We caught up with graduate Jesica Borunda to see what she’s been up to since graduating with an online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership in 2016. A classroom teacher while enrolled, she’s now principal of Blackland Prairie Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas.  

Borunda was kind enough to share her journey from teacher to principal, starting with what made her decide to pursue a career in administration and earn a master’s degree in educational leadership online at The University of Texas Permian Basin.  

“I wanted to make sure that I could do something where I could still have my teaching position, still be a good mom … but still invest in myself and grow.”

—Jesica Borunda 

Becoming a Transformational Leader 

Educational leaders, Borunda explained, are transformational. They support and empower teachers so that those teachers can do the same for their students. Unfortunately, that’s not what she experienced in her first two years of teaching. “It didn’t feel like they were supporting you,” she reflected, “and they would just kind of pop in or out to share negative things …” School culture, she realized, depends greatly on whomever sits in the principal’s chair. 

The Decision to Become an Administrator 

Borunda considered quitting teaching altogether — that is, until she was inspired by a transformational leader in her third year of teaching. “(We) were willing to do whatever it took for (our) students because we saw that the leader was willing to do whatever was needed for us as teachers.” That’s when she decided to pivot to a career in administration, where she could help others avoid challenges like those she faced in her first two years of teaching.  

Borunda set her sights on earning a master’s degree in educational leadership. Her first choice of college? UT Permian Basin, where she’d earned an undergraduate degree in child and family studies in 2011.  

Returning to Her Alma Mater 

Borunda did consider other colleges, but none compared to her alma mater. “I wanted to make sure that I could do something where I could still have my teaching position, still be a good mom … but still invest in myself and grow,” she said. Apart from practicum (internship) courses and components, our program allowed Borunda to complete her coursework online, so she could continue teaching and keep up with her family. Plus, she’d be returning to the University that had supported her as an undergraduate.  

Reflecting on a Principal’s Role 

Reflection is a critical aspect of principalship and, accordingly, our online educational leadership program. “We were forced to reflect on a lot of the decisions and push back on people and their thoughts,” said Borunda, “but it was in a safe way that that happens in your day as an assistant principal or principal.”  

Ultimately, “you can’t make everyone happy,” said Borunda, explaining how administrators must act in the best interest of their campus and be able to back up their decisions with logic and reason. If something goes wrong, it’s their responsibility to reflect on their decisions and figure out how best to move forward. Borunda commends our program for helping her to reflect on not only her approach but also the views and opinions of other stakeholders. 

Connecting With Professors and Classmates 

Despite enrolling in online courses, Borunda was by no means disconnected from her professors or classmates. “[You] get so used to one another in this cyber space and in the discussions,” she said, “that you don’t feel uncomfortable posing questions to even other classmates.” 

“I can’t thank the professors there enough, and I think that they have really made an impact on my life.”

—Jessica Borunda 

Over time, Borunda came to recognize the familiar faces guiding her along her academic journey. “[Y]ou kind of just start getting to know them … because for every course,” she explained, “it’s one of the three that you’ve been around in the last year and a half.” She was referring to Program Coordinator Kevin Badgett, EdD, and Assistant Professors Ethel Arzu, EdD, and Rod Uzat, PhD, each of whom is an expert in educational leadership and deeply invested in their students. “I can’t thank the professors there enough,” said Borunda, “and I think that they have really made an impact in my life.” 

Gaining Real-World Experience 

Students document internship experiences in each of our core courses as well as Practicum I and II, learning what it takes to be an educational leader while working closely with an administrator at their school. “I remember the first time I had to walk into the office,” Borunda recalled, “and I was getting internship hours for the practicum, and I was a nervous wreck. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how does this work?’”  

With each internship experience, Borunda grew a little more comfortable, a little surer of herself: “[W]hen I did get in my first actual assistant principal role, I could go back and think about the experiences that I had whenever I was in practicum and make changes because I was still so close to … a teacher mindset.”  

Earning Her Principal Certification 

First and foremost, our online program provides the knowledge and experience needed to succeed as a school leader. It is, however, aligned with the Texas SBEC Principal as Instructional Leader certification competencies. “[A]ll of the content always had an end in mind, and it was connected to our certification exam in some way.” Borunda passed her exam while enrolled in courses, and she credits our program with helping her earn her principal certification.  

Graduating With a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership 

Borunda graduated in 2016 with a master’s degree in educational leadership from UT Permian Basin. Not long after, her career skyrocketed:  

“I think that without that (experience) I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Like I said, as soon as I graduated, I had an assistant principal position. And then, as soon as five years came up, I was able to get my job as an actual principal. And I would most definitely say that the program prepared me for it.”  

Within five years, Borunda went from a dissatisfied teacher to an elementary school principal. She credits our program with preparing her for the role: “I have been successful in my professional career and my personal life has also benefited from just the growing and the teaching that I experienced there at UTPB.”  

Looking Back on Her Time at UT Permian Basin 

“The program itself is a success — the growth and the personal touch it has on a person — you become such a success,” Borunda raved. UT Permian Basin’s online master’s degree in educational leadership program can lead to new and exciting career opportunities, but more importantly, said Borunda, it produces future administrators capable of supporting students and teachers. “And that’s why we were all doing it; it’s because we want to be able to impact our future and our world, so it’s a success all the way around.”  

“I just believe anyone can do it, like you can do it,” encouraged Borunda, “and it is such a great success that it would just, you know, be sad to not at least attempt and give it a try.” 

Apply to UT Permian Basin and its online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program to see where a career in administration will take you. You owe it to yourself to at least give it a try.