Dr. Miguel-Angel Baeza: his PhD in life

Francisco Castro, Contributor

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The life of a person is always different. Some lives have more ups than downs, others are more slow than fast. Some lives in particular are memorable and inspiring for various reasons. One of those reasons can be for what was accomplished. Others, this being the case of Dr. Miguel-Angel Baeza, can be for the effort and the dedication behind the accomplishments.

Baeza is an assistant professor of management at Tarleton State University’s Fort Worth campus. He holds a Doctorate in Management with emphasis in International Business from what is now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Baeza, like many, worked hard to accomplish his goals and be where he is today and his story is one worth reading about.

Born in 1972 in McAllen, Texas, Baeza had played a key role in an attempt to pave the way for his family’s naturalization.

“My dad believed in the American Dream,” Baeza said. “He wanted to come to the U.S. legally so that he could start a family. The immigration laws at that time allowed for all members of the family to receive a Green Card so long as one member was born in the states.”

Baeza explained that his family had made plans for him to be born in the U.S. for them to receive their Green Card.

“My parents had neighbors who would try to do the same thing,” Baeza said. “They would cross the border, go to a mid-wife and have their child born in a house. While this was much easier, my parents found that Immigration Services would not accept the application because there is no official witness of the child being born in the states. So my parents saved as much money as they could and used it to ensure my mother and I would have safe passage across the border and admittance into a clinic in McAllen. Once it was time, my mom made the journey, went to the clinic, and gave birth to me.”

Following his birth, his dad began the immigration process so that the family could receive their documentation. Despite the effort, Baeza found himself crossing the border and spending the early years of his life in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

While growing up in Reynosa, Baeza never thought much of the opportunities he had access to because of his citizenship in the U.S.

“When I was growing up in Mexico, I had hoped that my country would provide me with opportunities for me to reach my potential,” Baeza said. “I knew nothing about the american dream, I just did what I could at my age and hoped that an opportunity would arise within my country.

“Unfortunately, there was no opportunities for me by the time I had turned 18. It was then I realized that my country would not provide me the opportunity I needed to reach my full potential. My mother then gave me the idea to cross the border into the U.S. and learn English for a year and return home so that I could possibly find better opportunities with my newfound skill.”

With a new goal, Baeza returned to McAllen to attend a Magnet School to learn English. After one year at the magnet school, Baeza decided to continue his education at McAllen High School for two years. During that time, he stayed with some relatives whom he could rely on for warm food, a comfortable bed and a roof over his head.

“My uncle and aunt and my cousins found me as part of the family, and they didn’t have any problems with me staying longer than I originally intended,” Baeza said.

Three years into his education, he soon learned of the opportunities available in the U.S.

“Here in America, there are so many opportunities to reach your potential,” Baeza said. “There’s little corruption, more fairness, and its available to anyone who wants to reach their potential.”

After graduating high school, Baeza enrolled in DeVry University to study engineering while working part-time as a bagger in a supermarket.

“I was able to attend DeVry thanks to loans and grants,” Baeza said. “However, I was there for only one semester. I had made many Latino friends and they told me that by the time I finished my formal education in DeVry I would be facing a lot of debt from the loans I used. They suggested that I transfer to a State University to complete my basics and then transfer back to DeVry to complete the remainder of my degree.”

Following his friend’s advice, Baeza transferred to the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburgh, Texas, now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and worked on his basics.

“While at Pan American, I found that they had more careers options at a lower tuition cost,” Baeza said. “So after I completed my basics, I decided to stay in Pan American to pursue a new degree.”

Baeza was then able to graduate in 1998 with a bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems.

“While I was working on getting my bachelor’s degree, I worked part-time in the university’s computer lab as a Lab Attendant,” Baeza added. “Further into the year, I was promoted to a Lab Technician and later on as a Network Specialist. After I graduated, I was offered a full-time position in the university. I was told a new position was going to be offered and that I was fully qualified for the position. So upon graduation, I worked full-time for the university.”

It was during this time that Baeza was able to interact with many students and professors who were in Masters and Doctorate level courses. It was through these interactions that Baeza was able to get a major opportunity.

“There was a Latino professor, Dr. Jose Pagan from Puerto Rico, who one day stopped me and asked, ‘Miguel, what is it that you do after-work?’ and I explained to him how I would travel from home in Reynosa to work in Edinburgh every day, and how I didn’t have any plans at the time,” Baeza said. “After I explained to him, Pagan suggested that I get my masters degree, and even offered a spot in his class with the textbook provided.”

Taking the offer, Baeza took Pagan’s class, and began working on earning his master’s degree.

“Pagan was one of the people who had made an impact on my life,” Baeza explained. “Another person who significantly changed my life was a student named Wolfgan Hink from Germany. I met him from working as a network specialist or the university. He asked me if I would be interested in participating in Study Abroad. At the time, the idea of getting on a plane, traveling to a different country, hearing a new language and being immersed in a new culture scared me. He then told me that I could finish all my degree requirements on campus and then take my electives while studying abroad. He said if I were to do that, he would make arrangements for me to participate in a study abroad program to Germany and even write me a letter of recommendation so that I could be awarded scholarships for the trip.”

Following his advice, Baeza completed his requirements and signed up for the study abroad program.

“It changed my life,” Baeza said. “For the first time, I was in an airport. For the first time, I flew in an airplane. For the first time, I was in a different continent, a different country, a different language, different everything.”

Baeza’s study abroad trips had him traveling to Blumenberg, Germany for one of his electives and then to Salamanca, Spain for a second elective. During the second trip, Baeza then came to a realization which in turn opened a particular path for him to take.

“We were in the central plaza, and I made a comment to Dr. Osuna, the professor in charge of the study abroad trip, saying that I was considering getting a second master’s degree because I realized that I enjoyed learning,” Baeza said. “He then told me, ‘why don’t you get your doctorate degree Miguel?’ and I remember being so impacted. I responded saying that a doctorate degree is for smart people. Dr. Osuna then said, ‘No Miguel, being smart helps, but that alone is not going to be enough. Having discipline, dedication, and being able to make sacrifices is what will help you get your doctorate.’”

Once Baeza returned to the U.S. and graduated with his masters in 2002, he was given an offer to work as an assistant to a Vice President of technology for a private construction company. He left his job at the university and accepted the offer.

“While I was working as the assistant, I began to notice some things about the company,” Baeza said. “For one, they did not seem to treat their employees well. There were two employees, whom I identified with very well, who worked very hard and were dedicated to their jobs. Next thing I know, they were fired. I began to think that I could devote my entire life to working for this company and I could just get fired in an instant. Even after I did my job exceptionally well, I kept having doubts about what could happen if the same were to happen to me. After two years, I made my decision and I went back to Pan-American to get my doctorate degree.”

Baeza began his trip to getting his doctorate degree in Management with emphasis in International Business in 2005 as a part-time student.

“There was a lot of sacrifice, a lot of hard work and a lot of discipline,” Baeza said. “After one year into the program, I decided to quit my job and become a full-time student so that I could fully focus on earning my degree. I spent seven years in the doctorate program and I remember it was because I wanted to do a good dissertation, and it took me two years to do my dissertation.”

So, after seven years of having discipline, dedication, and making sacrifices, Baeza earned his Doctorate degree in Management with emphasis in International Business in 2012.

After graduating, it didn’t take Baeza long to cross the gates and be welcomed to Tarleton.

“My office-mate from Pan-America, Dr. Omar Esqueda, was hired at Tarleton and had informed me that the university was going to need faculty for international business,” Baeza said. “I then spoke with the Dean of College of Business Administration and the Department Head about the positions, and they offered me a position as a visiting professor and that I could apply for the faculty position the following year. I took the offer and I was a visiting professor for the 2012-2013 year. When the position was officially available, I applied and was hired as an assistant professor.”

From there, Baeza spent one more year teaching on the main campus in Stephenville, Texas and then transferred to his current position in the Fort Worth campus.

After spending 42 years of his life searching for an opportunity to reach his full potential, making the best out of the ones he took, meeting and being supported by his professors and classmates and arriving at where he is today, Baeza now looks to completing his second PhD. A PhD in Life.

“This particular doctorate is difficult,” Baeza explained. “There is no learning curve. There is no committee, no mentors, and no curriculum. Despite the difficulty, I feel everything will turn out just fine.”

Baeza had completed one portion of this degree in June 1, 2017, when he married.

“And if all goes well, we might even have children by the end of this year,” Baeza said. “Once I retire, I would like to be able to hang all my degrees, certifications and such on one wall, and on the other, hang my certificates from my PhD in Life.”

Baeza explained that these certificates are framed pictures of his family. His children graduating, his grand-children graduating and everything in between. Until the day comes, Baeza hopes to continue his work as an assistant professor, continue to accomplish parts of his coursework for his PhD in Life and also be able to give back and help others.

“I attended a conference in Fort Worth hosted by the Casero Foundation,” Baeza said. “This foundation invites Latin American families, parents and their high school children, to speak and ask questions to professionals so that the students are informed and encouraged to go to college and so that the parents are supportive and knowledgeable when their children take that step.

“I feel I’ve reached my full potential and I am grateful for the many people who appeared in my life and showed me the way to success. Now, I feel it is my responsibility to give back to the community by helping others reach their full potential. I do not have the answers to everything, but I will say if you work hard, hope for the best and help others, then God will provide”.