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Home | Tag Archives: The University of Texas at El Paso

Tag Archives: The University of Texas at El Paso

UTEP awarded $1.1M NASA Cooperative Agreement to develop Aerospace Manufacturing Workforce and Supply Chain

Thanks to a new agreement between NASA and UTEP, the University’s NASA MIRO Center for Space and Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) has significantly enhanced opportunities for UTEP engineering students

The new cooperative agreement with NASA will benefit 23 UTEP graduate and undergraduate students and provide internships at NASA centers for six of them.

“This is another example of UTEP being at the forefront in catalyzing a technology-driven and engineering talent integrated economy for El Paso,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., associate vice president for strategic initiatives and cSETR’s founder and director. “We are pleased to strengthen our partnership with NASA and our regional economic development stakeholders through this program.”

According to officials, during the last two decades, domestic manufacturing sectors that support the complex supply chain needs for U.S. aerospace and defense industries have been shrinking. A critical challenge for aerospace and defense sectors is the shortage of high-skill and middle-skill workforce for the export-controlled and classified manufacturing environment. This presents a national security concern and threatens America’s global competitiveness.

UTEP is one of three universities that will be supported by this new NASA program designed to provide the education and experience needed to help address manufacturing needs in the U.S. aerospace sector. The other participating institutions are Tuskegee University and Virginia State University.

Funding from the program will be used for curriculum-based learning, research, training, internships and apprenticeships to meet the growing demand for expertise in high-volume aerospace manufacturing. UTEP will strategically partner with Western Technical College for the broader implementation of this new initiative.

This new program also will include an entrepreneurship component connected with the newly developed UTEP cSETR-Horizon City Aerospace and Defense Small Business Incubator.

The new NASA-backed initiative is the most recent example of how UTEP, in partnership with aerospace and defense industries (Lockheed Martin Corp.), regional stakeholders (the City of El Paso, Horizon City, Workforce Solutions Borderplex and El Paso Chamber of Commerce) and small businesses (METI Inc., Protech Global Solution and IDA Technology Inc.) is leading regionwide efforts to create an aerospace and defense manufacturing ecosystem in the Southwest.

“This is an important and proactive opportunity to continue building a talent pipeline and strengthening our manufacturing ecosystem across our community,” said Jessica Herrera, director of economic development for the City of El Paso.

cSETR is a NASA-funded aerospace engineering and technology research center at UTEP. cSETR maintains extensive partnerships with members of the aerospace and defense industries, and with federal agencies. The center has trained and placed more than 400 engineers in the aerospace and defense industries throughout the last 10 years. cSETR provides “end-to-end” capabilities for components to systems-level development and test and evaluation of aerospace hardware and software, as well as cooperative professional education and training services.

To learn more about cSETR, visit their webpage.

UTEP, EPCC study focuses on Antibiotic Resistance in Rio Grande

A 1,260-mile portion of the Rio Grande flows between the United States and Mexico along the entire length of Texas’ southern border, providing water for drinking, irrigation and recreational activities to communities on both sides of the border.

But according to a study in the Journal of Health and Pollution, researchers at The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College discovered that the Rio Grande is a “hotspot” for multidrug-resistant bacteria, antibiotic residues and antimicrobial resistant genes, which “may represent a public health concern” for people who use the river.

“We know there is bacteria in the Rio Grande’s water, but we wanted to see if there was antibiotic multidrug-resistant bacteria and residues because the water from the river is treated as potable drinking water and kids and their families go and swim there, especially from Mexico,” said Maria Fuentes, a student in UTEP’s Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. Program and the paper’s first author.

“This could potentially be a public health issue because if you come into contact with the contaminated water, it could lead to more gastrointestinal infections,” she added. “It could also contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance through the development and spreading of more genes of resistance in the environment. However, more research needs to be done to see how serious of a public health concern this is.”

Fuentes participated in the yearlong 2017 study led by Delfina C. Domínguez, Ph.D., UTEP professor of clinical laboratory science (CLS) and co-investigators Wen-Yee Lee, Ph.D., UTEP associate professor of chemistry, and Maria E. Alvarez, Ph.D., professor and coordinator of biology and chemistry programs at EPCC’s Transmountain Campus. The Edward N. and Margaret Marsh Foundation funded the study.

During the months of February, April, July, September and December, Fuentes and EPCC students sampled water and sediment from three sites within a 16-mile radius of the river from El Paso to Sunland Park, New Mexico, and Anapra, Mexico.

In addition to collecting samples, EPCC students identified the bacteria isolated from the water and sediment. UTEP’s chemistry department conducted a chemical analysis to determine which antibiotics were present in the river. Fuentes and the CLS program collaborated to identify antibiotic resistance genes found in bacteria.

The study found that antibiotics were in 92% of both water and sediment samples gathered from the Rio Grande. Genes conferring resistance were recovered from all collection sites. Of the isolated bacteria, 64% were resistant to at least two synergistic antibiotic combinations and 15% were found to be resistant to 20 or more individual antibiotics.

“This project indeed involved different expertise and resources to study a very complex and unstudied issue on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in our region,” Lee said. “The project required researchers from biology, chemistry and health sciences to provide a better understanding of what antibiotics (are in the water) and to what extent they have impacted our region.”

Fuentes said antibiotics have found their way into the Rio Grande through animal and human waste and discharge from wastewater treatment plants, which do not have the capability to filter medications out of the water after they’ve been flushed down the toilet.

Bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance after being exposed to drugs in the water, as part of a process of natural selection which, according to the study, may lead to an increased number and severity of infections, frequency of treatment failure, allergies and alteration of intestinal flora if people come in direct contact with the water.

Despite these findings, researchers suggest more studies are needed to determine the risk of the river’s water quality to public health. In the meantime, Dominguez hopes to raise awareness about the use and misuse of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance in the border region.

“Other studies show that antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in rivers all over the world, not just the Rio Grande,” Dominguez said. “But we still need to study the impact on public health. We need to conduct surveys and do testing in the community. But very minimum concentrations of antibiotics are not good at all in the river because they may impact the microflora we have.”

Alvarez said the study has not only had a profound impact on the protection of water quality and human health in the U.S.-Mexico border region, but it also enabled students from different disciplines and institutions to engage with one another.

“The collaborative nature of the projects conducted in the laboratories at UTEP and EPCC provide outstanding opportunities for students at both institutions to acquire expertise in research areas that directly affect our community,” Alvarez said. “Co-authors Stephanie Gutierrez, Daniella Sahagun and Jose Gomez were EPCC students when this project was done and Jose Mendoza and Stephanie Bauer were former EPCC students who graduated from UTEP and NMSU.”

For Fuentes, a 2018 graduate from UTEP’s Master in Public Health program, working on the project made her more aware of how the choices people make impact the environment.

Last summer, she continued her research by looking at the water quality at water parks and irrigation sites around El Paso, after the water has been treated. This pilot study showed that genes of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have the ability to survive the filtration process and find their way back to the community. Still, more data and research is needed to understand the impact of these findings as a health concern on antibiotic resistance.

“This (Rio Grande) study has definitely made me more aware of the environment,” Fuentes said. “It makes you think about what you’re drinking, what you’re eating, and what you’re throwing away. This study is more a reflection of our behavior. It is about understanding how we interact with the environment and how we all have to be responsible for how we treat the environment, because we depend on it.”

Author:  Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

UTEP selected to host workshop that tackles disinformation

First Draft, an international network created in part to combat the spread of disinformation, has organized a workshop at The University of Texas at El Paso, for journalists and others who collect and disseminate news.

Approximately 50 people from throughout the region, to include communication students and faculty from UTEP, will participate in 2020 Live Simulation: El Paso. The event will include a real-time disinformation crisis scenario.

According to First Draft, the simulation will put participants in a manufactured “breaking news” event to test journalists’ ability to identify holes in the story and their possible responses in collaboration with their newsrooms. Participants will learn how they can use their cell phones and laptops to access tools such as data verification systems and other technology platforms to identify and alleviate disinformation online during a live reporting situation.

Kate Gannon, associate professor of practice in UTEP’s Department of Communication, said this is a great opportunity, especially for border journalists who try to stop the flow of untruths.

“It’s like Wac-A-Mole with bad information,” said Gannon, who earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and her Master of Fine Arts degree in bilingual creative writing from UTEP. She worked in journalism for more than 27 years, the last 17 in online media. “There is a big need for these kinds of tools. They will help develop a disciplined process of verification. It’s like a vaccine to mitigate disinformation.”

Gannon offered the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting in El Paso as an example of a crisis where individuals shared unverified information through social media that proved false. She said that there are digital checklists people can access quickly to authenticate a piece of information.

The free event will include presentations and three master classes to include the simulation. The two other classes will focus on how to identify, recognize and report instances of disinformation, as well as an overview of a deliberate use of false or misleading information to promote a political or group agenda to undermine confidence in trusted information sources.

This training is important because every journalist needs to know how to find, verify and responsibly report disinformation, said Aimee Rinehart, First Draft New York bureau editor and the workshop’s lead trainer.

“If they do not have these skills, they are primed to be fooled by disinformation actors,” said Rinehart, who has worked in newsrooms large and small since 1996. “Local newsrooms are particularly vulnerable to being hoaxed and disinformation actors know this.”

While the goal of the training team is to teach, Rinehart said that the instructors also hope to absorb any best practices the area’s journalists learned from the Aug. 3 shooting. She said the recent crisis was one of the reasons First Draft selected El Paso as one of its training spots.

The workshop is one of 14 planned immersive training exercises scheduled at academic institutions and news organization headquarters around the country. Other sites include UT Austin, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, the University of Missouri in Columbia, and Arizona State University in Phoenix.

Another positive aspect to this regional workshop is the opportunity to introduce professional journalists to UTEP’s journalism students who often are bilingual, bicultural and digitally proficient. What the UTEP students learn and who they meet through the training will make them stronger job candidates for professional newsrooms.

Rinehart said that participants of the UTEP workshop could join in First Draft’s collaborative online platform CrossCheck. The nonprofit plans to link journalists, researchers and topic experts in such areas as voting rights, election funds and the U.S. Census so they can exchange information about what they witness online.

The nonprofit’s New York offices would be able to map trends and patterns of disinformation across the country. They would contact local partners and give students a chance to participate in a year-long national project that includes observations of the census, the Tokyo Olympics, and the U.S. elections from primaries and caucuses to conventions to the general election.

The workshop is scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, at The University of Texas at El Paso.

University Honors Program gives top UTEP Students an exceptional experience

Throughout high school, Daniela Morales was a model student. She studied diligently, was an active member in numerous honors and student organizations and frequently volunteered in the community.

When the class valedictorian and self-described “overachiever” enrolled at The University of Texas at El Paso, she challenged herself to continue building off the momentum she created for academic success.

Now, reflecting on her experience thus far as a Miner, the senior mechanical engineering major pinpoints her involvement with the University Honors Program (UHP) as having ignited her professional interests and satiated her desire for academic rigor.

The UHP has long supplied top-performing students with rigorous and enriching academic experiences by offering opportunities aimed at engaging students with their professors and peers for meaningful and supportive working relationships that foster knowledge, research and discovery.

“Being a member of the UHP helped keep me consistent and allowed me to build off of my previous accomplishments,” Morales said. “I was exposed to research during my first semester through the work I did with the program and was able to establish working relationships with my professors. They got to know me, and I was able to better understand concepts and learn more. The extra honors projects made me realize I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and work in the energy field.”

In fall 2018, the UHP shifted its programing to align more closely with the UTEP Edge and follow a college-based model. Program leaders sought input from the University’s schools and colleges to allow each the ability to customize the experiences to the specific professional and personal needs of each student.

The revised model incorporates high-impact interdisciplinary practices that provide members with structured advising, team-based projects, research and creative activities, service engagement, and professional experiences.

Honors students must participate in at least one Edge experience per year in order to graduate with honors. Their options include capstone experiences, learning communities, community engagement, research and scholarly activities, internships, student employment, study abroad/study away and student leadership.

“This new revamped program will be a real resume builder for students focused on establishing experience at UTEP,” said Norman Love, Ph.D., a provost’s faculty fellow supporting the honors program. “The components of the program are grounded in making sure students are successful by the time they complete the program, and not only successful but have the ideal set of qualities their college would like them to have by the time they graduate.”

UTEP senior and nursing major Alivia Ugalde fully embraced the shift in format and took advantage of the new opportunities. Through her participation in the UHP, she was able to take part in many high-impact Edge experiences, such as community engagement and student leadership, which led to further opportunities for advancement on campus.

Ugalde was recognized as a 21st Century Scholar, became the president of the University Honors Council, and serves as a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Golden Key International Honor Society and the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.

“I was able to become more engaged with the UTEP community and I think that’s what UTEP students should do,” Ugalde said. “A lot of students come to class, then go straight home, but I think it’s important to get more involved and make the most of our college experience. The Honors Program has allowed me to do that.”

Being a member of the UHP also opens the door to a plethora of resources and incentives exclusive to honors students, such as eligibility for scholarships only accessible to UHP members, eligibility to participate in exclusive honors organizations and societies, opportunities to take part in national honors conferences and invitations to honors events throughout the year.

“Being a part of the UHP builds a community among our UTEP scholars,” Love said. “They get to meet other likeminded students at the various honors events. They can use these networks and scholarships offered to members to advance their experience and set them up for success.”

In the future, Love hopes the UHP continues to grow and evolve and achieve national recognition. He hopes more honors students become empowered to apply for prestigious awards, fellowships and scholarships and ultimately win them. To Love, the future of the program appears to be very bright.

“I always knew I wanted to go to college, but my family lacks financial resources … I have always had to study hard and depend on my academic success,” Morales shared. “Through the UHP, I was able to get a job on campus doing research on energy propulsion and was exposed to many opportunities that helped me accomplish my goal. I have already recommended joining the UHP to my little brother when he comes to UTEP soon.”

Additionally, for the first time, the UHP will host the Honors, Scholars and Fellows Day on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, which will provide students with information and resources on how to apply for graduate fellowships and scholarships.

For more information on the UHP, click here.

Author: Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Professor Named Fellow of International Society for Optics and Photonics

Raymond C. Rumpf, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, was promoted to Fellow of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), an educational nonprofit established to advance light-based science, engineering and technology.

“Our fellows represent the technical range, diversity and ethos of SPIE,” said Jeffrey Puschell, chair of the SPIE Fellows Committee and space systems engineer with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, California. “With our 72 new fellows — including for the second year in a row, a record number of women — we honor the innovative technologies that are being developed across the optics and photonics industry by scientists in academia, industry and government.”

Rumpf’s research is focused on developing revolutionary technologies in photonics, electromagnetics and circuits that are enabled by digital manufacturing. His research team members are pioneers and leaders in the areas of hybrid additive manufacturing, electromagnetics, and photonics.

Their research also includes 3D/volumetric circuits, metamaterials, photonic crystals, antennas, frequency selective surfaces, nanophotonics, devices for extreme environments and computational electromagnetics.

“My research group works on very unconventional and ambitious topics, so awards like this are very meaningful to me because it recognizes that our work has been truly significant and made an impact,” Rumpf said.

Rumpf’s work in spatially-variant lattices led him to discover new ways to control light. His team set a world record for tightest bend of an optical beam and was awarded with Best Photonics Technology in 2015 by Opli Magazine.

“Being honored as a fellow of SPIE is a very big deal to me because it was such a great time getting to this point,” Rumpf said. “I traveled to awesome places, met incredible people, collaborated with brilliant scientists, and mentored students who have sacrificed and worked incredibly hard. They say the key to success is to surround yourself with people smarter than you. I have certainly done that with the students who have worked with me in the EM Lab and with the people with whom I have collaborated over the years.”

Each year, SPIE promotes members to new fellows of the society. Fellows are members of distinction who have made significant scientific and technical contributions in the multidisciplinary fields of optics, photonics and imaging.

They are honored for their technical achievement and for their service to the general optics community and to SPIE in particular.

UTEP’s Rubin Center earns Warhol Foundation Grant

Officials with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts announced Jan. 16, 2020, that it awarded $100,000 to The University of Texas at El Paso’s Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts to assist with future programs and exhibitions.

“This is an important grant because of the caliber of peer organizations that receive this award and the prestige of the foundation itself, which recognizes best practices in contemporary art,” said Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center.

Doyle, who has been with the center since 2007 and became its director six years later, said the two-year grant will allow the center to host visiting artists for longer periods and to hire more local consultants.

“This grant is a vote of confidence about our trajectory as a visual arts institution,” said Doyle, who added that it puts the Rubin Center on par with such venues as the Arizona State University Art Museum, the University of California, Los Angeles Hammer Museum and the PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York.

In accordance with Andy Warhol’s will, the mission of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is the advancement of the visual arts. The foundation manages an innovative and flexible grants program while also preserving Warhol’s legacy through creative and responsible licensing policies and extensive scholarly research for ongoing catalogue raisonné projects. To date, the foundation has given more than $200 million in cash grants to more than 1,000 arts organizations in 49 states and abroad and has donated 52,786 works of art to 322 institutions worldwide.

“The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center is a vital platform for experimental artistic practice in the Southwest and internationally,” said Rachel Bers, the foundation’s program director. “We are thrilled to support the organization in its efforts to center the voices and visions of artists in cultural conversations that take place in, around and about border regions.”

This is the Rubin Center’s third Warhol Foundation grant. The New York-based foundation awarded the center $60,000 in 2005 and $100,000 in 2013. In addition to the funds, the foundation also has donated original prints and Polaroid photographs from the Warhol collection.

“The foundation is interested in building relationships with the organizations they fund, and we value this relationship,” Doyle said.

The Rubin director, who wrote the 2013 and the 2020 grant applications, said the foundation’s funds would help pay for programs and exhibitions over the next two years to include the fall 2020 “Border Crossers” exhibit created by visiting artist Chico MacMurtrie.

“Border Crossers,” as envisioned by MacMurtrie, is a series of inflatable robotic sculptures that he will set up on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border in the El Paso-Juárez area. Each sculpture, which will stand several stories tall, will extend a trunk-like appendage to the other side of the border.

“Three years into developing my most complex and challenging art project to date, the “Border Crossers”, I met the ideal producer in Kerry Doyle,” MacMurtrie said. “Working with the Rubin Center has been an amazing experience preparing and shaping this complex project that revolves around community technology and the border.”

The piece is a perfect example of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) project, said UTEP’s Angel Cabrales, assistant professor of art. He and 10 of his sculpture students will venture this summer to Bisbee, Arizona, which is about 320 miles west of El Paso, to assist MacMurtrie with this assignment.

Cabrales was grateful for the opportunity for his students to work with MacMurtrie and that the Warhol grant helped the Rubin Center to collaborate with the artist who was born in Deming, New Mexico, and grew up in the border town of Naco, Arizona.

“Networking is everything in the arts,” he said.

While the UTEP team does not know the scope of their duties in Arizona yet, Cabrales said it should expose them to the creative process on a professional scale that includes the need to solve problems while on a deadline. He added that the project’s use of technology should broaden the students’ perspectives.

“It will take art out of their subconscious and into a reality that includes science, physics and engineering,” he said. “I hope they’re inspired.”

Doyle added that the center would use the grant to support visiting artists and to build meaningful artistic relationships among students, faculty and alumni, as well as with other institutions of higher education such as the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez.

Rubin officials added that the grant would assist with other exhibits to include “Enola’s Head” by Japanese artist Gaku Tsutaja in spring 2021, and the “consonance/dissidence” exhibit that will feature the work of renowned Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas in fall 2021.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

TTUHSC El Paso to host inaugural Conference on Simulation-Based Medical Education

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, in collaboration with University Medical Center of El Paso, New Mexico State University, the University of Texas at El Paso and William Beaumont Army Medical Center, will present the inaugural Simulation Educator and Operations Conference for the Southwest Region.

The one-day event will feature 30 regional and national leaders in simulation-based medical teaching. Simulation-based medical education tools include high-technology, lifelike patient manikins that allow students to practice clinical procedures without the risk of harm.

Additionally, simulation education prepares students, residents, physicians and first responders to provide high-quality care during critical, mass-casualty incidents.

Officials share that both TTUHSC El Paso students and residents, as well as Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, were prepared for an influx of gunshot-wound victims during the Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Cielo Vista-area Walmart thanks to the training they received at the TTUHSC El Paso Training and Educational Center for Healthcare Simulation (TECHS).

With more than 20 educational sessions, the conference will focus on simulation technology and operations, delivery of simulated education, techniques in evaluation and assessment, and best practices in administration and research.

There will be a panel discussion with administrators from UMC, El Paso Children’s Hospital and WBAMC to review how simulation educators can help meet the needs of local health care organizations and prepare medical students to deliver high-quality and safe patient care.

The conference is designed for health care educators in the medical, nursing, and allied health professions, as well as anyone working with simulation technology, operations or administration.

Simulation equipment manufacturers will be present to demonstrate some of the newest innovations in health care simulation technologies.

What:   Inaugural Simulation Educator and Operations Conference

When:  Friday, Jan. 31, 2020

Where: TTUHSC El Paso Medical Education Building, Auditorium 1200, 5001 El Paso Drive

Video+Story: UTEP Students gain real-life experience in the Business of Music

Sweet sounds made by several student musicians from The University of Texas at El Paso blended with the reverberations of quiet conversations, the clanking of ceramic coffee cups and other expected noises inside West El Paso’s Hillside Coffee and Donut Co. on a recent weekday morning.

Several dozen patrons of the cafe came and went with their pastries, breakfast sandwiches, teas and coffees during the hour or so that the students performed classical and contemporary selections.

The mini concert was part of an internship program organized by UTEP’s Center for Arts Entrepreneurship (CAE), a collaboration between the University’s Department of Music and El Paso Pro-Musica (EPPM), a nonprofit chamber music organization. The CAE selected 10 music students as interns.

The CAE developed this internship program – its first – to coincide with EPPM’s annual Chamber Music Festival, which started Jan. 9 and continued through Feb. 1. The goal was for the students to learn about musicianship from the festival’s performers as well as other aspects involved in the organization and execution of a music event such as guest relations and interactions with media.

“There’s a lot more to being a performer than playing in front of an audience,” said Kornel Juhasz, a first-year clarinet performance graduate student. He was part of a duet that played classical music at the coffee shop.

Juhasz, who grew up in Brownsville, Texas, said he wanted to participate in the internship to network with professional talent and learn more about the behind-the-scenes aspects of music festival management. He said organizers stressed the basics: show up early, provide a clean venue and presentable, approachable and knowledgeable staff who will offer a hearty welcome to patrons.

“It was fun,” Juhasz said.

While many coffee house patrons were involved in their personal conversations, Amy Ramspoth took a seat close to the performers who played guitar, cello, violin or clarinet. The resident artist with El Paso Opera, whose voice coach teaches at UTEP, said she learned about this pop-up concert through Instagram. She came from her home in far Northeast El Paso to support the musicians.

Ramspoth, a soprano originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said she liked the informality of the concert sounds, which wafted within the café’s glass and dark wood-paneled walls to become part of everyday life between sips and nibbles.

“I especially like the cello,” she said. “I played it badly in middle school.”

Steve Wilson, DMA, chair and professor of music, said the CAE internships are a wonderful way for UTEP students to understand better the inner workings of a professional music organization.

“Interacting with the many guest artists that El Paso Pro-Musica brings in for the Chamber Music Festival is an outstanding way for our students to network, see how different artists handle the stresses of an intense rehearsal, performance schedule, and learn from how these artists interact with the public in a variety of settings,” Wilson said.

The interns worked the front and back of various venues to get a well-rounded, real-world taste of how a music festival works, said Felipa Solis, EPPM executive director and part of the CAE leadership team.

“We all had to learn from the beginning at some point,” said Solis, who developed the CAE internship with Wilson and Zuill Bailey, EPPM artistic director, Grammy Award winner and UTEP music instructor. “It will be on-the-job training for them.”

Solis said 40 individuals applied for the internship and the selection committee based its decision on academics, interviews, interest in performance and participation in the Department of Music and community projects.

Another intern was recent graduate Marisol Terrazas, who earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from UTEP in 2018. She wanted to be part of the program to learn how to manage an event, and how to market herself. One of the things she learned was the difference in preparation between a manager and a performer.

Terrazas, an El Paso native, was enthusiastic as she noted that music teachers must also stress to their students the importance of audience engagement, as well as exposure to new things.

“It was a positive experience,” she said. “I loved this internship.”

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

Pulitzer Prize Winner, former Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to Visit UTEP

An accomplished academic whose accolades include a Pulitzer Prize and the title of former U.S. Poet Laureate will share her thoughts about race, inclusion and society’s shared responsibility toward a common future at The University of Texas at El Paso.

On Thursday, January 30 at 6:30 p.m. Tracy K. Smith, professor of creative writing and chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, will participate in a reading of her poetry and Spanish translations of her 2018 book of poems, “Wade in the Water,” (“Atravesar el agua”) in UTEP’s Tomás Rivera Conference Center on the third floor of the campus’ Union Building East.

Organizers will follow the readings with a question-and-answer session with Smith led by Sasha Pimentel, associate professor of creative writing at UTEP.

Critics have lauded Smith for her ability to weave art, music, history and other disciplines throughout the liberal arts to create prose that engages readers. They have called her one of the most relevant poets of her generation.

She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 at age 39 for “Life on Mars,” one of her four books of poetry, and the Library of Congress appointed her in June 2017 the 22nd U.S. Poet Laureate. She served two one-year terms.

Smith said she was excited to share her work in a bilingual format alongside Andrea Cote Botero, the assistant professor of creative writing at UTEP who translated “Wade in the Water” into Spanish. The guest speaker said she plans to discuss how she and Cote rendered poems into Spanish.

Vaso Roto published the Spanish/English edition in December 2019. The official U.S. release of the bilingual publication will be at UTEP.

“‘Wade in the Water’ is a book concerned with questions of citizenship and social justice, which have been central to American life throughout history,” Smith said. “I’m grateful for the chance to engage in the conversation around such topics with readers in El Paso and elsewhere for whom Spanish is central to everyday life.”

In her book, Smith reflects on U.S. history and its present as told through “found poems,” or letters that African American soldiers sent to their relatives and to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Cote said the technique allowed the writer to create a dialogue with voices from the past without erasing their original value. The UTEP educator said the book was an example of how difficult it is to create without input from others.

“I told (Smith) about the symbolic value of the border community of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, and she was very excited about performing in our community,” said Cote, who added that she hoped the bilingual presentation would create an interactive and informal cultural experience.

Margarita Mejía, a third-year creative writing graduate student, said she was a fan of Smith’s work because of the Spanish translation. The native of Colombia, who also is a published poet, said the bilingual prose opens Smith’s creative universe to another group of appreciative admirers.

“From a unique imagination and a feminine point of view, the author explores race, oppression, identity, body, and infamy in history, with a voice that strikes and redeems,” Mejía said.

Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said it was an honor for the college and the University to host Smith, whose other accolades include the 2006 James Laughlin Award and the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She also has received an Academy of American Poets Fellowship as well as the Rona Jaffe Award and the Whiting Award.

“Our Creative Writing faculty includes some fine poets, maybe even a future poet laureate, so we will be sure and extend her the warmest of welcomes,” O’Hearn said.

Smith, who will sell and sign many of her books after the official program, also will meet with students from the Liberal Arts Honors Program, the African American Studies Program (AASP) and the Department of Creative Writing, which is one of the event’s main sponsors.

Other sponsors are UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts, the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, the Department of English and the AASP, as well as the Humanities Collaborative at El Paso Community College-UTEP.

WHEN:          6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.

WHERE:        Tomás Rivera Conference Center, Union Building East, 3rd floor.

UTEP Professor to assist study as part of quest against Chagas Disease

A professor from The University of Texas at El Paso will lend his expertise and record of significant advancements against Chagas disease to an $84,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded to the Research Development Foundation (Fundep) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Brazil.

The grant, which is known as an R01, is awarded though the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Igor Almeida, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, will lead the project at UTEP, working in collaboration with UFMG’s Walderez Dutra, Ph.D., the grant’s principal investigator.

The project’s aim is to understand the molecular mechanism by which T cells cause intense inflammation in patients with chronic Chagas disease.

Specifically, researchers hope to identify and analyze the antigens responsible for the activation of T cells that are major sources of cytokines causing strong inflammation in the heart or gastrointestinal tract of patients with chronic Chagas disease. Knowledge acquired from this effort will potentially enhance treatments.

I am very glad for this award and collaboration with Professor Dutra in Brazil,” Almeida said. “I am very hopeful that this project will provide new insights into parasite-host interactions leading to inflammation, a pathological hallmark of Chagas disease, and establish the molecular basis for new therapeutic interventions.”

Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to animals and people by insect vectors known as kissing bugs, or by blood transfusion, organ transplantation, tainted foods and juices, or congenitally.

The disease has been endemic in Latin America, already affecting 6 million to 8 million people, but it is rapidly spreading throughout the United States, Europe and other nonendemic regions as a result of globalization. Yet, there is no clinical vaccine, although there have been several experimental efforts throughout the years.

Almeida and his team are concurrently initiating an NIH-funded Phase 2 clinical trial in Bolivia to develop new chemotherapies and biomarkers for early assessment of therapeutic outcomes in Chagas disease.

Author:  Darlene Barajas – UTEP Communications

Longtime UTEP Official ready for Next Role: Retiree

Steve Riter, Ph.D., came to The University of Texas at El Paso in 1980 with expectations to stay for about five years and then move elsewhere to find his next professional opportunity. Instead, UTEP provided him with enough challenges across the academic spectrum to keep him interested and on campus.

Riter, whose most recent titles are vice president for Information Resources and Planning, as well as Macintosh Murchison Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, decided recently to retire after 39 years with the institution. During that time, he has held the titles of professor, department chair, dean of the College of Engineering and Provost, to name a few.

Regardless of his designation de jour, there always was one constant in Riter’s approach to his job and that was to enhance student success. His breadth of knowledge and experience that grew through the years gave him a perspective that helped create a University that could provide students, especially those from the region, with access to an excellent education and a brighter future.

The native of Providence, Rhode Island, reflected recently on some of his accomplishments at UTEP from his third-floor office on the southeast corner UTEP’s Undergraduate Learning Center. The bare walls and moving boxes on the floor in early December 2019 hinted at an imminent departure. His official last day is Dec. 31, 2019.

Riter said he was proud of the many large research grants he brought to campus, his role to start UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management in 1989, and his efforts as provost from 1996 through 2005 that led to six of the University’s doctoral degrees to include two he wrote himself as well as major contributions to a few others. However, he was most proud of his work in collaboration with UTEP President Emerita Diana Natalicio and others to attract students from the region and create systems to enhance student retention and degree completion.

“There has been a culture change in that we no longer feel like our role is to monitor a gate to see who comes through and succeeds,” he said. “Instead, we’re trying to figure out how to get students that have the talent and ability and the willingness to work hard through the process and out the door with a degree that would enable them to realize their own dreams. That’s the thing I take the greatest pride in.”

Riter, the son of a sales clerk father and homemaker mother, grew up as an introvert who liked to build things, especially motorized model airplanes. The first-generation college student earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice University in Houston, Texas, in 1962. Riter received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Houston in 1967 and 1968, respectively.

He spent a few years with the Army and NASA before his first job in academia with Texas A&M University in 1976. He quickly rose through the ranks, but decided to apply at UTEP for a position as professor and chair in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

Since then he has taken on numerous campus roles and earned the respect and admiration of many colleagues who have praised his leadership and contributions to the University. Many marveled at his willingness to accept assignments outside his area of expertise to assist the University and its students. For example, he became the interim dean of the College of Education in 2013 and agreed to be the University’s first vice president of Information Resources in 2006.

Jose Huerta, assistant vice president of telecommunications infrastructure, called Riter insightful because of how he used his professional experiences to make technology and academics work to benefit the University’s students, faculty and staff. The Division of Information Resources is a consolidation of Enterprise Computing, Information Security, System Integration, Technology Support, Telecommunication Infrastructure and the University Library.

“The impact (Riter) had on the modernization of the University’s telecommunications infrastructure environment has been a direct contribution to UTEP achieving the R1 rating it recently received,” Huerta said in reference to the University’s inclusion among the nation’s top public research universities by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. “I believe that without his leadership and vision, the University would not have achieved the current information technology environment capable of meeting the high demand of current and future educational and research initiatives.”

In his current post, Riter has overseen the installation of new technology and tech programs such as the expansion of campus Wi-Fi and the free service of personal computers to students and employees. Additionally, he oversaw the expansion of the University’s wireless network to where it ranked among the best in The University of Texas System, and the extension of the campus’ fiber optic network infrastructure into northern Mexico, which enabled universities across the U.S. to connect directly with universities in Latin America.

Iris Niestas, assistant vice president of System Integration, recalled that she approached Riter in 2009 when she was a UTEP data management manager to get his support for her idea to use technology for faster and more secure course evaluations. She said the Faculty Senate initially rebuffed her, but the body changed its mind after Riter got involved.

“Technology has become critical to student success and he knew that was going to happen,” Niestas said.

Maggy Smith, Ph.D., professor of English, said she worked with – and learned from – Riter when they worked together for about 10 years in the Provost’s Office. She said she benefited from his energy, creativity and willingness to try new ideas.

Smith said one of Riter’s greatest contributions might have been to spearhead the creation of the Entering Student Program, which helps freshman and transfer students learn more about what the University offers to help them succeed. It has benefited thousands of Miners since its inception 20 years ago. She said it mimicked a similar program Riter launched successfully for science and engineering students.

“(Riter) always stepped up,” she said. “He always said ‘yes.’ I’ve worked with a lot of good people at UTEP, but Steve is a prince.”

Robert Stakes, associate vice president for Information Resources, Library, has known Riter since 1982. He called him an individual who cared about others and their ideas.

“You don’t feel as if you work for him as much as you work with him,” Stakes said.

Riter, who will move with his wife, Eve, a retired real estate agent, to Scottsdale, Arizona, to be closer to family, said he enjoyed being part of the El Paso community. The feeling was mutual.

The City of El Paso presented him with its prestigious Conquistador Award in 1992 for public service.  He joined the El Paso Public Service Board in 1996 and led an effort to set long-term bi-national water utilization policies. He also served on the board of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra (EPSO) for seven years starting in 1997 to include one year as chair (2001-02).

Ruth Ellen Jacobson, EPSO executive director and 2018 Gold Nugget from the College of Liberal Arts, called him a great chair who motivated others.

“He was a wise man and a solid leader,” Jacobson said. “He was a very important component in our development. It was an honor to work with him.”

Riter said that he has considered retirement for several years, and thought the change in University leadership was a good time to act. He said UTEP President Heather Wilson, who took charge of the campus in August 2019, has her vision for the institution, and it will take several years to attain. He said leaders need individuals who will commit the time to achieve their goals and he, who is almost 80, decided that it would be best for him to step down.

He said he has no immediate retirement plans, but added that friends in higher education have asked him to consider interim administrative assignments or to work as a consultant. He said he would consider his options, but would be content to focus on his health and a good book, probably a mystery novel.

“This has been fun,” he said of his association with UTEP. “The hard thing about retirement will be finding another thing that will be as much fun.”

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Researcher to study benefits of Online Learning

Many college students juggle their academics with other responsibilities such as jobs and family. For those reasons, more of them may consider it necessary to register for online courses to complete their degree plans.

While the assumption that online courses allow for greater college access may ring true, there is no strong empirical data to support that statement, according to Alyse Hachey, Ph.D., associate professor and co-chair of UTEP’s Department of Teacher Education at The University of Texas at El Paso – and she plans to do something about it.

Hachey is part of a multi-institutional team that will study how online opportunities increase college enrollment, particularly among nontraditional students who may use this education method to complete their degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

While the focus will be on STEM, the study will involve online education in general and its role in college degree completion.

This kind of information is important to educators as statistics show that more college students enroll in online courses every year. A Nov. 7, 2018, article in Inside Higher Ed stated that a third of all students take at least one online course.

The article, which used 2017 data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, also stated that overall online enrollment continues to increase for students who enroll exclusively online (up to 15.4%) and for those who mix online and face-to-face courses (17.6%).

“Education has moved to online in so many ways,” Hachey said. “Interest in online learning is expanding so we have to learn more about it because it is changing higher education.” ​

The National Science Foundation awarded Hachey’s crew a five-year, $2.5 million grant in July 2019 for this research.

UTEP Initiative seeks low-cost options for textbooks

An interdisciplinary cohort of faculty members from The University of Texas at El Paso will work with select UTEP staff from fall 2019 through fall 2020 to develop Open Educational Resources (OER) or other affordable instructional materials that eventually could save students millions of dollars.

The University encourages tenured, tenure-track and adjunct faculty members who use expensive textbooks and teach medium- to large-enrollment or gateway courses to apply for this year’s TeachTech Research Cohort. Selected faculty will work with staff from Creative Studios (CS) and the University Library to identify and evaluate materials that they could use to transform one of their courses. OERs have no or limited copyright restrictions so users may use, modify and redistribute the material.

In early September 2019, a committee of UTEP faculty as well as CS and library representatives will select at least 12 instructors to be part of the Affordable Course Materials Initiative, where they will research ways to replace commercial instructional resources with other more affordable materials that they would curate or create through TeachTech. Some examples include videos and digital interactions.

Steve Varela, associate director of UTEP’s Academic Technologies, which oversees Creative Studios, said the applicants must demonstrate a commitment to do the necessary research for course development. He added that the program would give each participant a $3,000 stipend to buy technology and/or to attend related conferences.

Varela said that organizers conducted a survey that found that the high price of various textbooks made it difficult for some students to purchase them in time for the start of class. This often led to poor student outcomes, he said.

“Students who can access their materials on the first day of class are more likely to complete the course and be successful at it,” Varela said. “Overall, we hope to design courses where students will pay zero cost beyond tuition and fees. On top of that, all the information produced – from components to an entire course – will be shared.”

Varela said Texas Senate Bill 810 is part of the reason behind the initiative. The measure, which was signed into law in June 2017, directed state organizations to develop and support the use of OERs in higher education. Some related data has shown that use of OER materials have led to successful student outcomes to include degree completion.

Varela’s cohort co-director is Angela Lucero, scholarly communication librarian. She will lead the team of research librarians who will help the faculty members to discover and curate scholarly resources – print, digital and video – they need to achieve their instructional goals.

To create a baseline, Lucero researched 20 University courses, student enrollment in those courses from fall 2016 through fall 2018, and the assigned textbooks and their prices in fall 2018 at the University Bookstore. The most expensive book was $327.50.

With some caveats, Lucero estimated that the amount spent on required textbooks during that period was approximately $11.3 million. She said the price of textbooks has increased more than three times the rate of inflation during the last 13 years, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics study.

Additional research showed that 66 percent of students have decided at some point that a textbook was too expensive to buy.

“We can help (faculty) find the appropriate materials,” Lucero said. “One of our focuses is affordability. We know how to explore library resources and how to use them within the ‘fair use’ of copyright so that people will not have to pay extra for them. This is a big project and that’s our role. We’ll guide the professors through the process.”

Lucero said that the program would share the information it collects through the library’s Digital Commons website, an institutional repository for the University’s academic and creative output. TeachTech will license the educational materials created through the program under an agreement such as the Creative Commons (CC BY) attribution copyright that allows users to copy, enhance and distribute content.

“It will be difficult to measure success after one year,” she said. “There will be challenges, but we do not plan to shy away from any of them. We want to engage everyone.”

Among those who are excited at the prospect of less expensive textbooks is Wilmarie Velazquez, a senior accounting major who still grimaces at the memory of when she bought her first accounting hardcover for $230. The married mother of three young children said she used to wait to buy textbooks until a few weeks into the class even though it would put her behind. It was a matter of cost.

The El Paso native said that her household has sacrificed family vacations and delayed the purchase of a dishwasher so she could have book money. The first-generation college student, who expects to earn her degree in May 2020 and enter the workforce, said she often would like to buy an earlier edition of a textbook that is less expensive, but is concerned it may not have the information the instructor wants to cover. Through the years, she has learned to shop around for less expensive textbooks and to rent digital books.

Velazquez called the UTEP faculty initiative a great concept that could benefit many UTEP students, especially those like her who take out student loans to help finance their education.

“I think that’s an awesome idea,” Velasquez said. “I’m positive students are going to love it.”

While cost is an important aspect of this effort, another focal point is to create material that will engage students, said William Robertson, Ph.D., professor of teacher education and a Provost’s Office representative on the TeachTech committee. The educator is a longtime proponent of using alternative materials such as videos and graphic novels to maintain student interest. He pointed out that Lucero had assembled an “impressive” library team to assist faculty.

Robertson, who was part of TeachTech’s second cohort during the 2018-19 academic year, said he would strongly consider the practitioners’ standpoint during the selection process.

“I am mostly interested in how the project will be used for teaching,” said Robertson, who was interested in whether the materials would be freely available, and if the teachers could modify and integrate them quickly. “You have to have a plan.”

Organizers expect to test their results during the fall 2020 semester, but it is possible that parts of it could launch as early as spring 2020.

This is UTEP’s third TeachTech cohort. Academic Technologies started the program to encourage faculty members to integrate technology into their courses. The teacher collaborates with a CS instructional technologist during the academic year to consider options, develop a plan and then present their work at the end of the spring semester.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Journal article flips the classroom in Nursing Education

Franchesca Nuñez, Ph.D., assistant professor at The University of Texas at El Paso’s School of Nursing, is the first author on a journal article that examines the flipped classroom teaching model to enhance student engagement, learning outcomes in nursing education, and application challenges.

A flipped classroom reverses the traditional learning environment by having students study lesson content before class and apply the content to active learning activities while in class.

Nuñez co-authored the paper “It Takes More Than One Somersault to Flip a Classroom” with Diane B. Monsivais, Ph.D., professor and interim associate dean for graduate nursing education at UTEP.

The paper was recently published in Nurse Educator, a peer-reviewed journal for nurse educators and nursing school faculty and administrators.

Nuñez and Monsivais described the challenges faced by students and faculty in transitioning medical-surgical and pathophysiology courses in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program from a traditional classroom model of teaching to a flipped classroom approach.

They also presented solutions to overcome those challenges such as developing a course guide to orient students to the flipped classroom model, prioritizing pre-class activities for students, assessing students’ abilities to view online video recordings outside of class, and administering weekly in-class quizzes as an incentive for students to complete pre-class activities.

“Nursing is an applied science and the flipped classroom method provides students more opportunities to apply meaning to new information obtained via pre-class content, practice decision-making, and make judgments about patient outcomes while in-class,” Nuñez said.

“Being aware of common challenges faced during the implementation of the flipped model and corresponding solutions may ease the transition to this form of teaching/learning method.”

UTEP receives $400K to study converting wastewater to potable water

The Center for Inland Desalination System (CIDS) at The University of Texas at El Paso has received a $400,000 Desalination and Water Purification Research grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to study desalination of water for direct potable reuse, or converting municipal wastewater to drinking water.

Leading the research are Shane Walker, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and director of CIDS, and Malynda Capelle, Ph.D., associate director of CIDS. Their research is focused on the development of desalination and potable reuse technology.

CIDS research includes increasing water recovery, decreasing energy consumption, and recovering minerals and other products from waste streams.

Walker and Cappelle are collaborating with executives and operators from El Paso Water, researchers from New Mexico State University, and engineering consultants from Garver to evaluate the cutting-edge technology to produce water suitable for drinking.

The study is expected to conclude by October 2021.

“This project is very exciting because we are demonstrating high-efficiency advanced water purification, starting with treated municipal wastewater,” Walker said.

The advanced water purification process uses a series of chloramination, ultrafiltration (UF), nanofiltration (NF), ultraviolet-peroxide advanced oxidation process (UV-AOP), and granular activated carbon (GAC) to produce drinking water from treated municipal wastewater.

Furthermore, this pilot study will demonstrate a high water efficiency through the use of the Concentrate Enhanced Recovery Reverse Osmosis (CERRO) technology that was developed in partnership between UTEP and El Paso Water.

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