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Home | Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

UTEP Awarded Physical Therapy Grant

A grant from the Health Policy and Administration (HPA) Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) will enable researchers at The University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Health Sciences to validate a language assessment that measures Spanish proficiency of students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program.

Celia Pechak, Ph.D., associate DPT Program director and associate professor, will lead the project with co-principal investigators Emre Umucu, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program, and Loretta Dillon, DPT, clinical professor in the DPT Program.

Researchers will investigate the intra- and inter-rater reliability of the Physical Therapy Spanish Proficiency Measure (PT-SPM). Developed by the researchers, the tool was created for physical therapists to assess a DPT student’s Spanish language skills in a real or simulated clinical setting.

The UTEP DPT Program is the only program in the United States that integrates Spanish training across its curriculum. Students participate in many Spanish language learning activities designed to enhance communication between physical therapists and their Spanish-speaking patients. These activities include taking a Spanish Medical Terminology course and practicing their Spanish with community members during service-learning and clinical education.

For the study, physical therapist evaluators will watch videos of DPT students completing a physical therapy examination and intervention in Spanish with a Spanish-speaking simulated patient. They will rate the students’ Spanish proficiency using the PT-SPM tool. Researchers will analyze the data to determine if the ratings by the different evaluators are all consistent.

“If the reliability is established, the PT-SPM will be the first valid and reliable tool that can be used by academic and clinical educators to assess physical therapist students’ clinically-relevant Spanish proficiency with Spanish-speaking patients,” Pechak said.

The PT-SPM tool also has the potential to be adapted for use by other health professions.

The APTA is a professional organization representing more than 100,000 member physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students of physical therapy. The HPA Section is a specialty component of the APTA.

The mission of the HPA Section is to transform the culture of physical therapy through initiatives that enhance professionalism, leadership, management and advocacy to foster excellence in autonomous practice for the benefit of members and society.

UTEP’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers Established to Promote Academic Excellence

Each year for the past decade, The University of Texas System Board of Regents has recognized faculty members from The University of Texas System’s eight academic and six health institutions as recipients of the highly prestigious and competitive Regents Outstanding Teaching Awards (ROTA).

Since the awards’ inception, faculty members at The University of Texas at El Paso have claimed 70 of these coveted prizes, creating a distinguished group comprising various disciplines throughout the University who share exemplary performance in the classroom.

In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the ROTA, and in an effort to share awardees’ deep commitment to teaching with the campus community, UTEP’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers was founded in 2019. The academy’s primary purpose is to recognize, promote and support excellence in teaching at the University.

When founders of the UTEP academy — who include Beth Brunk-Chavez, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s Extended University, and John Hadjimarcou, Ph.D., professor of marketing and chair of UTEP’s Department of Marketing and Management — approached UTEP President Diana Natalicio about the idea for the academy at the University, she was enthusiastic and fully supported all efforts to get it up and running on campus.

“I think President Natalicio feels UTEP has a lot to share when it comes to excellence in teaching for an institution like ours, and it is important to make known internally and externally that we have a community of teachers who can do great things,” Hadjimarcou said.

As is true of the UT System’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers, which recognizes outstanding educators across The University of Texas System academic institutions, the UTEP Academy’s goals are to recognize and reward outstanding educators for their exceptional contributions, foster and promote improved teaching and learning, education innovation, and educational discourse and initiatives.

“This Academy of Distinguished Teachers provides us with the opportunity to celebrate teaching excellence at UTEP,” Brunk-Chavez said. “We look forward to working with the best teachers across the UTEP campus to showcase and promote the innovative, engaging and otherwise extraordinary teaching practices that contribute to the success of our students.”

The academy’s members are comprised of UTEP’s previous ROTA recipients with the hope in the future to extend membership to other faculty members who have excelled in teaching at the state or national level. Current members will be charged with providing institutional leadership in teaching excellence at the University and advise the Provost and President on instructional matters, provide mentorship to UTEP faculty, sponsor teaching-related scholarship, and engage in initiatives that bring attention to and create a climate that values diversity in teaching innovation and discourse.

“In addition to recognizing the excellence in teaching on campus, it is important that the academy also provides an opportunity for members to share their expertise with others on campus,” said John Wiebe, Ph.D., UTEP’s interim provost. “By recognizing them, we set them up for a position of mentorship of others who would like to learn their successful methods of teaching.”

UTEP’s academy will be closely aligned with the University’s Center for Faculty Leadership and Development (CFLD). The academy will follow the center’s efforts to allow members to share their own experiences and expertise with the UTEP community through workshops and other forums on cutting-edge teaching and learning activities, methods and applications.

“Establishing this academy hopefully sends the message to our students and faculty on the value we place on good teaching at UTEP,” Wiebe said. “It also provides more opportunities for recognition of excellent teaching, which is important because if you only recognize two outstanding teachers a year as with the ROTA, it can be difficult for faculty to aspire to receive that award. If we are able to recognize more faculty I think it can incentivize faculty to document what they are doing in the classroom and work with colleagues toward that recognition or stature.”

The inaugural class will be officially inducted into the UTEP Academy of Distinguished Teachers during Honors Convocation on April 28. For more information on the academy, visit their website.

Author:  Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Team Wins 2nd Place at Global Health Tech Design Competition at Rice University

A student team comprised of a trio of undergraduates from The University of Texas at El Paso won second place for its presentation of low-cost health technologies during the Rice 360° Ninth Annual Undergraduate Global Health Technologies Design Competition at Rice University.

The team of Abril Chavez, Laila Al Saihati and Paulette Ramirez made up one of about 80 teams representing universities from throughout the world who competed at the competition, which is designed to prepare students to lead tomorrow’s global health workforce.

All three UTEP students are mentored by Juan C. Noveron, Ph.D., the Ralph and Kathleen Ponce de Leon Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and supported by the NSF Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) and the I-Discover programs at UTEP.

Their project identified some of the essential water-related needs of two communities in the Paso del Norte region — Agua Dulce in El Paso and Anapra in Juárez, Mexico.

To meet those needs, the team developed a novel 3D-printed water filter that removes lead and other heavy metals, and which can be adapted to water barrels used in these communities. The design could potentially impact the process by which heavy metals are removed from water at the point-of-use in households and thus improve global health.

“This student-led work demonstrates the remarkable world-class education that students at UTEP are obtaining,” Noveron said. “I was present there during the student competition and saw how in the midst of other groups from top-notch universities, the UTEP students performed incredibly well as a cohesive team, presenting with passion and clarity a project that has enormous societal impact. The judges who presided over this competition were renowned national leaders in industry and academia, and so the entries were judged on a thorough array of criteria, including the effectiveness and potential of the design solution to improve global health. I am extremely joyful for the students’ success and how this experience will also impact their own scientific careers.”

Entries were judged on the quality of the problem definition, the effectiveness and potential impact of the design solution, and the likelihood that the solution can be successful in improving healthcare delivery in low-resource settings by faculty, clinicians, and private and public sector partners from across the country

Mining Minds: Special Lighting to Celebrate Establishment of the School of Mines

The University of Texas at El Paso will illuminate the “Mining Minds” pickaxe sculpture at the campus’ University Avenue roundabout in blue and orange.

The special illumination will take place Tuesday evening, April 16, 2019, to commemorate the establishment of the School of Mines, now UTEP.

Texas Gov. O.B. Colquitt signed Senate Bill 183 on April 16, 1913, to create the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. The University of Texas Board of Regents formally established the school 12 days later. This new school filled a huge need in the mining industry.

Community members pledged $50,000, or almost $1.3 million in 2019 dollars, to purchase three buildings on 22 acres of land that was the defunct El Paso Military Institute just east of Fort Bliss.

The school opened on Sept. 28, 1914, with 27 students. The school and the community have enjoyed a long, close relationship.

“Mining Minds” is an iconic piece of public art installed in 2010 to enhance the UTEP campus. At night, orange lights illuminate the steel structure while light from LEDs emanate from the perforated “ones” and “zeroes” at each end of the pick.

The University illuminates the pick in blue and orange on special occasions such as historic dates, major annual milestones and celebrations of special accomplishments.

Learn more about “Mining Minds” at miningminds.utep.edu.

Author: Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications

Department of Energy Official Praises UTEP’s Commitment to Advanced Manufacturing Research

A research leader from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) lauded The University of Texas at El Paso’s research capabilities during the Southwest Emerging Technology Symposium (SETS) and Regional Small Business Summit, an event hosted by UTEP’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR).

Briggs White, Ph.D., technology manager of the Crosscutting Research Program of the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), was a keynote speaker at the event, which provides career-building opportunities for students from UTEP and throughout the country in a professional conference setting, connecting these students with researchers, scholars and industry professionals for possible recruitment opportunities.

“UTEP has been a national model for creating highly competitive academic and research programs while maintaining a deep commitment to serving its student demographic,” White said. “So, I was particularly pleased to participate in UTEP’s summit to help highlight its successes in important research with national implications.”

UTEP has long been a mainstay of NETL’s research collaboration through the agency’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Other Minority Institutions (HBCU/OMI) initiative.

Jack F. Chessa, Ph.D., chair of UTEP’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said White’s sentiments are a testament to the continued efforts of the campus’ faculty to engage in externally funded research to drive innovation and enhance the experiences offered to students.

“We are quite excited to have had Dr. White visit and speak,” Chessa said. “DOE has been a strong supporter of research in the department as well as for cSETR and the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation. But I think this visit really brought into focus how much critical DOE research is going on here. The faculty in the department really have done an excellent job to position their research interests and capabilities to align with the critical needs of DOE. There is a lot of potential moving forward.”

White said one example of UTEP’s success through the HBCU/OMI initiative focused on advanced manufacturing.

“Advanced manufacturing enables the nation to build high-tech components with improved performance capabilities,” White said. “It also offers the possibility of rapid prototyping and repair. Under DOE sponsorship, UTEP’s work has explored the challenges of embedding sensors into combustor nozzles to enable real-time monitoring of component health.”

UTEP Student Awarded Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship

Daniela Quinones, a sophomore at The University of Texas at El Paso, is one of 10 students in the United States selected for the prestigious Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship (FDGF).

“Being chosen as a Frederick Douglass Global Fellow is a great honor,” Quinones said. “This opportunity is going to open so many doors for me, as I never saw myself participating in study abroad, but this fellowship has made that possible. I will be able to experience other cultures, see different perspectives and become more open-minded. This experience will prepare me to become a better practitioner and global leader.”

Quinones, a student in the Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences program in UTEP’s College of Health Sciences, will receive a full scholarship to study abroad in London this summer.

The FDGF is operated jointly by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), the nation’s largest nonprofit facilitator of studying abroad, and the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI). Each year, the fellowship is awarded to 10 outstanding students enrolled at a minority-serving institution.

Quinones expects to graduate from UTEP in 2021. She is a peer career adviser at the University Career Center and serves as the collegiate senator for health sciences in UTEP’s Student Government Association.

In July 2018, Quinones participated in a physical therapy internship through the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She plans to pursue a physical therapy career.

The fellows were nominated by their college presidents and selected during a national competition. The winners have demonstrated high academic achievement, possess exemplary communication skills, display the hallmarks of self-determination, exhibit characteristics of bold leadership and have a history of service to others.

The winners will use their experiences to motivate other underrepresented students to pursue opportunities to study abroad.

Of the 332,727 U.S. college students who studied abroad in 2017, less than 30 percent were students of color – 0.4 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native, 4.3 percent multiracial, 6.1 percent African-American, 8.2 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 10 percent Hispanic-American, according to data from the Institute of International Education.

The data shows that students of color largely miss out on international education experiences that can play a critical role in their personal growth, as well as their academic and career success.

The Frederick Douglass Fellowship, which launched in 2017, is representative of efforts by CIEE and CMSI to increase diversity in study abroad by breaking down the barriers of cost, curriculum and culture that prevent students from participating in international education experiences.

Named for the African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and international statesman Frederick Douglass, the Fellowship encourages students to use his life as a model for becoming bold, globally conscious and service-oriented leaders.

Professional Development Course Gives UTEP Faculty Teaching Edge

Faculty at The University of Texas at El Paso have found that the key to student success is their own lifelong learning. As a result, many UTEP instructors have continued to strengthen their teaching and practice through professional development.

During fall 2018, UTEP’s Center for Faculty Leadership and Development (CFLD) collaborated with the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) to offer 30 faculty members a free yearlong program geared to enhance instructional skills proven best to promote student motivation, learning and persistence.

The ACUE based its Course in Effective Teaching Practices on more than three decades of research that showed how effective teaching improves student learning. UTEP’s CFLD led the faculty cohort in 25 learning modules and mentored them in how to use their new skills.

Organizers designed the course to complement the University’s robust faculty development programming. According to Marc Cox, Ph.D., CFLD director, participation is an excellent opportunity for faculty because they learn new pedagogical approaches and ways to engage students in the classroom, and they can earn a nationally recognized Certificate in Effective College Instruction that is co-endorsed by ACUE and the American Council on Education.

UTEP geared its ACUE program toward faculty who teach core curriculum courses to the University’s first-year students in response to studies that showed how students, especially first-time, full-time freshmen, perform in their first college semester. Those results often are a major indicator of retention and future performance.

“The better-quality instruction and the more engaging instructors we have for our students within their first year is going to have a much broader impact on student retention,” Cox said.

Participation in the University’s ACUE course was an impactful and meaningful experience, said UTEP developmental math instructor Marsha Cardenas, who kept a notebook of methods she learned. She discussed them with her director and they plan to implement several of the ideas into their syllabi as well as teach the strategies to the program’s other faculty members.

“I love the way the course provides the theory as well as the practice,” Cardenas shared. “I think all of us have a notion about what best practices are but sometimes struggle with what that should look like in our classrooms. Having the opportunity to watch others talk about what we should be doing and then being the ‘fly on the wall’ watching the reenactments is particularly helpful to me. It has been a powerful and practical refresher course for me and I have learned several new strategies.”

Monica Martinez is a lecturer for UTEP’s Entering Student Program and has taught college-level courses since 2013. Motivated by her students’ desire to better their lives through education, she decided to continue her professional development through the ACUE course to become a better teacher. Martinez said the program took her teaching to another level.

“To put it simply, ACUE’s course has made me a better instructor,” Martinez said. “We all witness those ‘aha’ moments when our students understand a concept we are trying to teach. With the techniques I learned through this course, those moments are more regular.”

Since starting the CFLD in 2016, Cox said he learned that busy faculty members find it difficult to make time for professional development.

“The best way to do professional development for faculty is to find ways to deliver it to them in bite-size chunks that takes them minimal time and effort to apply and implement,” Cox explained. “I think this ACUE course does that very effectively.”

The course consists of weekly online modules that focus on various pedagogy along with videos and discussions. From each module, instructors can select a method to implement in their classrooms that week. At the end of the week, they reflect on how the approach went and what they might do differently next time.

“Most things they are learning are effortless to try in the classroom,” Cox said. “After doing this weekly for an academic year, they learn a lot of new techniques and that is changing them as instructors. In the long run, this is going to lead to huge impacts on the quality of instruction on campus but will also increase student engagement since most of the practices they are taught are active learning based that increase student engagement in the classroom.”

Laird R. Smith, a lecturer with UTEP’s College of Business Administration, was eager to try one of the techniques he learned through the ACUE course called the fishbowl technique. He called upon four students to lead a conversation about the decision by the United Kingdom to exit the European Union and encourage the other students to participate.

Smith found that most of the students actively contributed, and their written summaries showed they grasped the key aspects and concerns. After class, several students went out of their way to tell him how much they enjoyed the activity.

“The combination of their output and enthusiasm is clear evidence to me that these techniques work,” Smith shared. “The ACUE course has taught me how to effectively teach, and how students best learn. I have realized I can lecture less yet still cover the essential course material; I have learned techniques that help me provide an effective environment for learning. I was pleased to find that the students take more responsibility for their learning.”

Cox said the results from the first faculty cohort are promising for instructors and students. The next course will begin in fall 2019. He will release a call for applications in April 2019. Cox encouraged faculty to take advantage of the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills as they enrich the classroom experience for students.

“We are all lifelong learners, and as educators and scholars we are obligated to continually improve for the benefit of our students,” Cox said. “There is always room for improvement, and even the best teachers on campus can learn new pedagogical approaches that increase student engagement.”

Author:  Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications

Video+Story: New UTEP President Heather Wilson Holds News Conference at University

Former Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather and sole candidate for the UT El Paso Presidency spoke to the media Monday morning during a news conference.

Video courtesy our friends over at KTSM 9 News.

***Previous Story Below (3/8/19)

UT Regents select Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson, Sole finalist for UT El Paso Presidency

The University of Texas System Board of Regents named Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson – a former university president and U.S. congresswoman from New Mexico – as the sole finalist for the president of UT El Paso.

Regents voted unanimously Friday to select Wilson, whose accomplished career in public service and higher education has spanned more than 35 years and includes top leadership roles in higher education, the military, government and private industry.

Wilson was the first woman selected to serve as president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, an engineering and science research university.

During her tenure there, from 2013 until 2017, the institution doubled its research awards and experienced enrollment growth, the creation of new masters and doctoral degree programs and significant investments in capital projects.

Wilson also strengthened a scholar program to increase the number of American Indian graduates, and she successfully orchestrated the institution’s athletics transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II.

In 1998, Wilson became the first female military veteran elected to a full term in Congress, representing New Mexico’s First District until 2009.  Previous appointments to the National Security Council and as cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department put Wilson at the helm of leading teams, building consensus and making qualitative organizational advancements.

A successful reformer of the foster care and adoption system, Wilson led efforts to reduce the number of children waiting for adoption.

As Secretary of the Air Force, Wilson oversees 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian forces, and an annual budget of more than $138 billion.

The Regents’ decision followed an executive session last week where they interviewed candidates and considered recommendations from a presidential search advisory committee that reviewed applications and met with candidates for the position.

“Dr. Wilson’s broad experience in the highest levels of university leadership, and state and national government– whether securing federal grant awards, advising our nation’s most important national research laboratories, raising philanthropic dollars or running large, dynamic organizations – will help ensure that UTEP continues its remarkable trajectory as a nationally recognized public research institution,” Regents’ chairman Kevin Eltife said. “Most importantly, she is deeply committed to student success and has dedicated her life to enhancing upward mobility opportunities for individuals.”

As a young child, Wilson’s interest in aviation was inspired by her grandfather, who flew planes for the British and American forces during World Wars I and II. She graduated summa cum laude from the U.S. Air Force Academy in the third class to admit women, where she was the first woman to command basic cadet training.

Wilson then received one of the world’s most celebrated international fellowship awards—a Rhodes Scholarship. She received her master’s and doctorate degrees in international relations at Oxford University.

After serving as an Air Force officer for seven years, she was appointed to the National Security Council staff as director for defense policy and arms control for President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.

During Wilson’s decade in Congress, she served on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wilson also has worked in the private sector, serving as a senior advisor to several national nuclear laboratories and as president of Keystone International, a company she founded that conducted business development and program planning work for defense and scientific industry.

“Secretary Wilson has had a remarkable career of firsts in education and national service, and it’s easy to understand why the search advisory committee and the board have been so impressed.  She has the experience, talent and leadership to build on UTEP’s exceptional momentum,” said UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken.

If appointed by Regents after the state-required 21-day waiting period, Wilson would succeed Diana Natalicio, Ph.D., who announced in May that she would retire after serving as UTEP’s president for 30 years. Over the course of her tenure, Natalicio led a significant qualitative transformation of UTEP, dramatically increasing research funding, degree offerings and student success.

In January, UT El Paso attained the coveted top tier designation from the Carnegie Classification of institutions of higher education that only 130 other universities in the United States have earned.

Eltife thanked the members of the search advisory committee for their time and commitment to recommending to the Board of Regents select the best possible candidates to lead UT El Paso.

The search committee included the following representation:

  • Chair of Committee (Steven Leslie, Ph.D., UT System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs)
  • Board of Regents (Vice Chairman Paul Foster, Regent Ernie Aliseda and Regent Rad Weaver)
  • Presidents of other UT institutions (Taylor Eighmy, Ph.D., president of UT San Antonio, and Sandra Woodley, Ph.D., president of UT Permian Basin)
  • UT El Paso dean, faculty, and staff (Charles Ambler, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School; Edward Castañeda, Ph.D., professor of psychology; Mark Cox, MSPH, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences; Elena Izquierdo, Ph.D., associate professor of teacher education; and Nadia Munoz, director of military services)
  • UT El Paso student and alumnus (Cristian Botello, UTEP student and president of the student government association, and Bonny Schulenburg, social media relations specialist at Ysleta ISD and president of the UTEP alumni association)
  • External and community members (Woody Hunt, chairman of Hunt Building Co.; Sally Hurt-Deitch, market CEO of The Hospitals of Providence; Renard Johnson, president of METI, Inc.; Mike Loya, CEO and president of Vitol, Inc.; Dee Margo, mayor of the City of El Paso; and Ed Escudero, vice chairman of WestStar Bank and president and CEO of High Desert Capital)

UTEP In the Spotlight: Issues in Science and Technology

The University of Texas at El Paso is the top institution in the continental United States for producing Hispanic bachelor’s graduates who continue on to earn doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, according to an article published in Issues in Science and Technology.

Hispanic bachelor’s graduates who continue on to earn doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, according to an article published in Issues in Science and Technology.

The article written by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, Ph.D., president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and Peter H. Henderson, Ph.D., senior advisor to the UMBC president, analyzes the available data from the National Science Foundation (NSF) on the baccalaureate origins of the country’s Hispanic and African-American doctorate recipients.

Their findings indicate that UTEP is a national leader in advancing academic diversity to develop and sustain a diverse STEM workforce.

UTEP ranks No. 3 in producing students with bachelor’s degrees who subsequently earn doctorates.

The University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, making UTEP the top university in the contiguous states.

Issues in Science and Technology is a publication for discussion of public policy related to science, engineering and medicine. Its goal is to bolster public and private policy to create a better world, and to raise the level of debate and mutual respect among those who appreciate the critical contributions of science and technology.

Read the full article at Issues in Science and Technology.

UTEP Counseling Program Earns Top Accreditation

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) recently granted The University of Texas at El Paso’s Mental Health Counseling Program accreditation through 2027.

An enthusiastic Rick Myer, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Services, which oversees the program in the College of Education, called CACREP’s acknowledgement “an honor.” While it is not unheard of for a program to earn an eight-year accreditation in its first attempt, it does not happen often, he said.

The administrator praised University and College of Education administrators as well as his faculty, staff and students who worked as a team to achieve this highly coveted designation. He said this accreditation gives the program national stature and positively reflects on the instructors and the curriculum, as well as the graduates as they pursue academic and professional opportunities. He said students would be the biggest beneficiaries because employers want graduates from CACREP-accredited institutions.

“This will give our students a lot of opportunities that they would not have had previously with respect to mobility and recognition from the counseling profession, and that includes here in El Paso,” Myer said. “We have met the national standard and that’s a big deal. Actually, this is bigger than a big deal.”

The news excited Carmen Vázquez-Villanueva, a mental health counseling graduate student who spoke to members of the CACREP on-site evaluation team during their visit in July 2018. The El Paso native highlighted to the team the program’s strengths such as curriculum, experiential learning and its dedicated faculty.

As to the accreditation, the first-generation college student said she understood the positive impact it has on students’ preparation for the National Counselor Examination, applications for doctoral programs, and obtaining professional licensure, all of which affect future job prospects.

“We are all overjoyed that we have received the highest level of accreditation possible set by the profession,” said Vázquez-Villanueva, who earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UTEP in 2014. “This ensures us that we are prepared to go out into the counseling field with solid professional skills as practitioners.”

  1. Sylvia Fernandez, Ph.D., president and CEO of CACREP, the leading U.S. accreditor of counseling programs, alerted UTEP President Diana Natalicio about the accreditation in a letter in which she lauded everyone involved in the accreditation process. She said that kind of support is vital to assure continued quality programs in higher education.

“This is indeed a worthy achievement,” Fernandez wrote.

Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education, said he was very pleased that the mental health counseling program obtained this national accreditation.

“The fact that we earned an eight-year accreditation is a testament to the diligence of Rick Myer and his team,” Tanabe said. “Their efforts have strengthened the program and enhanced its ability to serve this region and beyond.”

Myer hired Richard C. “Craig” Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling, to become the CACREP accreditation liaison and to lead the program’s accreditation team in 2013. Myer and Williams previously worked on a number of successful accreditation efforts at other universities.

“That experience helped because we knew where the challenges might be,” Myer said. “This helped us to address any possible issues before they could become a problem.”

The process started with a self-study where Williams’ team compared the program with accepted national standards. The report found the program to be sound, but in need of some structural modifications to meet accreditation standards. That meant enhancements to various policies, procedures, handbooks, faculty-to-student ratios, practicums and internships, and contracts and experiential learning site supervision specifications.

Williams, like Myer, praised the department’s faculty members for their help. For example, instructors willingly provided student learning outcome data that the program reviewed, which guided necessary program revisions and modifications to be in compliance.

“No one person can do this without everyone doing their part,” Williams said.

Williams said members of the evaluation team visited the program’s field sites and returned impressed by the student involvement and the feedback from community partners.

“They knew we had a solid working relationship with our sites and, as a result, our students were getting the training they needed,” Williams said.

One of the professionals the evaluation team questioned during their site visit was Celeste Nevarez, clinical program manager with Emergence Health Network (EHN) and one of the department’s adjunct professors. The El Paso native is a licensed professional counselor supervisor who graduated from a CACREP-accredited program in Arizona.

Nevarez said she and Williams discussed the program’s accreditation efforts in 2015 and he asked her to be part of his team. She joined EHN two years later. She has worked to ensure that UTEP student interns receive a wide spectrum of mental health treatment experiences, and learn how to create inviting trauma-informed care and environments.

“The fact that UTEP got an eight (year accreditation) is massive,” she said. “It shows the work that we’ve put into that program. It’s pretty impressive.”

The EHN manager said the CACREP representatives were able to see that the internships provided students with a robust exposure to clinical experiences where they applied their knowledge in an ethical and practical manner.

“The auditors looked us up and down, and we were happy to oblige,” said Nevarez, who recalled that they had access to EHN’s play therapy rooms, curriculum library and on-site trainings. “We aren’t in business to mass produce graduates. Our goal is to graduate refined therapists.”

This is the second UTEP program to earn a CACREP accreditation. The Master of Rehabilitation Counseling (MRC) program in the College of Health Sciences earned it in 2013. Myer, who is the program’s co-director this academic year, said the MRC has started its reaccreditation process. That team is collecting data and revising handbooks. UTEP could submit its first report to CACREP as early as 2021.

Myer said the school counseling program, which also is in his department, plans to seek CACREP accreditation in the future. He said he expects the accreditation to take several years.

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Lecturer Earns Statewide Honor for Dissertation

The National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies – Tejas Chapter recently recognized The University of Texas at El Paso’s Miguel Juárez, Ph.D., with its annual Dissertation Award during the group’s annual meeting earlier this month in Houston.

“I am humbled to have been nominated, and honored to have been selected for this important award,” said Juárez, who earned his doctorate from UTEP in spring 2018.

The chapter honored Juárez, a lecturer in UTEP’s Department of History, for his 296-page dissertation, “From Concordia to Lincoln Park: An Urban History of Highway Building in El Paso, Texas.”

The award goes to the best dissertation related to the Mexican-American experience in Texas. The dissertations could have been from the fields of English, history, sociology, ethnic studies, American studies, modern languages and literature, or Chicanx studies/Mexican-American or Latinx studies.

The chapter presented Juarez with a plaque and cash award.

His dissertation is about the development and resilience of the community that surrounds Lincoln Park, and focuses on the effect interstate highway construction had on that part of Central El Paso during the 1960s and 70s.

The sources include experts in urban, borderland, architectural and Mexican-American history. Juárez said he embargoed his dissertation for two years so he could revise and publish it, but he has provided an abstract for interested people

UTEP Doctoral Student’s Research Recognized by American Geophysical Union

A doctoral candidate from the College of Science at The University of Texas at El Paso continued a string of successes for UTEP students at the annual meetings of the American Geophysical Union.

Marisol Dominguez, a geological sciences doctoral student, was presented with an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU’s) meeting in Washington, D.C.

“I am humbled and deeply honored to receive this prestigious award from the American Geophysical Union,” Dominguez said. “Water is clearly a vital resource and understanding the effects of climate variability on its availability is an important facet of research as we move deeper into the 21st century. UTEP has provided an excellent environment to foster this research and for my development as a scientist. I am grateful for the support of faculty members and colleagues — particularly my mentor, Dr. Hugo Gutierrez — that have made a strong impact in my career.”

The OSPA program gives student presenters the opportunity to hone presentation skills and receive valuable feedback from scientists and industry professionals. The AGU is an international conference for earth scientists, consisting of more than 62,000 members from 144 countries.

AGU’s activities are focused on uniting esteemed scientists throughout the world to share scientific advancements in all disciplines of the Earth sciences, including geophysics, hydrology, geochemistry and oceanography.

Dominguez is the second UTEP student from the hydrology research laboratory in the Department of Geological Sciences to win the award during the last two years. Lupita Alvarez won during the fall 2017 annual meeting.

The American Geophysical Union’s Outstanding Student Paper Award was presented at their gathering in December.

EPSO Director Steps in to Conduct UTEP Symphony

The acting conductor of the UTEP Symphony Orchestra has taught and performed music throughout the world, and the lesson he most wants to share with his students comes down to two words: respect and professionalism.

Boshuslav “Bo” Rattay, music director and conductor of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra (EPSO), happily agreed to take over the UTEP orchestra for the spring 2019 semester after its longtime conductor – and his friend – Lowell Graham, DMA, sustained a shoulder injury in December 2018 and needed time to recover.

Rattay, who has been with the EPSO since 2013, is an experienced instructor who has taught at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The native of Prague, Czech Republic, discussed his new assignment after a recent 80-minute rehearsal with 18 members of the orchestra’s brass and winds sections.

The orchestra’s first performance under Rattay (pronounced RUH-tay) is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in the Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall. The musicians will perform music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexandra Pachmutova and Jean Sibelius. Future concerts this semester will include selections from Ludwig van Beethoven and Hector Berlioz, as well as the popular “Music in the Movies” concert in May.

“There’s a variety of stuff so (the students) can have fun,” said a relaxed Rattay who wore a dark pullover hoodie, light gray slacks and white tennis shoes with bright red laces. While he took the job to help a friend, he also did it because he thought it would be fun to work with students again after six years out of the classroom. “You have to keep it enjoyable for both sides, otherwise things start to go downhill.”

During the recent rehearsal, he moved along at an efficient pace. His conductor arm movements ranged from forceful to gentle. He alternated between standing and leaning on a stool.

Rattay often offered encouragement or instructions on how he wanted a certain part played. He used his voice to mimic the speed and strength of different notes. The students wrote the instructions on their sheet music. On a few occasions when he did not hear what he wanted, he would correct the musicians in general in a kind, paternal way. He followed every message with the magic words: “thank you.”

Although in an academic position, Rattay said he preferred to run his UTEP rehearsals the same as he conducts them with the EPSO, as well as the Midland Symphony Orchestra in Michigan, and the Lake Charles Symphony Orchestra in Louisiana where he also is conductor and musical director.

“Things don’t happen right away as they do with professionals, but the kids eventually get it,” Rattay said. “Yes, it can be more tedious, but the approach is the same as with professionals. It’s not my job to fix the notes. It’s their job to fix the notes. Hit the notes, make it (sound) more professional and move on.”

Steve Wilson, DMA, chair of the Department of Music, called Rattay’s work on campus an amazing opportunity for UTEP orchestra students.

“Maestro Rattay clearly inspires our students to work to achieve the highest standard possible and the results are sure to be astounding,” Wilson said. “I can’t wait to hear their first concert and look forward to the ensemble’s growth throughout the semester.”

Rattay, who started playing the bassoon at age 10, said his work with UTEP musicians brings him joy because he senses they are hungry to learn. He said he treats them with respect and as professionals because he wants them to become better people as well as better musicians.

Some students, such as Michelle Shaheen and Christopher Terrazas, who both hope to eventually teach at the collegiate level, said they have enjoyed experiencing Rattay’s different approach to conducting.

Shaheen, a second-year graduate student who plays the French horn, and Terrazas, a senior music education major who plays trombone, said Rattay has offered an alternative perspective on musical stylings and collaborations that they will draw on as they continue along their academic and professional paths.

Brad Genevro, DMA, director of UTEP bands, said students he has spoken with are excited to learn from Rattay, who provides a real-world perspective based on his years working with professional musicians around the world.

“Bo has instant credibility,” Genevro said.

Music department officials said Graham should be ready to resume his leadership of the UTEP orchestra for the fall 2019 semester.

By Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

President Natalicio’s Tenure Fashioned through Hundreds of Graphic Tees

The newest exhibit at The University of Texas at El Paso’s Union Gallery fits the institution’s President to a T … make that a T-shirt, adult small.

Diana Natalicio’s more than 30-year presidency at UTEP is somewhat of an anomaly in higher education, so the University decided to document the history of the soon-to-retire President through an equally unique metric: T-shirts.

“My Tenure in T-shirts” is an exhibition that represents more than 30 years of UTEP affinity and UTEP community. Each T-shirt tells a particular story about the University’s rich history through language, design, color and pop culture. The exhibit is open through March 15, 2019, inside the Union Gallery in room 201 Union Building East.

Throughout her three-decade tenure, President Natalicio has amassed an impressive collection of UTEP and UTEP-related T-shirts – mostly given to her as gifts. She encountered the colorful array of T-shirts tucked away in a closet in the Hoover House, the official residence of UTEP presidents and one of the most iconic historic homes in El Paso, as she began to think about post-retirement life and her move to a new – and likely smaller – El Paso home.

So why all the fuss over a collection of T-shirts? Those who work in higher education often take the power of a simple T-shirt for granted. After all, we regularly see a variety of university-related T-shirts every day on our campuses. They are a campus fashion staple. But, if you think about it, there is something profoundly important about the messages on those shirts. They are, in every way, the very idea of personal expression that is regularly encouraged on college campuses. T-shirts convey ideas and celebrate accomplishment. They document history and they unite the university community. Most of us have at least one in our closets.

Diana Natalicio has 354.

“As the number of UTEP unique T-shirts in my collection grew, I began to see that they offered a unique perspective on specific events and milestones in UTEP’s history over the past 30 years,” President Natalicio said. “Kudos and thanks to Liz Thurmond and her team for so creatively weaving them together and enabling us all to take a stroll down our UTEP memory lane.”

Several members of the UTEP family who helped with the exhibit called it a labor of love. Among them is Director of University Events Liz Thurmond, who sorted through the garments and had the gargantuan task of creating a cohesive and coherent historical narrative out of hundreds of yards of spun cotton.

She said it has been a fun and enlightening experience. Her team arranged the shirts by size and color to help with the aesthetics of the exhibit, and by their many themes – nostalgic shirts or athletics-related shirts, for example. For Thurmond, many of the shirts brought back fond memories, while others gave her a good laugh.

Some notable T-shirts include a list of 10 relatable facts preceded by the phrase “You know you went to UTEP if…” and a simple white T-shirt with the ironic phrase “I’ve been president of UTEP for 10 years and all I got is this lousy T-shirt!”

The most recent additions to President Natalicio’s collection include the Thank You for 30 T-shirt with an illustration of her iconic hairstyle, which can still be purchased at the University Bookstore, a commemorative shirt for UTEP’s designation as a Carnegie R1 top tier research institution, and a shirt celebrating the Interdisciplinary Research Building’s topping out ceremony, which took place earlier this month.

Many of the shirts visible in the exhibit and on the backs of students on campus today were distributed through the Student Engagement and Leadership Center (SELC). Nicole Aguilar, director of the SELC, said a lot of thought and consideration goes into each shirt’s design.

“It goes back to, ‘What is it that we hope to accomplish?’” Aguilar said. “Are we trying to promote something, are we trying to unite a group of people, are we trying to send a message? What is our mission behind a T-shirt?”

Aguilar added that some of the T-shirts on exhibit represent a conference or program where students had life-changing experiences, while others represent a defining moment in UTEP history.

“I think for a lot of us on campus, we’ve all been influenced and somehow impacted, whether we’ve been behind a specific T-shirt design, whether we were at that particular event or saw the evolution of that event or program,” Aguilar said.

Brianna Trejo is a senior who will soon graduate with a double major in psychology and sociology. She boasts a modest collection of about 25 UTEP T-shirts, which she plans to sew into a quilt. Trejo said her collection represents fond memories and the different stages of her time at UTEP. Her collection starts with a new student orientation shirt and ends, so far, with a Thank You for 30 shirt.

“It symbolizes the journey of where I started (orientation), like everyone else, and Thank You for 30 is symbolic of how much President Natalicio has contributed to UTEP,” Trejo said. “To be able to get that shirt in my senior year, my closing to my UTEP story along with hers, is really awesome and feels different than if I were to have graduated any other year.”

Roberto Orozco, a junior studying computer science, doesn’t have as many T-shirts as President Natalicio, but his five UTEP shirts mean a lot to him. Most recently, he said he purchased a Thank You for 30 shirt because of how much he looks up to President Natalicio.

“It’s a good feeling to be a part of this (University),” Orozco said. “I am doing hard work to still be here, to learn another language to be a part of UTEP. This shirt represents that.”

No matter what special meaning or feelings are evoked through UTEP T-shirts, there may be an old shirt or two that you may recognize in the “My Tenure in T-shirts” exhibit.

The Union Gallery is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Author:  Jesse Martinez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Series Uses Language to Bond with Community

There are many examples of communication gaps in the world. A source of these rifts is the words that speakers and writers choose to use, whether in the political, social or academic arenas.

That was a discussion that two faculty members from The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Creative Writing had during the summer of 2018. Daniel Chacón, chair and professor, and Paula Cucurella, Ph.D, lecturer, tried to think of ways to use language to engage the community and build bridges between disciplines, starting within their College of Liberal Arts.

Their brainstorming led to the Writing on the Wall Lecture Series, which launched in January 2019. The title playfully jabs at the current contentious political issue of the proposed wall between the United States and Mexico. Chacón and Cucurella see their “wall” as a metaphor for the proverbial ivory tower where academics write and study about things that do not matter to the general population.

They said they hoped that this semester-long series would disprove that premise. They see these lectures as an opportunity for people who care about words and all kinds of writing to gather, learn and share. The speakers during this “pilot” season will offer interdisciplinary topics that are practical and tied to border life. The sessions, which are free and open to the public, will express how writing enriches everyone’s lives.

“What we do (at UTEP) does have social impact,” said Chacón, whose department is the series sponsor. “I think this will be an important part of the discourse for everyone who writes.”

Hernandez described his presentation as a performance offered as a lecture. He said he planned to demonstrate how someone could cross various genres to tell a story. He added that he might use audio or visual elements as he hopped from prose to poetry to storytelling

“The presentation will be engaging, and hopefully, entertaining as well as informative,” Hernandez said.

Cucurella, the lead organizer, and Chacón said they gave few directions to the series’ speakers, who all share a passion for writing. Faculty members from the departments of Communication and Languages and Linguistics will give the last two lectures. The first three speakers are from the creative writing department.

“We hope to start a dialogue that will show there are more things that bring us together, and there are more ways than one to tackle a problem,” Cucurella said.

Chacón led the first session, “A Rabbi, A Wiccan, and a Physicist Walk Into a Bar …” on Jan. 23, 2019. A supportive crowd of faculty, staff, students and community members listened to Chacón talk about religion, mysticism and physics. He augmented his presentation with PowerPoint slides.

The professor spent part of his “anti-lecture” talking about the 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, in our brains that send out electric charges to transmit information. While experts claim these charges control memory, the UTEP professor said they also trigger feelings tied to those memories. In some ways, the concept was similar to the premise of “Inside Out,” the 2015 Disney Pixar animated film.

He set his cellphone timer to ring every 10 minutes or so because his research showed that audiences lose interest without frequent breaks. He used those periods to tell family-friendly jokes that he found on the internet. Among those in attendance were UTEP graduates Carolynne Ayoub and Sarah Huizar.

Ayoub, a retired elementary school and special education teacher, earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from UTEP in 2014. She said she spends part of her life as a volunteer with an agency that assists children with disabilities and their families. One of the things that she has learned through her volunteerism and advocacy for those with disabilities is that while there are many agencies in El Paso that want to help, they do not communicate with each other as well as they could. That is why the Writing on the Wall concept resonated with her.

She said she has written creative and scholarly pieces through the years and she knows there is a place for both.

“This is a great opportunity for people who like to share ideas and understand the importance of listening,” said Ayoub, who admitted to enjoying the play on words of the series title. “Walls imply divisions and personal boundaries. This (series) gives us a chance to understand ourselves and others.”

Huizar, who earned her bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 2018, is a first-year creative writing graduate student. She said she sees a lot of opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration as a staff member in the Undergraduate Learning Center’s Makerspace Lab. She sees representatives from the arts and sciences developing projects.

She called the lecture series a step in the right direction because she has seen her share of “us” and “them,” which is unproductive.

“More ‘we’ is essential for humanity to prosper,” said Huizer, who added that there is room for scholarly and creative writing. “There always will be divisions, but at least we can strive to connect as humans regardless of our academic, religious, political and cultural backgrounds. We’re talking open-mindedness.”

Chacón and Cucurella said that several of their peers, including a number from outside their college, have told them that they are interested in the Writing on the Wall concept and would like to participate at some point.

The organizers said they hope to continue the series in future semesters and broaden its scope to involve UTEP faculty from other schools and colleges, other institutions of higher education such as El Paso Community College and universities in Juárez, and writers from the region.

“We’ve come to realize that there is a need and desire for this discussion,” Cucurella said.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

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