Daniel Perez isn’t the first person in his family to receive a college degree, but he is the first to earn a graduate degree.
Knowing what it’s like to apply for and start graduate school with little guidance is what motivated Perez to dedicate his time over the last four years to help UNLV undergrads prepare for grad school. He did it through the Graduate College’s Grad Rebel Advantage program.
“The biggest draw for me [to be a Grad Rebel Advantage mentor] was wanting to facilitate an environment and the means for success that I didn’t have available to me as an undergrad when I was considering graduate school or just starting out. At no fault of anyone in particular, that kind of support just wasn’t there,” said the 2023 anthropology Ph.D. graduate. “I really valued helping undergrads prepare. I saw it as my way of helping all boats rise.”
The yearlong Grad Rebel Advantage program helps annual cohorts of UNLV undergraduate students prepare for graduate school at UNLV, or elsewhere, through mentorship, workshops, and professional development opportunities. Since launching in 2018, around 100 undergraduate students have participated each year. In addition to receiving graduate school preparation help, students receive a completion scholarship, honor cord, T-shirt, the opportunity to enroll in graduate-level courses (for students with a minimum 3.00 GPA) for undergraduate credit or to hold for future graduate credit, and more.
Since the beginning, the Graduate College has invited graduate and professional students to participate in Grad Rebel Advantage by serving as mentors, giving them an opportunity to sharpen their mentorship skills, gain experience working with college students, and earn a $250/semester scholarship.
“I highly recommend the Grad Rebel Advantage program to any graduate students wanting to impact other students outside of the classroom,” said Perez.
Becoming a Mentor
Grad Rebel Advantage mentors attend two mentor meetings, advise eight to 15 students, host a cohort meeting in the fall and in the spring, participate in the program’s kickoff and commencement events, and complete assessments for their mentees.
While mentors are expected to hold one cohort meeting each semester, Perez hosted three each semester to accommodate different schedules, all while serving as the president of UNLV’s Latinx Graduate Student Association and completing his Ph.D. program.
“I asked if they had questions and reminded them of the program requirements, but I also tried to make it an open venue, whether in the group setting or individually, where they could share information about their academic experience if they were so inclined. Are their parents supportive of them pursuing a graduate degree? How do they feel about the cost of graduate school? It wasn’t to probe, but to show that I was willing to talk about challenging or sensitive topics,” he said.
Perez’s support of his mentees never ended when the program wrapped up every May.
“I answered questions throughout the summer for mentees who still wanted assistance – things like helping with a CV, or sharing what I thought of a particular university or program. I found that to be really enriching, and it made an impactful change in students’ academic journeys,” he said.
Perez found the time spent in the Grad Rebel Advantage program benefited other areas of his professional life.
"My time as a Grad Rebel Advantage mentor led me to a renewed sense of service in helping students within my own discipline find and hone their own interests toward graduate school and/or the job market," he said.
[Interested in grad school? Get involved in the Grad Rebel Advantage Program.]