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

Tag Archives: The University of Texas at El Paso

UTEP Nursing Faculty named Fellows of American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Kathleen Cox, DNP, and Guillermina R. Solis, Ph.D., assistant professors of nursing at The University of Texas at El Paso, have been inducted as Fellows of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP).

Cox and Solis are among 71 nurse practitioner leaders to receive this honor in 2020. They join UTEP School of Nursing Dean Leslie K. Robbins, Ph.D., and Maria Amaya, Ph.D., professor and the school’s director of research, who were inducted into the FAANP in 2014 and 2011, respectively.

The FAANP program was established in 2000 to recognize nurse practitioner leaders who have made outstanding contributions to health care through clinical practice, research, education or policy.

“The School of Nursing is proud of the contributions Dr. Cox and Dr. Solis have made to the nursing profession,” Robbins said. “They serve as role models not only to our students, but also to colleagues who are inspired by their accomplishments.”

Cox joined the UTEP School of Nursing faculty in 2013 and became director of the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program in 2015. She is an acute care nurse practitioner with a vascular surgery practice in New Mexico. Cox has nearly 30 years of experience in nursing and academia. Her area of expertise is acute and critical care nursing.

Solis has been a member of the UTEP nursing faculty since 2008. She is director of the Family Nurse Practitioner program and her clinical certification is in family and geriatrics. Solis is a member of numerous local and national professional organizations and is a past president of the El Paso chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

Author: Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

UTEP College of Health Sciences Associate Professor collaborates on LGBTQ+ COVID-19 Texas Study

Oralia Loza, Ph.D., public health sciences associate professor at The University of Texas at El Paso, and the Borderland Rainbow Center (BRC) have collaborated on a survey that examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ population in Texas.

Led by Phillip W. Schnarrs, Ph.D., at The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School, the survey involved a statewide coalition of community and research partners, including UTEP and El Paso’s BRC, to better understand the needs, concerns and challenges of LGBTQ+ Texans and their allies during the coronavirus outbreak.

Preliminary results from this first-of-its-kind survey found that gender diverse people and queer people of color are experiencing a number of disparities. They include higher rates of COVID-19, more difficulty accessing a variety of services, and higher rates of anxiety and depression, as well as high unemployment compared with white participants.

The results, which are broken down by race, ethnicity and gender identity, are available here. Researchers plan to release the findings by individual Texas counties later this year.

“The purpose of the study is two-fold,” said Loza, who collaborated with the BRC to include representation from El Paso in the survey data. She is currently translating the survey and preliminary findings of the study into Spanish.

“One is to understand what are the needs of the LGBTQ population in our community because it has never been assessed before, especially statewide. But also, community organizations such as the BRC can use that data to show evidence of the need to advocate for those services. Other community organizations also can use the data to generate findings that are specific to the work they do. If their focus is mental health, they can look at the mental health data and report the needs for their city.”

The survey, which launched May 4, 2020, will continue to recruit participants until July 30, 2020.

To date, researchers have gathered data from 1,000 LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, including 111 respondents from El Paso. The survey is available here.

Researchers said the data collected will be given back to community partners to use for future planning, as well as the development and delivery of programs to support LGBTQ+ individuals and allies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Satiric Drawings Picked ‘Best’ at 2020 UTEP Student Art Show

Alfredo Ortega shared with great pride that the money his parents used to pay the hospital for his birth came from proceeds of his father’s art. The recent graduate of The University of Texas at El Paso said art has been part of his life ever since.

Ortega, born in Chihuahua City, Mexico, and raised in El Paso, has earned some recognition for his talent through the years. He earned his latest accolade, the Arlene Smith McKinnon Endowment Purse Award for Overall Best of Show, when the winners were announced at the 2020 Annual Juried UTEP Student Art Virtual Exhibition on the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts Facebook page.

The artist won with his vibrant “A Wall Full of Devils,” 20 individual ink-and-watercolor drawings that offer a satiric look at U.S. presidents and their foibles. He said he created the images from his longtime perspective as an undocumented immigrant, but his newfound legal status – and his art – gave him a voice.

His work on 30-inch by 22-inch paper showed imaginative, stream-of-consciousness concepts that touched on politics, pop culture, immigration, consumerism, environmentalism and more.

“I felt the freedom to express what I think about a particular subject,” said Ortega, who earned this spring a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UTEP with concentrations in painting and drawing and an honors minor from the College of Liberal Arts.

He said that an artist friend sent him a phone message with the news as he worked at a U-Haul rental shop in Northeast El Paso on May 28 when the winners were announced.

“I was surprised and happy,” the artist said. “I was not expecting this. I was at work by myself so I couldn’t share the news with anyone. I called my wife and my family to tell them and everyone was excited. I ordered some pizza that night so we could celebrate.”

Marisa Sage, director and head curator at the New Mexico State University Art Museum, was this year’s fine arts judge. She said she chose Ortega’s work because of how he used composition and concept to address the very timely issues of failed bureaucracy, tyranny, oppression, environmentalism, immigration, and the abuse of power by political leaders past and present.

“Using collage, drawing and painting, he uses satire and creative freedom to approach very difficult yet urgent topics, spawning new questions surrounding the possibility of change in our social political climate,” Sage said.

Ortega was among the 91 undergraduates who submitted 356 entries in categories that encompassed graphic design and fine arts such as print, drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, jewelry/small-scale metal and photograph/digital image.

What made this show unique was that many of the students finished their art pieces away from UTEP in makeshift art studios in and around their homes and with whatever materials they could find. Faculty members said that these entries showed the students’ ingenuity.

Ortega said that he finished his project in his home’s kitchen, which was cramped, underlit and full of human and technological distractions that slowed his creative process. He said he will use part of the $1,000 prize to create a small home workshop.

Among the evening’s other winners was Sara Isasi, a senior double major in graphic design and drawing with a minor in communication studies. Her “1960s Psychedelic Posters in El Paso” digital print earned Best Graphic Design.

She said that she and members of her family gathered around to watch the video and started to celebrate with hugs, good wishes and a few tears after her name was announced. Soon other friends, family members and co-workers began to call or send her congratulatory texts.

“I felt really happy and proud of myself,” Isasi said of her ’60s-era submission that was colorful, iconic, and yes, groovy. “Although I could not go out to celebrate this achievement with my family and friends, it still was very beautiful to hear from them and receive their love and support through different platforms.”

The graphic design jurors were Joel Martinez and Iris Morales, co-owners and co-creative directors of El Paso-based EME Design Studios. Martinez said the students did outstanding work, but that he and Morales were especially pleased with Isasi’s winning entry. They lauded its well-balanced composition of color, layout and typography and said it could have been presented to a professional client.

“We based our selection on three essential elements of graphic design: function, concept and aesthetics,” said Martinez, who earned his BFA at UTEP in 2004. “This piece was executed flawlessly judging from these three elements.”

David Griffin, professor and chair of the Department of Art, lauded Rubin Center officials for their decision to go through with the student art show. To have done otherwise would have marginalized the students’ academic and artistic achievements, he said.

Griffin congratulated every art show participant in recorded comments that were part of the virtual awards ceremony. He praised the students for their perseverance and dedication to their craft in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, and encouraged them to stay creative.

“Go out, do the best you can and make art,” Griffin said.

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP assists nationwide effort to identify medical equipment suppliers to support COVID19 response

The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC), a manufacturing consulting center based at The University of Texas at El Paso, is assisting organizations and businesses throughout the Paso del Norte region, state and country, by connecting them with manufacturers to acquire critical personal protective equipment (PPE) needed in the fight against COVID-19.

COVID-19’s impact on local businesses has created shortages of medical supplies such as gowns, N95 masks, face shields, and other related products.

TMAC has worked to identify relevant manufacturers that can change their operations to fill this need. TMAC is scouting capabilities in pharmaceutical preparation, plastics, soap and cleaning compounds, medical equipment supplies, batteries, and medical device manufacturers, to gauge their ability to assist with regard to PPE shortage and gathering that information.

The supply chain scouting efforts at UTEP are managed by Amit Lopes, Ph.D., assistant professor in UTEP’s Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering (IMSE) program, and regional director of TMAC Paso del Norte (PdN), which includes six counties in southwest Texas. UTEP is the host institution for TMAC PdN, which is overseen by UTEP’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects.

TMAC has been collaborating with other MEP centers throughout the United States, the Medical Center of the Americas, Bio El Paso Juárez, New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s task force worked with TMAC’s state executive director, Mark Sessumes, to develop a strategy to respond to the need for PPE and initiate a plan to better position the agency for future needs.

Lopes is the regional TMAC liaison to the governor’s task force team and has four “trusted business advisors” who are assisting in these efforts.

A.P.I. Face Shield | Photo courtesy UTEP

“The overall vision for the TMAC Statewide Task Force team is to create a strategy (both short- and long-term) for a robust supply chain network centered around the themes of response, recovery, and resilience to address critical needs and minimize disruptions to incidents,” Lopes said.

“The goal is for TMAC to be the owner of the statewide supplier network responsible for building a stronger customer-supplier network with necessary resources to maintain that network — enabling a stronger, more sustainable economic condition.”

TMAC is assisting companies to gain access to grants/loans to offset employee salaries and address loss of business with relevant investments.

Additionally, the center supports companies as they make the adjustment toward starting manufacturing operations again in a post-COVID-19 environment. TMAC’s efforts shorten the time between when COVID-19 related products are needed by the providers and finding an organization who can manufacture it.

“Small manufacturers are valuable in this scenario because they can more quickly transition to making a different product,” Lopes said. “We had a manufacturer that was making coats that is now making gowns and masks. TMAC can do the engineering for them if they need it and help source raw materials and design the machine.”

To learn more about TMAC and manufacturers producing COVID-19 PPE resources, click here to visit their website.

UTEP President Heather Wilson appointed Chair of DOT’s new Women in Aviation Advisory Board

The University of Texas at El Paso officials announced Monday that President Heather Wilson was appointed chair of the newly formed Women in Aviation Advisory Board (WIABB) by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao on Friday, May 15.

President Wilson, who served as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force from 2017 to 2019, will lead 30 individuals representing a diverse range of backgrounds and expertise in the aviation industry who were appointed to serve as board members.

“Women are underrepresented in aviation and I look forward to working with Secretary Chao, the FAA, and the advisory board to develop strategies that will encourage more women to consider careers in the aviation industry,” President Wilson said.

She has more than 35 years of experience in a range of leadership and management roles in the military, higher education, government and private industry. In August 2019, she began her role as President of UTEP, which is among the top 5% of U.S. research universities and one of the nation’s leading Hispanic-serving institutions.

She previously served as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force and represented New Mexico in the U.S. Congress for a decade.

She graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in the third class to include women, and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. Wilson is an instrument rated private pilot and aircraft owner.

“The Department welcomes Dr. Heather Wilson and these accomplished advisory board members, who share a commitment and passion for encouraging women to access opportunities in aviation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The WIAAB was established Oct. 3, 2019, under the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018. The purpose of the WIAAB is to encourage women and girls to enter the field of aviation with the objective of promoting organizations and programs that are providing education, training, mentorship, outreach and recruitment of women in the aviation industry.

Board members represent a diverse range of backgrounds and expertise, including those from major airlines and aerospace companies, nonprofit organizations within the aviation industry, aviation and engineering business associations, the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol, and institutions of higher education and aviation trade schools.

“From Secretary Chao, to the several women on my senior leadership team, and the more than 10,000 women in the FAA, we see the professionalism and contributions that make our aviation industry the gold standard for the world every day,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “We salute the WIAAB’s new board members for their commitment to illuminate this career path for more women.”

Members will be appointed to the WIAAB for the duration of its existence, which is anticipated to be a minimum of two years. The board will meet up to twice annually to carry out its duties.

A full list of nominees and their biographies is available here.

UTEP Students stay linked to campus through Virtual Events

Despite the physical distance created by the COVID-19 outbreak between members of The University of Texas at El Paso’s campus community, University leaders have found innovative ways to remain proactive, supportive and linked to students through virtual events.

After the University transitioned to an online learning format in March in accordance with a city public health directive, UTEP worked to ensure accessibility to all technological resources necessary for a smooth transition into exclusively online courses.

In addition to providing a comprehensive learning experience, UTEP departments in the Division of Student Affairs have made a commitment to expand their virtual presence and generate the sense of community that is a fundamental experience of attending college.

“Our staff members have developed new online programming formats like the weekly ‘Quarantivities’ events, which feature an ever-changing slate of speakers, performers and social activities,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs. “We’ve also centralized a lot of our key services so that they can easily be accessed online by students. The transition of student services to a fully online environment has been challenging, but it has also provided all of us at UTEP with an opportunity to be more creative, nimble and impactful.”

UTEP’s Student Engagement Learning Center (SELC) has established a weekly effort dedicated to combating the adverse effects of social isolation and assist with the overall impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The “Miners on Monitors: Quarantivities” page has a variety of programs, events and opportunities for students that provide beneficial information and support to those who may be struggling with lifestyle adjustments or may be unaware of the different services UTEP provides.

“Having a connection to someone or something is important in life,” said Nicole Aguilar, director of the SELC. “The Student Engagement and Leadership Center recognizes this connection and has taken our mission of engaging students outside of the classroom to the next level. Miners on Monitors is a way for everyone to be together, apart.”

Some events, such as the “Mindful Mondays” series, are designed to offer helpful tips on time management and self-reflection as a means to control anxiety or adjust to a new schedule. UTEP’s P3 and Student Recreation Center also host livestreams promoting family wellness and general physical health advice regarding diet and exercise.

Across all social media platforms, the UTEP Spirit Crewdance team and cheerleading team collectively seek to motivate and engage the student population by posting interactive stories and helpful tips. Each Monday, a new set of Spirit Week activities are posted that encourage Miners to show pride in their University and discover ways to connect with their peers. Students are exploring the depths of technological communication, maximizing the reach of an already familiar form of socialization.

Other more information-oriented panel discussions address the mental and emotional health of the student population as it copes with a variety of lifestyle disruptions and unfamiliar psychological challenges. UTEP’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) holds events such as “Coping with At-Home Quarantine,” serving both to help students recognize the root causes of the fear and uncertainty they face and the various ways to counteract these experiences in a productive manner. CAPS’ outreach sessions assure students that they are not alone, and both their crisis line and therapy services are available at all times, whether by phone or a video call.

“These programs and initiatives are designed to give us all avenues to stay connected and talk about what matters to us,” Aguilar said. “UTEP faculty, staff and students have come together to bring opportunities and experiences that keep us connected to you. We hope they serve as a reminder that we support you, and we can’t wait to see you back on campus.”

Events promoting unity are also crucial in moments of social disruption. UTEP was one of many universities that participated in “Take Back the Night,” an international event to end all forms of sexual and domestic violence. The University also held events such as Denim Day, during which students shared photos of themselves on social media wearing jeans as a symbol of advocacy against violence. The accompanying Denim Day virtual discussion panel explained the importance of education on sexual violence and the impact that students have on prevention and awareness in their community and their institution of higher education.

Joanna Whitaker, a sophomore nursing major and SELC intern, was responsible for the approval and promotion of campus events and organizations before the transition to distance learning. She now manages the weekly update of the Miners on Monitors page, disseminating information to the organizations involved and even participating in the events herself.

“As a student, these events encourage me to take a break from my school work and have some fun,” said Whitaker, noting the increased traction that UTEP social media and the Miners on Monitors page received after the transition to virtual outreach. “It is heartwarming to see so many students participating in these events and still connecting with each other and the University while we are away.”

As the University transitions into the summer and fall semester, UTEP is taking additional steps to encourage enrollment and make the process of becoming a Miner interactive and convenient. Events such as the Daily Dig series, hosted by the Office of Admissions and Recruitment, and Financial Aid Fridays are held to dispel the idea that a college education is reserved for affluent families. The University has ensured that prospective and returning students can easily reach out with questions or requests, and every department is available to be contacted and provide assistance.

Overall, the Miner spirit shines through as students come together to showcase the pride they have in their University and the faith they have in each other. Whether through dancing, creative projects, support groups, or simply sharing memories — UTEP has a community of students that cannot easily be discouraged.

Author: Julian Herrera – UTEP Communications

Alzheimer Chapter partners with UTEP for Workshops

The coronavirus pandemic has increased anxieties among caregivers of people with forms of dementia, so the West Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association decided to offer a few virtual workshops to ease those fears with some help from The University of Texas at El Paso.

A pair of UTEP faculty members have volunteered to help the chapter promote and execute “Mindful Bridges,” a four-part social engagement series for caretakers of people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that affects a person’s memory, behavior and thought processes.

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes, an assistant professor of practice in the Chicano Studies program, and Sarah Yvonne Jimenez, an instructor in clinical nursing, will help with the free public workshops that began May 7, 2020.

Interested participants should contact the chapter at 915-497-9930 or WestTexas@alz.org to reserve a space.

Carrizal-Dukes will talk about how to keep a journal and her husband, comic book artist and publisher Ronnie Dukes, will explain how to doodle. Jimenez will co-facilitate the workshops that will encourage journal writing and doodling as ways to self-reflect and lower stress from a health care perspective.

“We anticipate it will be a very innovative way to reach those (participants),” Jimenez said. She is completing her dissertation at The University of Texas at Tyler and plans to earn her doctorate in nursing this summer. The Alzheimer’s chapter has asked her to serve the association as an El Paso ambassador at the state and federal levels in search of legislative support. “We are very excited about rolling this program out.”

The journals and doodles are tied to the advertisements that Dukes and Carrizal-Dukes developed for these workshops. The couple created five four-panel color comic strips that focus on common challenges faced by caregivers and their patients with dementia, such as anxiety and repetition. The hope is that these suggested methods will help the caretakers, who often are family members, to express their feelings and reduce anxiety.

“I am doing this to impact people’s lives in a positive way,” said Carrizal-Dukes, who is a doctoral student in UTEP’s Rhetoric and Composition program. She expects to earn her degree this summer. “It has never been more important for us to understand what it is like to have dementia and to find out what we can do to help in our community’s response to the current crisis.”

The University professor said her efforts fit in with the visual rhetoric and composition portion of her doctoral studies. Part of her research involves how the visual arts and social justice can affect the world. It is part of what she called GraphicMedicine, a growing trend where medical issues and patient care are shared in a comic book style.

In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, Carrizal-Dukes wanted to raise awareness of the issues faced by caregivers. She and her husband, a former UTEP special events stagehand, accomplished this through a few impactful words and images.

“Comics offer an engaging, powerful and accessible method of delivering illness narratives,” Carrizal-Dukes said.

Kate Mangelsdorf, Ph.D., professor of rhetoric and writing studies and Carrizal-Dukes’ dissertation director, agreed. She said comics may be a better way to communicate healthcare information to patients who are visual learners.

“People can learn more from these everyday stories that are vividly drawn than they might from reading about Alzheimer’s in a magazine or from listening to their doctor,” Mangelsdorf said.

David Hernandez, the Alzheimer chapter’s director of programs and services, echoed that perspective. He said a comic strip approach makes the message, which can be difficult to deliver, more accessible to a larger audience. He also noted that the effect of dementia is multigenerational.

“The family unit caring for their loved one involves the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Hernandez, who earned his master’s degree in art education from UTEP in 2002. “This medium appeals to broader audiences.”

Hernandez said he hoped that the workshops would give caretakers ideas on how they could spark memories and promote conversation with individuals with different forms of dementia. He scheduled the workshops because of the COVID-19 outbreak and to coincide with June being Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

Hernandez said he reached out to Jimenez and Carrizal-Dukes because they have worked together in the past. He worked with the writer/artist when he was education curator at the El Paso Museum of Art, and has worked with the nursing instructor through her volunteer work with his chapter as a community educator and support group facilitator.

“With UTEP’s strong presence in the community, innovative outreach initiatives, research and programs, it makes sense to partner with the University,” Hernandez said. “We share many of the same values and goals.”

UTEP Researcher earns $114k NSF Grant for COVID Study

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has approved a $114,000 RAPID award to The University of Texas at El Paso’s April Gile Thomas, Ph.D., assistant professor psychology, to conduct research related to COVID-19.

Her study, “Understanding At-Risk Adolescents’ and Parents’ Daily Experiences During COVID-19,” is UTEP’s first NSF RAPID award related to the coronavirus. The study began May 1 and will involve 105 adolescents and parents from throughout El Paso, to include some who are incarcerated or on probation. Thomas said that the virus’ effect on at-risk youth could be pervasive and distinct.

Thomas, the project’s principal investigator, will be supported by two UTEP graduate students and 25 undergraduates and post-baccalaureate student research assistants. Her co-PI is Cait Cavanagh, Ph.D., assistant professor at the School of Criminal Justice and the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University.

Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D., vice president for research, said the NSF award is a positive reflection on Thomas, her department, her college and the University.

“We are pleased with the National Science Foundation’s selection of Dr. Thomas to conduct this timely and important research,” Osegueda said. “It also is important to note the number of junior researchers involved. It is a testament to UTEP’s unwavering commitment to student research, especially among undergraduates.”

Thomas said she will incorporate her ongoing longitudinal study of the effects of incarceration and justice-involvement on youth sleep and social development research into the new research to provide a pre-COVID baseline. The research will compare adolescent’s stress, mood, social skills, substance use, physical health, delinquency, mental health symptoms, quality of social relationships, and psychosocial development throughout the outbreak. She said the project also will study whether juvenile incarceration aggravates the potential effect of coronavirus on youth outcomes.

“All people are likely going to be affected in some way or another by this pandemic, but we believe that adolescents – particularly incarcerated adolescents – may be especially vulnerable and face unique challenges in the coming months,” said Thomas, who added that her team was honored with the opportunity to conduct this research. “We hope our findings will improve our understanding of the needs, risks and potential protective factors of a vulnerable group of youth in a global state of emergency.”

The UTEP researcher said this work could enhance best practice for juvenile detention facilities and probation departments in times of crisis to ensure that youth continue to receive important rehabilitative services.

Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts, said Thomas’ selection brings great pride to the college because it is an NSF RAPID grant and because the investigation is so critical at this time.

RAPID funding is designed to provide support for research that is urgent in nature, in response to an unanticipated event, and serves the national interest. UTEP will receive a little more than $98,000 from the grant, and the rest will go to Michigan State University.

“(Thomas) is a leader among scholars across our college who have stepped up to provide research and advice to the community during this difficult time,” O’Hearn said.

The grant is the latest of Thomas’ achievements to impress Edward Castañeda, Ph.D., professor and chair in UTEP’s Department of Psychology. He called her a diligent, productive, energetic and research-focused scientist who consistently shares her thoughtful and insightful opinions to enhance the department. He said that shows her commitment to the overall quality of UTEP’s academic climate.

“It is not surprising that she quickly connected the dots to win research funding around her professional interests to understand the dynamics of incarceration that create unfavorable threats for at-risk youth,” Castañeda said.

“She demonstrates outstanding insights, in this case how COVID-19 further exacerbates the inequities that compound the physical and mental health of adolescents placed into juvenile detention.”

Video+Gallery: UTEP surprises El Paso area High School Seniors with special deliveries

Dozens of area high school seniors are receiving a special delivery of congratulatory balloons and branded gifts this week and next from The University of Texas at El Paso, accompanied by a message commending them for their achievements and welcoming them into the University.

“While we know that this is not the year many of our high school seniors had expected, we still want to celebrate their achievements and create an exciting experience for these future Miners as we welcome them into the UTEP family,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs. “We are looking forward to having these talented, motivated students join us for the fall 2020 semester.”

The effort coincides with GenTX Virtual Decision Day on May 1, which is coordinated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to celebrate students for their postsecondary plans.

The presentations are targeted to recipients of UTEP’s most prestigious scholarships. They receive a bouquet of orange and blue balloons, along with a swag bag full of UTEP-branded gifts. They are also encouraged to take a photo with the balloons and post it to their social media accounts using the hashtag #igotpickd.

The photos will be highlighted on UTEP’s official FacebookTwitter and Instagram accounts.

All accepted seniors receive a graduation packet that includes a poster that says “#igotpickd.” They are also encouraged to celebrate their achievements on social media using that hashtag, which is the official hashtag used in relation to the University’s admissions and recruitment efforts.

The Decision Day events are typically held in front of the student body in high schools across the state, but the effort was moved to a digital format this year to in order to continue the celebration while social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Video+Photos  courtesy  BalloonsVe.

UTEP Student Teachers help with switch to Online Education

Student teachers from The University of Texas at El Paso are among the educators who helped area school districts transition to online delivery formats, thanks in part to the preparation they received at UTEP.

Under the supervision of mentors, 121 student teachers worked from their remote home “offices” to assist their assigned campuses to prepare for the resumption of the spring 2020 semester. The help ranged from shared ideas of how to teach online to requests to search for the best student-centered education websites.

Additionally, some developed electronic worksheets to engage and educate their students.

Adan Contreras, a senior applied learning and development major, helped his team at Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School in Northeast El Paso, where he teaches seventh-grade math. He surfed the web and found an interactive program that would serve students and teachers. He suggested it to his department chair, who approved it.

While there were some initial challenges, Contreras and other student teachers spoke of the energy and camaraderie involved in working as part of a team with a common goal of educating students. He said he often relies on the soft skills he learned at UTEP.

“We are taught to keep open minds, to be flexible and collaborate,” Contreras said recently after an online session with some of his students. “We know that as educators, nothing in the classroom will remain set. Change is constant. We learn from the bad as well as the good, and we will use what we learn to help our students.”

Janet Quiroz, a senior interdisciplinary studies major, teaches fourth-grade dual language students at Mesita Elementary School. When her campus leaders announced the shift to distance learning, she shared what she knew about technology integration and online resources.

To assist her mentor teacher, she posted science tasks and joined in virtual classes. She continues to search for student-friendly online activities.

“Seeing how we (teachers) can adapt to new circumstances from one day to another, it is very motivational and inspiring,” Quiroz said.

Rudy Lozano, a senior history major, helped his mentor teacher through the preparation of online lesson plans. He is a 10th-grade world geography teacher at Canutillo High School. Since the resumption of classes, he has participated in online class conferences and helped to grade online assignments.

The campus mentor teachers, who often are seasoned UTEP graduates, have praised their student teachers for their contributions and eagerness to assist.

Erika Mein, Ph.D., associate dean of undergraduate studies and educator preparation and associate professor of literacy/biliteracy education, said that the college was pleased with the initiative of its student teachers to stay involved and to familiarize themselves with new platforms such as Nearpod, Schoology and Google Classroom.

“This is a process of change, adaptation and learning to continue to meet the needs of our students and to continue to uphold the high standard of quality in the preparation of teachers for our region and beyond,” Mein said.

Photo courtesy UTEP

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.

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