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

Tag Archives: The University of Texas at El Paso

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.

UTEP Faculty consider Podcasts to engage students

Sue Stanfield, Ph.D., has taught in higher education for almost 20 years – the past three at The University of Texas at El Paso – and one of her main concerns has been to keep students engaged, especially when she conducts lessons in one of UTEP’s largest classrooms for more than 200 students at a time.

Stanfield, assistant professor of history, works as hard to maintain student interest in class as she does to prepare course material for her History 1301 course, which encompasses the period from before the colonization of the new world to the U.S. Civil War.

In recent years, she has used PowerPoint slides, electronic class polling and mid-class mini-reading/writing assignments with different degrees of success. At one point, she asked the students to consider themselves American Revolutionary War soldiers and asked them to send a tweet to King George III.

She said she wanted to try a new blended learning instructional strategy where students familiarize themselves with new material via technology before class so she could use course time for more in-depth instruction. Instead of a lecture, Stanfield said she could use the time to lead class discussions or assign group projects. She shared her suggested solution with UTEP’s Teach Tech program, an arm of Academic Technologies (AT) that joins faculty members and technology experts for an academic year to strategize possible answers.

Stanfield worked with Adrian Meza, an instructional technologist with AT’s Creative Studios, and the two agreed that the best alternative was a podcast, a digital audio file that has become popular during the past 15 years or so. The term “podcast” is a portmanteau of iPod, a portable music-playing device, and broadcast.

Podcasters produce “episodes” that listeners download onto electronic devices and play at their convenience. Part of its beauty is that users can pause, reverse and re-listen as often as they want. Users often listen as they drive their cars, wash dishes, walk the dog, fold clothes, exercise and other similar activities.

“Sue’s a natural,” Meza said a few doors away from their makeshift studio in a third-floor conference room in UTEP’s Undergraduate Learning Center. He is a fan of several podcast genres and has produced his own Star Wars-themed podcast for years. “She’s a great host. She has a great voice. She’s a good conversationalist and she does her homework. I just make it sound as good as I can.”

Stanfield and Meza have produced seven episodes of “Pod-textualizing the Past,” where Stanfield interviewed UTEP colleagues and a graduate student about eclectic aspects of history such as the advancements in warfare, “Moby Dick” author Herman Melville’s writings about life in the 1800s, the Mexican-American War, and France’s help in the establishment of the United States. Each segment lasts about 30 minutes.

Stanfield made the episodes available on Blackboard, an electronic learning management tool, during the spring 2019 semester. Students could earn extra credit if they listened to the podcast by a certain date and filled out a survey that would help Stanfield evaluate the episode’s effectiveness. To her surprise, students requested more of her podcasts even after the extra credit period had ended.

Stanfield used four of the episodes during her Summer I 2019 course and asked her students to write 250-word essays to evaluate her podcasts, which usually end with her asking her guest to sum up with a historical social media hashtag.

“What I’ve learned through the process is that a lot of my students follow ‘Game of Thrones’ podcasts,” she said, and added that she was pleased that 90 percent of the students surveyed had a positive reaction to her audio files. “It made me feel really good. Podcasts are a way to learn.”

According to “2019 Podcast Stats & Facts” in Podcast Insights, an online podcasting resource center, there are more than 750,000 podcasts, and podcasters had produced over 30 million episodes as of early June 2019. Those numbers continue to grow daily. The article states that 51% of the U.S. population has heard a podcast, 71% of podcast listening is done at home or in a car, and education is the second most popular genre after comedy. A 2018 article on the MusicMPH website said that podcasts contained content in more than 100 languages and one out of five avid podcast fans are ages 18 to 24.

In “Why 2019 will be the year of the podcast in higher education – and what it means for the industry,” published Jan. 2, 2019, on the Discover Pods website, author Jenna Spinelle predicted that colleges and universities would embrace podcasts as an instructional tool and a method to promote research to audiences outside of academia.

Karla Carrillo, senior kinesiology major with a minor in biology, is a peer tutor to about 150 of Stanfield’s students and a fan of history and psychology podcasts. She said students she tutored told her that they found Stanfield’s podcast conversational and easy to follow. They especially enjoyed hearing the guest experts who added a different perspective to the history that Stanfield taught.

“I’ve listened to about three or four of the podcasts and I think they’re really amazing,” Carrillo said. “They are a different approach to the lecture and the students appreciate the variety. They definitely help with the learning.”

Stanfield’s initial success has spurred two other UTEP faculty members to want to try podcasts.

Lowry Martin, Ph.D., associate professor of French, said he loved his experience as a guest on Stanfield’s podcast. He called the informal interview style “very comfortable.” He said he might start his own podcast for his French Civilization course. His concept would be to interview El Paso residents who lived through the Nazi occupation of France as part of an oral history.

“That’s a good first bite of the apple,” he said.

P.J. Vierra, Ph.D., lecturer in the Department of English, was a member of Stanfield’s Teach Tech cohort and her success with podcasts as an academic tool intrigued him. He wanted to create podcasts for the students in his first-year composition course in the fall 2019 semester. His goal was to lecture less and interact more.

Vierra said he has listened to higher education material on the internet since the early 2000s. The lecturer, who has a background in audio recording, recently produced an episode of his podcast, “Fundamentals of Rhetoric,” in his home office using his own recording equipment. The 11-minute pilot show was part syllabus, part explanation and part history lesson. In a nod to fun and showmanship, he bookended the episode with classical music and canned applause as sound cues. He said he would add additional sound effects where appropriate. Like a trained orator, he used vocal cadence and inflections to connect with his audience. While he went solo for the first show, he promised some of his future episodes would have expert guests from anywhere in the world and last 10-to-15 minutes. He hoped his episodes made his students curious.

“I hope that by listening to the podcasts it will spark curiosity within (the student) to investigate something else, which is what makes education rewarding,” said Vierra, who stressed that the podcasts were in addition to the required reading and writing. “Hopefully the podcast will be that gel that will combine everything else you are learning in class.”

As for Stanfield, she plans to produce one podcast per week for her next survey class that she will offer during the spring 2020 term.

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Professor’s Prostate Cancer Detection Test could limit Blood Tests, Unnecessary Biopsies

Wen-Yee Lee, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at El Paso, has developed an affordable early screening test for prostate cancer.

The test uses a small urine sample and, in the future, could be developed as a kit similar to the home pregnancy test.

Lee and co-inventor Qin Gao, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in chemistry at UTEP, are developing a non-invasive, urine-based prostate cancer diagnosis and prognosis method. The method uses 1 milliliter of urine, which is tested for organic metabolites using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

The metabolite profiles are further analyzed through a statistical process to develop a diagnostic model for detection of prostate cancer. The methods developed through their research can also be applied to detection of other genitourinary cancers.

Currently, the pair have successfully applied the method in early detection of prostate and kidney cancer.

The test, known as application of urinary volatile organic compounds (VOC), is about 92% accurate. It is currently pending patent approval and is expected to enter the market in the next five years. Funding for research has come from various grants including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a gift fund from UTEP alumnus Keelung Hong, Ph.D., founder of Taiwan Liposome Company.

Lee says prostate cancer screening using serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing has caused unnecessary biopsies and overdiagnosis owing to its low accuracy and reliability.

Dr. Wen-Yee Lee in her science lab. Story on Detecting Kidney & Prostate Cancer with Urine Samples, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP Communications

The first step in getting screened for prostate cancer is a PSA blood test that is ordered by a physician. If the PSA results come back positive, the next step is a biopsy, an often painful process that produces the risk of infection for a patient and is, at times, unnecessary as results frequently come back negative.

Lee said her test has the potential to save the health care system more than a half-billion dollars.

“The application of urinary metabolites for cancer detection test is non-invasive and could remove some of the anxiety,” said Lee, whose husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. “We can avoid a lot of unnecessary biopsies. We know how much agony the patient goes through.

“This study will reduce the time for early screening of prostate cancer and renal cancer. Unlike common cancer, the method that we developed does not require lengthy sample preparation. Our test takes less than four hours from obtaining urine samples to reporting detection results,” Lee said. For kidney cancer, the method could be the first of its kind in the market for early diagnosis.

“Many patients get diagnosed with kidney cancer only when they experience symptoms or by ‘accidental discovery’ when checking for other disease by ultrasound scan or other scanning tests. Our test could be fast, easy and a routine test for kidney cancer.”

Dr. Wen-Yee Lee in her science lab. Story on Detecting Kidney & Prostate Cancer with Urine Samples, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP Communications

UTEP Professor gets $1.75M grant to decipher molecular assembly mechanism of giant virus

Chuan Xiao, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry at The University of Texas at El Paso, was awarded a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences to continue research of the giant marine virus Cafeteria roenbergensis (CroV).

In 2017, Xiao raised a complete new spiral hypothesis of the assembly mechanism for giant viruses based on the cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structural study of CroV.

Although the marine virus CroV is not a human pathogen, many viruses’ protein shells, including many other pathogenic viruses, are assembled from similar building blocks. In addition, CroV is structurally very similar to African swine fever virus (ASFV), which has recently infected pigs throughout Asia. Thus, deciphering the assembly of CroV could lead to deciphering the assembly of other viruses. Xiao’s findings could lead to development of medicine to treat viral diseases.

“Deciphering the rules and conditions for giant virus assembly will lead to new therapeutic targets against viral diseases in general,” Xiao said. “By understanding the assembly of giant viruses, we can mimic the process and design virus-like nanoparticles that can have many different usages in biomedical or other fields.”

Xiao is conducting his research in the structural biochemistry laboratory at UTEP’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry using a high-end electron transmission microscope that cost $1.8 million when it was acquired in 2009. The microscope is housed in a room that was designed specifically to avoid physical vibration and electromagnetic changes.

CroV is the first giant virus reported to infect zooplankton and is one of the largest viruses that has been structurally studied to high resolution. To retrieve samples of CroV for cryo-EM studies, many liters of marine zooplankton are cultured in artificial seawater in the lab.

The physical size and structural complexity of giant viruses are approaching those of small cells. Since the discovery of giant viruses such as the massive Mimivirus, Xiao is one of very few experts studying giant viruses in the world due to the challenge they pose to current structural determination techniques.

“Techniques and methods developed in this study will push the limit of current structural biology and provide useful tools to study even larger supramolecular assemblies and eventually the whole cell in the future,” Xiao said.

UTEP Announces 2019 Distinguished Alumni, Gold Nuggets

On Monday, the University of Texas at El Paso and the UTEP Alumni Association announced the recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nugget honors.

“This year’s Distinguished Alumni honorees exemplify the talent and drive that was cultivated here at UTEP,” said Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for alumni relations. “Each of these individuals, whether it was on their own or as part of a dedicated team, has gone on to represent UTEP at the highest levels and they each credit the University for giving them the foundation and the opportunities to be successful.”

Every year, UTEP honors a group of alumni who have achieved excellence in their chosen fields and serve as pillars of inspiration to future Miners for what can be accomplished through integrity, dedication and determination.

This group of outstanding graduates are the UTEP Distinguished Alumni and the Gold Nuggets.

The Distinguished Alumni award honor a group of men and women whose achievements stand out as monuments to dedication, integrity and hard work and is the highest recognition bestowed upon alumni of the University.

UTEP’s 2019 Distinguished Alumni are:

Roberto Coronado Business Gold Nugget for 2019 Homecoming, Monday, May 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP Communications

Roberto Coronado, Ph.D.
BBA Accounting and Economics, 2000
M.S. Economics, 2002

Roberto Coronado, Ph.D., currently serves as senior vice president in charge and senior economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, El Paso Branch.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics, Coronado eagerly returned to UTEP to pursue his master’s degree in economics. Shortly into his graduate program, he landed an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, El Paso Branch. What began as a temporary, unpaid position led to an 18-year career. The young, ambitious economist continued his education at the University of Houston, where he earned his doctorate in economics, which helped him ascend the organization’s ranks.

Today, Coronado oversees the bank’s economic research and outreach functions in West Texas and Southern New Mexico, and recruits branch board members.

“UTEP was very welcoming and offers a lot of support to students like me,” Coronado said. “If you are determined that you want to be successful, UTEP provides the resources to make it happen. Trust me, if I could do it, you can do it.”

Miguel Fernandez
Rodrigo Fernandez

Miguel Fernandez Jr.

BBA, 1998

Rodrigo Fernandez

BBA, 2001

Miguel Fernandez Jr. and Rodrigo Fernandez are brothers from the Paso del Norte Region who co-founded a telecommunications network with three other people to provide communication services in previously underserved communities in Mexico. It evolved into a business that employs hundreds and created a fiber-optic network that spans approximately 8,000 route miles.

In 2001, the two collaborated to create Transtelco, a telecommunications service provider that covers the United States and Mexico and provides voice and data services to Fortune 1000 companies and other businesses. Its coverage area stretches from Los Angeles and Dallas in the United States to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, at the southern tip of Mexico.

“Students need to have their eyes open and realize there are a lot of opportunities, and the people who are able to leverage that are the people who understand what the border is about,” Rodrigo Fernandez said. “That was me.”

Andrea C. Gates-Ingle
B.A. Special Education, 1999

Stephen Ingle

B.A. Graphic Design, 2003

Creative Kids, a nonprofit organization established 20 years ago, began as a labor of love for Stephen Ingle and his then girlfriend, now wife, Andrea C. Gates-Ingle who met while attending UTEP.

Creative Kids has grown since then. The nonprofit has earned national recognition for providing a high-quality creative youth development program that utilizes the visual arts to empower children with cognitive or physical disabilities, children battling illness, underserved children or just those with an artistic knack.

As for receiving the UTEP Distinguished Alumni Award, the pair said they were humbled and proud of the recognition.

“It is amazing for someone to see what we’ve done and recognize it,” Ingle said. “This is something that we will really cherish and carry as an accomplishment. We have won awards from the city and other recognitions, but this award is from our school, where we learned to do what we do. Getting this award makes it all worth it and we are proud to be part of the UTEP legacy.”

Curtis Parkin, Ph.D.
B.S. Physics, 1963

The U.S. Army allowed Curtis Parkin, Ph.D. who also was in Texas Western College’s Army ROTC program, to delay his active duty service in order to study nuclear and radiation physics at  Vanderbilt University’s U.S. Atomic Energy Commission postgraduate fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee where he then earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in experimental plasma physics.

In 1968, the Army assigned Parkin to active duty at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He applied his studies to work on magnetometers, equipment that would measure magnetic fields on the moon’s surface for the second manned mission to land on the lunar surface, Apollo 12.

Parkin said the success of the magnetometer on Apollo 12 led to funds for four additional magnetometers for the Apollo 14, 15 and 16 missions. He became co-investigator for each project.

He separated from NASA in 1979 and continued to work in related fields in California until he retired in 2015. To this day, Parkin maintains contact with several members of the UTEP fraternity who helped him on his celestial career path.

“One thing I’ll be saying to other students, ‘Study hard and don’t neglect your friends and your connections at the University because they can be helpful for the rest of your life,’” Parkin said.

The Distinguished Alumni join another group of alumni who are being honored by their respective colleges – the 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients.

The honorees are exceptional graduates from each of the University’s colleges and schools who have excelled in their professions, give back to their communities and alma mater, and serve as an inspiration for future generations of Miners.

“Our 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients are all contributing to a better world as leaders of nonprofit organizations, health care professionals, businessmen, engineers, data scientists and symphony conductors,” Villalva said. “These individuals were all selected for what they represent – UTEP at its best.”

UTEP’s 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients are:

Salvador Balcorta

College of Health Sciences

Bachelor of Social Work, 1980

Salvador Balcorta has served as the CEO of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe since 1992. He transformed the neighborhood health center in South El Paso into a nationally recognized network of nonprofit community health clinics, health and human service programs, and a dual-language charter school.

Balcorta’s many accolades include Mexico’s prestigious Ohtli Award and the National Association of Social Workers’ Lifetime Achievement Award. He also was appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Advisory Committee on Minority Health.

“UTEP taught me the value of hands-on knowledge,” Balcorta said. “Your life and field experience is something that is just as valuable, if not more so, than book knowledge.”

Paul Dipp

College of Business Administration

BBA Real Estate and Management, 1977

El Paso native, Paul Dipp, president of Economy Wholesale Grocers, credited UTEP’s supportive and engaged faculty with his success. He has shown his gratitude through his involvement in the UTEP Centennial Committee, COBA’s Business Advisory Council and as a lifetime member of UTEP’s Alumni Association.

Dipp juggled academics with his responsibilities with two family-owned businesses. The double major – real estate and marketing – said he applied what he learned in class to his jobs in commercial real estate and as a wholesale grocer.

“I have the opportunity to represent all the COBA graduates, and I’m profoundly grateful and humbled to represent UTEP,” Dipp said.

Carolyn Moody Drake 

School of Nursing

BSN, 1975

For decades, Carolyn Moody Drake has served her community as an RN, then as a volunteer.

Among a wide range of community service, Moody Drake has focused much of her energy on the PARTNERS organization, which supports The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Cizik School of Nursing by raising funds for nursing scholarships and faculty research grants. She was the chair of PARTNERS in 2012-’13 and continues active involvement as a lifetime member.

A popular presenter on health care topics, Moody Drake ebulliently shares her knowledge and passion about nursing with others. She also drives, cooks and opens her home for those in need – most recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey flooding in 2017 in southeast Texas.

A lifetime member of the UTEP Alumni Association, Moody Drake said: “UTEP taught me to value a high-quality education in a multicultural environment, and it solidified an ideology based on caring and kindness.”

Ed Drusina Engineering Gold Nugget Head Shot, Friday, May 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP Communications

Edward Drusina
College of Engineering
B.S. Civil Engineering, 1974

Edward Drusina is highly respected for his accomplishments in engineering and water supply management. The former commissioner of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission led the development of critical international water management agreements between the U.S. and Mexico from San Diego, Calif. to Brownsville, Texas. These agreements continue to help border agriculture, industry and municipalities to have access to clean water.

Recently, Drusina retired from federal service. He stays engaged in his profession as a UTEP adviser, Texas A&M Research Center adviser, and part-time senior project engineer for Weston Solutions, an environmental and infrastructure support services company.

“UTEP gave me the education I needed to have a highly successful career in the public and private sectors,” Drusina said. “I’m thankful to represent an institution that contributes so much to our community.”

D. Frank Hsu, Ph.D.
College of Science
M.S. Mathematics, 1975

D. Frank Hsu, Ph.D., is internationally recognized as a leading pioneer of data science research and education.

Hsu is the Clavius Distinguished Professor of Science, a professor of computer and information science, and the director of the Fordham Laboratory of Informatics and Data Mining at Fordham University in New York. In that role, he has helped develop solutions to real-world problems by harnessing the power of data science, machine learning, cognitive computing, informatics, and model fusion.

Throughout his career, Hsu has authored or edited 40 books and published more than 200 technical papers. He received a Distinguished Teaching Award from Fordham in 2001 and an IBM Faculty Award in 2012, among other honors. He holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan,

“My experience at UTEP has impacted my life and career tremendously,” Hsu said. “I am proud and passionate about being a Miner and look forward to sharing my experiences and expertise with students and alumni of UTEP.”

Maggie Morales-Moody
College of Education
B.S. Elementary Education, 1986
M.Ed. Educational Administration, 1994
College of Liberal Arts
B.A. French, 1985

As an elementary-level educator, counselor and administrator for 28 years, Maggie Morales-Moody earned recognition at the campus and state levels for her efforts to serve underrepresented students with unconditional dedication. She may now be retired, but her devotion hasn’t wavered.

In 2015, Morales-Moody, with the assistance of family, friends and donors, opened GiGi’s Playhouse El Paso, the state’s first achievement center for people with Down syndrome and their families. The playhouse is part of a national network that offers free educational, therapeutic, career and social programs.

“They took personal interest in each one of their students and encouraged us to look at each child as an individual, full of promise and hope,” Morales-Moody said.

Claudio Ordaz

College of Liberal Arts

B.A. Music Performance, 2001

Chihuahua City native, Claudio Ordaz traveled to El Paso on Saturdays as a teenager to study violin from the legendary Abraham Chavez. When it came time for college, he picked UTEP to continue to train under Chavez, a longtime professor of music.

He earned a B.A. in Music Performance in 2001 from UTEP, and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in orchestral conducting in 2008 and 2015, respectively, from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallin, Estonia, a country in Northern Europe next to the Baltic Sea.

In 2013, he founded the Savonlinna Camerata Orchestra in Finland. He serves as the group’s artistic director and conductor. He was the first Mexican to start and conduct an orchestra in Europe. The award-winning chamber orchestra has earned regional acclaim.

Ordaz currently lives in Jyväskylä, Finland, and is a professor of music at the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, where he teaches chamber music, violin and orchestral activities.

“My time at UTEP was one of the most extraordinary and inspiring of my life. Every day was special and exciting.”

Lisa Lavigne Saucedo  

College of Business Administration

MBA, 2015

New England native, Lisa Lavigne Saucedo is the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates Inc., or CASA, an agency that provides advocacy for abused and neglected children in the family court system.

Saucedo pursued UTEP’s Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) to enhance her leadership skills and build on the business acumen required to run a nonprofit which she already had years of managerial experience before transitioning to the executive director.

Saucedo said she was surprised and humbled to be named one of UTEP’s Gold Nuggets. She credits her time at UTEP with bolstering her leadership skills alongside a diverse cohort.

“Pursuing this degree really instills confidence and brings out your best attributes,” Saucedo said. “It teaches you to think differently about everything, and that the work that we do, from a multimillion-dollar company to a local nonprofit, can make a difference in the world.”

Patricia “Patty” Tiscareño
College of Liberal Arts
B.A. English Literature, 2004

Patricia “Patty” Tiscareño is currently the executive director of the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation. The El Paso native said her duties demand the ability to communicate with board members one minute and patients from all demographics the next. She could follow those conversations with an analysis of her $13 million budget and a creative summit to discuss a future fundraiser or program development.

Others have recognized her abilities and sought her presence on numerous health, academic and community boards. Tiscareño has earned various awards through the years to include the 2016 Woman of Impact Award and her induction in 2018 into the El Paso Commission for Women Hall of Fame.

“My interactions with UTEP always positively impact my life,” Tiscareño said.

Dorothy Truax
College of Liberal Arts
B.A. Sociology, 1973

As a social worker for more than 30 years, Dorothy Truax has helped people of all ages and different backgrounds improve their lives.

Truax has served as director of social services at the Opportunity Center since 2014, and as director of the Reynolds Home, a homeless shelter for women and children, since 2006. She received a sociology degree from UTEP in 1973 and a master’s degree in social work from New Mexico State University in 2004. She has mentored nearly 30 undergraduate and graduate social work students at UTEP.

“In social work there is always something new, a new challenge every day,” Truax said. “So as long as you enjoy what you do, it is not a job. It’s something you love.”

The 2019 awardees will be officially recognized during UTEP’s 2019 Homecoming Week, Sept. 29 – Oct. 5, and will be showcased at the annual Distinguished Alumni Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, at the Don Haskins Center.

Border Scholars Discuss Binational Solutions at UTEP

As conditions such as population growth and climate change evolve, residents of the U.S.-Mexico border region, home to over 12 million people, face new challenges. A group of binational researchers recently met at UTEP to offer possible solutions.

“Living on the U.S.-Mexico border brings unique challenges and opportunities, as well as the chance to serve a population with a great pool of talent, much perhaps untapped, and perspective,” said Nate Robinson, assistant vice president for facility security in the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Robinson is one of the founders of the Border Solutions Alliance, which includes top U.S. and Mexican researchers and representatives from agencies in the fields of food, climate, energy, border safety and cybersecurity.

Many of them participated in the Southwest Binational Workshop June 10-12, 2019, in UTEP’s Tomás Rivera Conference Center. Topics included how to deal with an increase in the threat of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” the escalated strain on the area’s water resources, and the limitations inherent to a binational region.

“Border communities have two national governments, a mix of many federal, state and municipal government organizations, nonprofits and so on,” Robinson said. “This situation presents unique challenges in aligning policy, data sharing, and similar efforts that would benefit the border.”

The workshop featured a series of policy discussions, poster presentations, Q&A sessions, and a keynote address by George A. “Tony” Robinson, regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 6, which represents Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Robinson spoke about FEMA’s efforts to streamline its response to catastrophic events such as hurricanes and floods, and he suggested ways the agency’s private, public and non-governmental partners could make the region more resilient.

Workshop attendees included representatives from some of the alliance’s founding members: UTEP, the University of California San Diego (UCSD), the University of Arizona, New Mexico State University (NMSU), and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Other participants were officials from the City of El Paso, the Environmental Protection Agency, and local offices of the Texas Department of Transportation, Office of Border Public Health, and others. Also in attendance were representatives from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, El Colegio de Sonora, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, and Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ).

Border Solutions Alliance leaders strategically chose the Mexican partner institutions based on their faculty expertise, proximity to the border and to the U.S. alliance member institutions, and their strengths in social sciences and other key research areas.

Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, the alliance seeks to establish binational research priorities, identify prominent challenges that affect border states, and to develop smart technology and applied science solutions through the creation of collaborative proposals to address these issues.

According to Miroslav Krstic, Ph.D., senior associate vice chancellor for research at UCSD, one innovative solution that already is available is a mobile phone app, developed at UCSD, which makes recommendations for the least congested border crossing in the San Diego-Tijuana area based on information that comes from multiple phones that have the app running simultaneously.

“Future research would aim at far more advanced capabilities that reduce the time spent waiting and convert it into productive time,” Krstic said. “The aim is to boost economic development and at the same time enhance border security.”

Such technologies, Krstic added, would be similarly applicable to the management of health and water resources in a manner that is smarter and more beneficial to the taxpayer locally and nationally.

One of the many positive ideas to emerge from the recent workshop was the creation of a data-driven model of the border region. Vimal Chaitanya, Ph.D., professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NMSU, and another founding member of the alliance, called the model a “digital twin” of the border. Chaitanya said it would allow stakeholders across the entire U.S.-Mexico border to understand how a major disruptive event, whether natural or manufactured, might affect the region. With this knowledge in hand, that impact could be minimized.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s definitely achievable, and it will be very comprehensive,” Chaitanya said. “So that going in the future, people working in this area will be able to take advantage of this model, and maybe even improve upon it. It’s a continuously improving type of data modeling.”

The alliance will continue to work on this and other ideas for a few more months before it presents them to funding agencies and policymakers. To that end, the group will convene again in Washington, D.C., in early 2020. The alliance is hopeful about its prospects in the nation’s capital, and members agree that the level of energy and participation seen in its initial gatherings bode well for the group’s future.

One idea that was mentioned repeatedly during the UTEP workshop was that the border is an artificial barrier not recognized by the natural forces that shape the lives of its residents. That is why alliance members said that, regardless of the response they receive in Washington, they would continue to look for ways to make good on their mission to help communities become more resilient on both sides of the international boundary.

Author: Victor H. Arreola -UTEP Communications

UTEP to Host Annual History Day Competition

Melissa Avila has fond memories of her El Paso History Day participation at The University of Texas at El Paso, even though part of it involved getting lost in the Liberal Arts Building minutes before her presentation.

The senior history major with a minor in secondary education will be a volunteer judge at this year’s 22nd annual El Paso History Day contest from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at UTEP. Organizers expect about 400 students from the region’s public, private and charter high schools and middle schools to participate in this year’s event, which is themed “Triumph and Tragedy in History.”

Avila said she was an “overwhelmed” eighth grade student from Anthony Middle School when she came to campus for the first time for History Day. She and a partner had created a video documentary about UTEP’s legendary men’s basketball coach, Don Haskins, the year after his death in 2008.

Avila said that her greatest fear while wandering through the Liberal Arts Building was that she would not have enough time to set up her presentation on the Hall of Fame coach. Avila’s team finished third in her category, but the duo was able to present at the Texas History Day competition because the category’s winners could not go to Austin.

At the statewide competition, Avila and her partner earned a fourth-place finish out of 20 entries.

The El Paso native said the experience advanced her research, computer, interview and presentation skills, which have helped on her academic journey. Her advice to this year’s competitors is to take a deep breath and relax.

“You spent all year on this project and it is your time to show off,” Avila said as if addressing this year’s competitors. “Enjoy the experience, for it can and will be something you will talk about in the future.”

A cadre of 85 judges and 50 volunteers made up of community members and University students, faculty and staff, will assist competitors, who will make presentations as individuals or as teams in five categories: papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries.

Brad Cartwright, Ph.D., associate professor of instruction in history and director of UTEP’s El Paso History Day (EPHD) program, called EPHD one of the biggest regional History Day events in the state, and one of the largest annual outreach activities made by the University’s College of Liberal Arts.

“This is a big effort,” Cartwright said.

The UTEP educator’s eyes widened as he mentioned the many benefits students enjoy through their participation, to include building research and critical thinking skills as well as effective communication techniques.

“The teachers love it because it allows their students to explore topics in greater depth,” he said. “The students work hard on these projects. It’s a meaningful experience that builds a range of skills and confidence.”

Kera Steele, a senior history major, said she participated in two EPHD competitions while a student at Terrace Hills Middle School and Andress High School. In both cases, she designed websites. She earned a trip to Austin for her high school presentation on Hatshepsut, a queen of Egypt who became the country’s ruler around 1473 B.C. She said the interview process at the state level groomed her for her college presentations.

“Going through that interview where I was asked about my own work was helpful, especially since my career path of being a curator will most likely call for those types of interviews,” Steele said. “I didn’t place in Austin, but it was still a fun time there.”

Steele advised History Day contestants to pick something they are interested in, or something they want to learn about because that passion will come through in the competition. She also suggested that participants should make use of their teachers as a resource for help and guidance.

“The most important part is to just have fun with it,” she said. “It’s a pretty cool experience.”

Isabel Mora, a dual-credit history teacher at Valle Verde Early College High School, said approximately 75 of her students participate annually in the EPHD competition and all benefit from the experience.

Mora, who earned bachelor degrees in history and English literature from UTEP in 1996, said History Day requirements force her students to build 21st century career and college readiness skills that go beyond standardized test results. The students learn how to make a formal presentation and how to use technology to conduct profound research, she said.

“This curriculum allows me to get the kids to transcend (the minimum standards) and reach for something much higher,” said Mora, an El Paso native and first-generation college student.

When not competing, participants and their families will be encouraged to visit booths staffed by representatives from the University’s Enrollment Services and various student organizations, or enjoy scheduled entertainment and campus tours.

Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, will present the certificates at the event’s awards assembly. The top two finishers in each category will be eligible to participate in the Texas History Day competition in April in Austin.

“Of all of our studies, history is probably the one that reaches most deeply into the other disciplines,” O’Hearn said. “To do practically anything, from engineering to biology to psychology, you have to know how your field has developed over time. Otherwise, you just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. And this goes for life, too.”

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

Video+Story: 3D Printer Gives UTEP Art Students More Options

About 20 students from The University of Texas at El Paso have put a 21st century spin on ceramics, one of civilization’s oldest art forms, and their creations will be part of an exhibit that opens January 24, 2019, at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts.

“Sections: New Cities, Future Ruins at the Border” will include 170 pieces of different shapes and sizes that were designed by students using a special computer program and produced via a 3D ceramics printer that used locally harvested and processed clay.

The show will be in the center’s large Rubin Gallery through April 6, 2019. The National Endowment for the Arts funded the exhibition and related activities.

The software and the printer were gifts from the Rubin’s visiting artists Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, educators, architects and co-founders of Emerging Objects, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in innovative 3D printing solutions for buildings, interiors and environments.

Kerry Doyle, the Rubin Center director, called this one of the most important collaborations between a visiting artist and UTEP students in terms of its long-term applications for the students. She said the 3D printer, installed in the Ceramics Lab during the fall 2018 semester, offers art students novel opportunities.

“We always try to connect our visiting artists with our students and we’ve had many successful collaborations in the past, but nothing as in-depth as this,” she said referring to their use of local clay and innovative 3D technology. “I think this will change the way our students make ceramics.”

Vincent Burke, associate professor of art who specializes in ceramics, helped Rael and San Fratello prepare for the exhibit. The pair rewarded Burke’s efforts and those of his students by donating the 3D printer, which Burke called “a disruptor” because of the polar views his students have about this new technology.

“No one was lukewarm,” he said. “I reminded them that (the printer) does not necessarily replace using our hands or a potter’s wheel. It’s a 21st century way to conceptualize our artistic practices and execute what is difficult if not impossible to do by hand.”

Burke said he was grateful that he and his students had the opportunity to work on this project. He called it a challenge for everyone involved including him, but a thrilling experience overall. The benefits ranged from interdisciplinary collaborations and working with professional artists to learning about native clays and how to use cutting-edge 3D technology.

“Our new 3D printer is an incredible tool that will provide our students with a great opportunity to learn a new skill that more and more artists are using around the world,” he said. “It’s a game changer for us. It’s really remarkable. The key is using it in the service of art and ideas that reflect our unique individual voices.”

Rael, who was at UTEP the week of January 7 to create a large display for the exhibit, said he donated the printer because he wanted to give the students an opportunity to combine their knowledge with local materials and new technology.

“The idea was, ‘How do we expand on cross-border cultures and allow the creativity of Vince and his students to produce a series of objects that come from this region materially and intellectually?’,” said Rael during an interview in one of the Rubin Center’s first-floor workshops next to a table full of the student art pieces.

He noted the diversity of the shapes, textures and complexions of the vessels, and said that each reflected the students’ personal narratives. He said the variety of pieces excited him and that they were beyond his expectations collectively.

“I’m overwhelmed by looking at each one of them,” said Rael, who complimented Burke and his students for the passion and the creative, intellectual and physical energy they brought to the project. He estimated that they all had put hundreds if not thousands of hours into the collaboration, which he called one of the best of his career.

Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Fratello, an associate professor of interior design at San Jose State University, decided to use native clay, which has its roots in the area’s adobe and pottery, to promote their environmental art for the Rubin exhibit. The difference from the student work is the Californians used an industrial-sized 3D printer to create what would become a circular adobe vessel that would stand more than 6 feet tall.

It was the artists’ desire to familiarize themselves with the region’s clay that brought them into contact with Burke during the summer of 2017. The pair worked with the UTEP professor to find different clays, process them, and test them to see which deposits would work best for their project. Burke, with the help of Richard Langford, Ph.D., professor in UTEP’s Department of Geological Sciences, mapped out different clay deposits throughout El Paso County. About 20 students, including Dina Edens, Burke’s teaching assistant at the time, participated in the labor-intensive clay harvesting.

Edens, who earned her bachelor’s degree in ceramics and metalsmithing in December 2018, said she was excited about every aspect of this project from digging, processing and testing the clay to assembling the 3D printer, learning how to use it and then sharing that knowledge with others.

“I’m used to using my hands for ceramics, but this (printer) is an exciting new tool that can be used in so many different ways,” she said. “I used it as soon as I could. It really blew my mind.”

Burke called the new 3D printer a dynamic intersection of disciplines where fine art, science and the humanities interweave and inform each other.

“It’s a different type of language and a unique process that will allow UTEP fine art students to conceptually engage with our ancient medium in new and exciting ways,” Burke said.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Professor Receives TIAA Difference Maker Award

Roger Gonzalez, Ph.D., finds inspiration in supporting others. The professor and chair of the Department of Engineering Education and Leadership at The University of Texas at El Paso abides by that notion not only through teaching but enhancing the lives of individuals who have lost limbs.

Gonzalez, a UTEP alumnus, is the founder of LIMBS International, a nonprofit that designs, donates and supplements affordable and functional prosthetic limbs to developing countries throughout the world.

TIAA, a financial services firm that serves millions of people across the academic, research, cultural, medical, government and nonprofit fields, recognized Gonzalez’s work in November 2018 by naming him a TIAA Difference Maker 100 honoree.

“It is a true honor to be nationally recognized for the work that LIMBS has done over the last 15 years throughout 50-plus countries,” Gonzalez said. “I hope that this recognition will help LIMBS expand our partnerships, and thus help LIMBS expand our mission.”

In 2013, Gonzalez’s organization partnered with prosthetists in developing nations to develop a full-leg system called the LIMBox, which provides a complete set of components rather than individually sourced parts. The LIMBox now reaches an average of 400 amputees a year worldwide. In 2014, his team began to address issues beyond the physical needs through community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programs, which are geared toward enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families. There are now seven CBR programs throughout Latin America that provide patients with physical therapy, counseling and social re-integration.

TIAA is marking its centennial year by recognizing 100 individuals, who, like Gonzalez, work for a nonprofit and make significant contributions in their community or the world. TIAA awarded Gonzalez $10,000 to support and advance the work of LIMBS International.

“We serve those who serve others, and as you think about what that means, it’s a powerful statement,” TIAA Managing Director Chris Chavez said. “When we launched the Difference Maker 100 initiative, we were looking for people who, like Dr. Gonzalez, choose to serve others because they believe in what they are doing, in the people whose lives their work is impacting and in the people they’re engaging along the way.”

Gonzalez returned to UTEP as a faculty member in 2012. Since then, LIMBS International has set up its headquarters in El Paso and has developed a partnership with the University. This collaboration has expanded LIMBS and given UTEP students the opportunity to conduct research and design prosthetics that help hundreds of people worldwide. Student involvement is another aspect of Gonzalez’s work that TIAA sought to recognize with the Difference Maker 100 award.

“When somebody in a teaching role like that is able to impact the lives of others through his work, it creates the foundation for his students to take their ideas down a similar path,” Chavez said. “It’s the seed that will one day become a tree that expands out to find other areas where those students can possibly make their impact.”

Though he appreciates the recognition, Gonzalez believes LIMBS International has a lot more work to do.

“The need is far from met,” he said. “There is much to do and so few of us doing this, that while overwhelming, we are inviting others to join our efforts. I have been given much, and my desire still is to give back from all that has been given to me. As it is said, ‘For of those to whom much is given, much is required.’”

The podcast “Crazy Good Turns” featured the story of Gonzalez and his work with LIMBS International in November 2018. The podcast, created by former Home Depot CEO Frank Blake, celebrates people who serve others.

The hope is that it will inspire them and others to pursue additional good works. Forbes, Huffington Post, and Oprah Magazine have featured the podcast in stories.

UTEP Mechanical Engineering Professor to Study Materials for Hypersonic Cruise Vehicles

A mechanical engineering professor from The University of Texas at El Paso will help enhance the sustainability of structures moving at hypersonic speeds through a $130,000 grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Calvin M. Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering in UTEP’s College of Engineering, is the principal investigator of the award from the AFRL.

The grant will be used to conduct experimental and computational research on materials for hypersonic cruise vehicles (HVCs).

The project objective is to develop a real-time mechanical state tool for the predictive maintenance of turbomachinery and the survivability of hypersonic structures.

The mechanical state is the temporal and spatial distribution of residual stresses, deformation, and defects within a material.

Stewart directs the Material at Extremes Research Group under the direction of UTEP’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration Technology and Research (cSETR). The project is divided into two research objectives.

The first objective is to generate a database of standard and nonstandard experimental data for a candidate material for hypersonic cruise vehicles.

The second objective is to develop a tool — based on information from the database — that incorporates both a physically realistic model and computationally efficient software to enable the real-time prediction of mechanical state.

“Real-time prediction of the mechanical state is important for the survivability of HCVs,” Stewart said. “At that speed, the life expectancy of these vehicles is measured in minutes. If we can better predict the mechanical response under the conditions of hypersonic flight, we can extend the life of HCVs and eventually be able to travel around the globe in less than two hours.”

The AFRL grant will used to support student researchers and provide student travel to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

“The success of any research project arises not from the professors involved but from the students,” Stewart said. “The students involved in this project will work on a national high-priority research area. Ideally, these students will go on to work for AFRL and be an example of the high caliber of students that UTEP can produce.”

UTEP Associate Professor Awarded $5.1 Million to Tackle Region’s Health Disparities

Thenral Mangadu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of public health sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso, has received $5.1 million in federal grants to address multiple health-related disparities in the Paso del Norte region through a community-engaged approach.

Mangadu has secured three competitive grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and one from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

The funds will support programs and services in mental health, substance use disorder (SUD) prevention, treatment, and recovery, including residential treatment, family support services, HIV prevention, and sexual assault and violence prevention.

“Thanks to the funding support from SAMHSA and the OVW, UTEP and our community partners are able to address the collective health needs of individuals in our community,” said Mangadu, who joined UTEP as a research associate in 2008. She became a faculty member in 2012.

“Along with providing much-needed health services, we plan to focus on the foundational risk factors that contribute to substance abuse, mental health and violence-related health disparities while negatively impacting the health span of our priority populations.”

In September, SAMHSA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded Mangadu $2.5 million to provide comprehensive substance abuse prevention, treatment and support services for 500 pregnant and postpartum women, children and family members in partnership with Aliviane Inc.’s Women and Children’s Residential Center.

The agency also provided Mangadu $375,000 to train UTEP first responders on mental health first aid, a national program that teaches the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use. Trainees will include campus law enforcement, police dispatchers and University personnel. Aliviane Inc. will collaborate in training implementation.

These awards were preceded by a $1.9 million SAMHSA grant Mangadu received in August to reduce HIV infections among Hispanics with serious mental illness or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

Over the next four years, UTEP will collaborate with Project Vida Health Center, Aliviane Inc., Southwest Viral Med and Sunset ID Care to provide culturally competent substance use disorder, mental health, and HIV and Hepatitis C primary care and prevention services to 2,500 individuals. Services will include case management, peer support and outreach activities.

“We are excited about our continued collaboration with UTEP and Dr. Mangadu,” said Ivonne Tapia, Aliviane Inc.’s chief executive officer.

“Our partnership is a testament that community organizations and institutions of higher learning work well together to ease real life struggles in our region. Aliviane and UTEP have joined forces to increase access to substance abuse support services for pregnant and postpartum minority women and their families, and increase access to culturally competent service integration models for mental health, substance abuse and HIV primary care. It has been a great pleasure for us to collaborate with Dr. Mangadu and her team, and we hope that we can continue to have a positive impact in the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community. I look forward to advancing the educational experience of UTEP students who will participate in these grants as well as the life-changing experiences of our clients who will experience these quality services when they come to Aliviane.”

Also in August, the OVW awarded UTEP $299,999 to continue the University’s coordinated community response initiative to prevent sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus.

Led by Mangadu since 2015, the initiative involves the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV); El Paso District Attorney’s office; UTEP Police Department, UTEP CARE: Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education; and the UTEP Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR).

They collaborate to raise awareness about sexual violence prevention, victim services, law enforcement programs and campus and community events through social media.

“Dr. Mangadu’s research, as well as the type of research our faculty undertake within the College of Health Sciences more generally, is focused on our commitment to improving quality of life in our communities, particularly our most vulnerable populations who suffer a disproportionately higher risk of health challenges,” said College of Health Sciences Dean Shafik Dharamsi, Ph.D.

“This type of research is focused on social impact and specifically designed to address health disparities. Dr. Mangadu works tirelessly to improve health and reduce inequities in this region, and the funding she is receiving is a strong testament to that.”

Mangadu’s research interests include SUD and HIV prevention for minority populations, violence prevention, global health and public health program evaluation.

Mangadu received a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences from UTEP in 2010. She earned a master’s degree in public health from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree in medical sciences from Rajah Muthiah Medical College in Tamil Nadu, India.

UTEP’s Ability Awareness Week Offers Empowerment

A series of seminars, presentations and a wheelchair basketball game are among the activities scheduled during the 10th annual Ability Awareness Week celebration that starts Monday, October 8 at The University of Texas at El Paso.

This year’s program, which has a theme of “America’s Workforce: Empowering All,” is done in conjunction with October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Throughout the week, there will be presentations about employment, service animals, domestic violence and support services for students.

“We want to raise awareness of the needs of students with disabilities and the many career opportunities that are out there,” said Bill Dethlefs, Ph.D., director of UTEP’s Center for Center for Accommodations and Support Services. “It’s crucial for us to get that message out because national studies show that people with disabilities have fewer job opportunities and part of the reason is because they do not have college degrees.”

Activities will begin at 9 a.m. Monday, October 8 in the Tomás Rivera Conference Center on the third floor of Union Building East. The program will include a proclamation from U.S. President Donald Trump read by El Paso City Rep. Casandra Hernandez Brown and the awarding of honors to groups and individuals who made a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

UTEP’s Angela Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology and a social justice advocate, will make the keynote presentation about “Disability: From Awareness to Equity.”

Frederick is a researcher, wife and mother who is blind. Doctors diagnosed her with retinitis pigmentosa at age 3 and she slowly lost her sight through the years. She called learning Braille as a teenager the transformative point in her life that led to her academic and professional success. After she earned her undergraduate degree, Frederick became an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer and then an employee with a student loan company before she decided to pursue her doctoral degree. She joined UTEP in 2015.

One of the week’s highlights is the annual wheelchair basketball game that will pit the El Paso Air Wheelers against the Tucson Lobos at 6 p.m. Thursday, October 11, in UTEP’s Don Haskins Center. The Hillside Elementary School Singing and Signing Choir will perform the National Anthem. The school is home to the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf.

On a related note, approximately 50 employers and disability support providers will participate in a resource and career fair from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. that day in the Haskins Center concourse.

UTEP Doctoral Student Will Help Map Pacific Ocean Seafloor Aboard Exploration Vessel Nautilus

An environmental science and engineering doctoral student from The University of Texas at El Paso will set sail on a mission to help map the Pacific Ocean seafloor this week.

Stephen Escarzaga will be part of the crew of the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, a research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust. The internship opportunity is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Science Center for Earth System Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (NOAA-CESSRST). UTEP is a NOAA-CESSRST partner institution.

Escarzaga will be on the E/V Nautilus from October 4 to 18, 2018, as it maps the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone from San Francisco to Honolulu.

“I’m extremely honored to have been chosen for this opportunity,” Escarzaga said. “This is certainly something that, even as early as a year ago, I never thought would cross my path. Having been born and raised in El Paso, the opportunity to work aboard a research vessel at sea for three weeks isn’t one that comes often. I hope to come away from this experience with the solid technical skills that will advance me in my dissertation work. I also hope to gain valuable experience in working in an operational science setting seen in agencies such as NOAA-CREST (Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center).”

E/V Nautilus | Courtesy E/V Nautilus /Twitter

While on the E/V Nautilus, Escarzaga will conduct seafloor mapping surveys, assist with science and education activities, network with STEM professionals and experience the life of at-sea exploration.

A typical working day on the ship is approximately 10-14 hours. Escarzaga is well-versed in NOAA-CREST opportunities.

He is a previous recipient of a NOAA-CREST Ph.D. Fellowship as well as the organization’s Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Public Service Graduate Scholarship.

In addition, Escarzaga took part in a weeklong training session in coastal airborne imagery data processing at the NOAA Remote Sensing Division in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He spent the last three summers in Northern Alaska conducting research.

Escarzaga expressed gratitude toward his advisers at UTEP — Craig E. Tweedie, Ph.D., professor and director of the Environmental Science and Engineering Program, and Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

“Dr. Tweedie has continuously provided a wealth of guidance and support over the past 3 to 4 years. His 20-plus years of Arctic research has allowed me to expand my area of research well beyond the Chihuahuan Desert and into places I never thought I’d visit,” Escarzaga said.

“Additionally, my co-advisor, Dr. Miguel Velez-Reyes, has brought a technical aspect of remote sensing to my graduate studies that will allow me to properly apply aspects of the technology to coastal and nearshore issues in the Arctic.”

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