make way for other Hispanics to thrive in the workplace as well. I’m aware of how my actions can positively or negatively impact people’s perspective of other Hispanics. Therefore, being recognized in this manner was a clear indication that all that hard work is paying off, and that my performance will not only open opportunities in my career but also in the careers of other Hispanics.

6. What work opportunities or internships were instrumental in your professional development?

The opportunity that was the instrumental in my professional development was being selected for the Operations Management Leadership Program (OMLP) for General Electric (GE). GE is a great company, and this was an elite program, which was very hard to get into at the time. It was a two-year rotational program in which you had to move every 6 months to different manufacturing sites and to new roles that required different skills. Simultaneously, you had to be taking numerous leadership and management trainings and certifications in order to successfully complete the program. This job was not only extremely challenging, but also it was my first opportunity out of college. Being able to succeed at that job was a great confidence builder for all of my future jobs. Throughout this program I learned not to be scared when new opportunities came my way and taught me to be aggressive and take more risks on new roles.

7. Who is your role model?

My mother. She has always been a source of inspiration and support to me. I always saw her as such a strong, intelligent, and independent woman and I wanted to be someday like her. Having such a strong woman raising me was a true blessing and I hope to always make her proud.

8. What advice would you give to recent graduates interested in following a career path similar to yours?

Believe in yourself or no one else will. In college, as a Mechanical engineering student, I was one of the only women in the classroom and at work in most meetings and projects I am one of the only women (and Hispanic!) in the room. With time I taught myself to believe that I belong in every room and I encourage all young female students and professionals to do the same. You have to teach yourself to be confident in any room you walk in. You are not in that room by coincidence; you are there because of your dedication and hard work. Always know that you belong there just as much as anybody else and understand that the only thing holding you back is you. This was an advice from a woman I admire a lot, that I will never forget.

9. Any final thoughts or advice about life or values?

My best advice in regards to life is very simple…“Just do it!”
Thinking about doing a Master’s Degree? Just do it!
Thinking about taking a trip (that you can afford)? Just do it!
Thinking about taking a new job outside of your comfort zone? Just do it!
Make educated decisions, but never overthink a decision because of how hard it will be. There will never be a right time for these types of decisions, the right time is NOW.

Thank you Ileana for inspiring us and for representing the Puerto Rican diaspora with exemplary work and leadership!

UPRAA grants Sixteen Scholarships to an Outstanding Group of Students in Puerto Rico!

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

upraa_scholOn Thursday, September 20th, 2016, the Association of University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Friends Abroad (UPRAA) awarded sixteen scholarships to a group of outstanding students who have demonstrated superior academic performance and financial need.

During an inspiring ceremony in the Botanic Garden of the University of Puerto Rico, the Interim President, Dr. Celeste Freytes Gonzalez, congratulated the students for their admirable efforts and praised UPRAA for their continued support to education. Along with our special guests were Academic Deans from Universities throughout the island, Mr Joe Vila, Community Outreach Manager of the Ford Fund, and several family members and friends.

Ten of these students received special scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) thanks to a generous grant from the Ford Fund and six others by contributions from Dominion Power.

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Janairis Colón
Sports Therapy, UPR Ponce

Josean Luciano Vázquez
Biotechnology, UPR Ponce

Stephanie C. Ruiz
Audiology, Ciencias Médicas

Lorraine N. Vélez Torres
Microbiology, Ciencias Médicas

Tatiana M. Matos Gascot
Pharmacy, Ciencias Médicas

Michelle N. Telón Sosa
Architecture, UPR Rio Piedras

Gretchen M. Carrasquillo Ramos
IT, UPR Rio Piedras

Hecbel M. Rodriguez Crespo
Clinic Psychology, UPR Rio Piedras

Valerie N. Rodriguez Hernández
Psychology Investigative, Rio Piedras

Paola J. Castello López
Chemistry, UPR Arecibo

Edgar O. Avilés Rosa
Animal Science, UPR Mayagüez

Camille Amaro-Berrocal
Marine Science, UPR Mayagüez

Jose Juan Fontán Pagán
Civil Engineering, UPR Mayagüez

Keishla Vallejo Muñoz
Civil Engineering, UPR Mayagüez

Alanis P. Delgado
Biotechnology, UPR Mayagüez

Doris M. Laguer
Geology, UPR Mayagüez

UPRAA was represented by four of its Board members: Dr Franklin A. Carrero, Dr. Jacob Lozada, Mr Richard A. Negron and Mr Jose O. Torres. “Today, our scholarship program offers students some badly needed relief from the troubled economic environment in Puerto Rico,” said Richard Negron, UPRAA Board member. UPRAA is doing its part to help our youth in Puerto Rico by giving back. “I hope that when these students reach the top of the success ladder they, too, emulate our example by reaching out and helping others,” said Richard.

Jose Torres, UPRAA’s Vice President, expressed how proud one feels when you are afforded the opportunity to support students in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States through scholarships. He asked all UPR Alumni and Friends to join UPRAA in support of our youth and to build a better tomorrow by giving back.

UPRAA thanks the Ford Fund and Dominion Power for their generosity and expresses very special thanks to Ms. Gloria Rodriguez, CEO of Comunicad and her Staff for their continued support and expertise provided during the coordination of this event.

Visit to become a member and support our efforts. Also see the pictures of the scholarships awards ceremony coming soon!

UPRAA Salutes our Veterans!

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

unnamed_1...for their selfless service to our nation and honors one of its own:  Lieutenant Colonel (US Army Retired), Dennis O. Freytes.

It is with great pleasure that UPRAA recognizes one of its own: UPR alumnus, Retired Lieutenant Colonel, Dennis O. Freytes.  Colonel Freytes was recently inducted into the Florida Veteran’s Hall of Fame for his distinguished military and civic service.  On 9 November 2016, the Florida Governor and his cabinet recognized his efforts at a well-attended ceremony at the Florida Capitol Building.  The Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame recognizes and honors those military veterans who, through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the state of Florida through civic, business, public service or other pursuits.

Colonel Freytes has worked as an executive, manager, and as advisor in business, government, non-profits, and community organizations.  He is a community leader serving on community governing boards in support of our elders, youth, families, Veterans, small businesses and national, state, and local government.  During his military service, he commanded Infantry, Special Forces, Airborne, Medical, Engineer, Readiness Group, and ROTC Units on security and humanitarian missions protecting and defending our Freedom.

Colonel Freytes has received various appointments to Governing Boards, served on Government Transition Advisory Committee for American Veterans, and currently serves on Congressional and local Mayor’s American Veterans Advisory Councils.  He holds Master Degrees in Public Administration and in Human Resources, a Bachelor in Business Administration, and served as a Professor of Military Science in the University of Puerto Rico, educating our future leaders.

Colonel Freytes is an example to emulate. We congratulate him on his achievements and thank him for his great service to our nation.