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Home | Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

Video+Story: UTEP’s New Education Dean Ready to Serve Students

Raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Clifton Tanabe knew about The University of Texas at El Paso from its days as a Western Athletic Conference rival to the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH).

As a higher education professor, researcher and administrator, he learned more about the University through the national attention it received for its successful access and excellence model and its leadership role with the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a community partnership hailed for its transformational education reforms.

“That was truly a powerful light for me,” said Tanabe, Ph.D., new dean of UTEP’s College of Education as of July 1, 2018. “I saw what some folks who come together could pull off. It was very impressive.”

Tanabe said he was excited and grateful to be at UTEP to serve its students and those of the larger El Paso community. He also looks forward to contributing to the growth of the college and the University.

The Indiana native came to UTEP from UH, where he taught educational policy and law and was a lecturer in law at the university’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

He served in the chancellor’s office as director for institutional transformation and executive assistant chief of staff. He also directed the Leaders for the Next Generation Program and co-directed the Hawaii Educational Policy Center.

Tanabe earned his doctorate in educational policy studies (1998) and a law degree (2004) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his Master of Education in educational foundations from UH in 1994 and his bachelor’s degree in humanities from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, in 1988.

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

University Heights Early Learning Academy Prepares for a New Year

The foundation to student success in college is laid at centers such as the YWCA University Heights Early Learning Academy.

The learning academy — which provides on-campus child care for UTEP students, faculty and staff — services newborn to 5-year-old children.

The University of Texas at El Paso and the YWCA partnership began in 2012.

“It’s really important that this center is on our campus,” said Catie McCorry-Andalis, Ed.D., associate vice president for student engagement and dean of students. “It sends a very positive message that we are committed to education at the earliest of stages.”

She said the YWCA University Heights Early Learning Academy, located at  315 West Schuster Ave., is a great resource for UTEP students.

“A majority of individuals accessing the center are students who have children,” McCorry-Andalis said. “To have a place that is not only safe and secure but a place where they are learning is really empowering for that child and that family, especially as mom and dad are pursuing an education. This is an opportunity to share the vision for the YWCA and our responsibility to educate individuals from preschool all the way through college. Education doesn’t stop in elementary, middle school or high school. We want them to continue all the way to college.”

The learning academy can accommodate up to 142 children. Openings remain for children up to age 5. The academy is a block away from the University, providing easy access for UTEP students, faculty and staff.

“Having the learning academy only a block away from the University has been very convenient for me,” said Jecoa Ross, a doctoral student in history. “It’s just a matter of dropping her off on the way to campus and picking her up on the way home in the afternoon. It’s great.”

Ross has been taking his 2-year-old daughter, Temple, to the learning academy since she was six months old.

“When I leave her off here, my confidence level is as high as it can be that she will be well taken care of,” Ross said. “The times when she has gotten sick, they have called us right away to let us know that she has a fever and we have to pick her up. It’s amazing when some days she will come home singing a song that we know we didn’t teach her and we figure that she learned it at school.”

The academy is staffed with qualified teachers and aides trained through Texas School Ready, a comprehensive preschool teacher training program that combines a research-based, state-adopted curriculum with ongoing professional development to help children be more prepared for kindergarten and beyond.

Lorraine M. Valles, director of the YWCA University Heights Early Learning Academy, said the curriculum consists of social and emotional development, language and communication, reading and writing, mathematics, science, social studies, fine arts, physical development and technology.

“The children have access to iPads with additional learning programs on there,” she said. “Aside from covering science, social studies, language and math, they are active in reading, storytelling, music and outdoor play. They have activities all day long, every hour on the hour.”

The YWCA operates nine Early Learning Academies with about 500 children in El Paso and has established partnerships with various UTEP departments including Speech Language Pathology, Social Work and Nursing that enable students to complete their practicum and internships at the academy.

“We are able to draw from the experience and the resource partnerships that we have with the faculty at UTEP not only at the UTEP early childhood academy but all of our academies,” said Sylvia Acosta, CEO of the YWCA El Paso Del Norte Region. “They are able to provide empirical research so that we can validate the work that we are doing and we can state, without a doubt, that the work we are doing in our YWCA early childhood learning academies is making an impact academically, emotionally and socially with the children that we care for.”

Acosta said the UTEP-YWCA partnership is invaluable.

“It’s not very common for universities to have child care available for their students and their faculty,” she said. “For UTEP to have taken the lead and to have worked with us to help establish this center is very valuable. Oftentimes you have students who have kids and that could deter their ability to finish school, but because they have a safe place to drop off their children, they are able to attend classes knowing that their kids are in a safe environment. When they return, it’s reassuring to know that their children have not only been cared for but have been taught. It’s not just childcare, it’s an early learning academy environment because they are learning.”

And the academy is affordable.

For infants ages 12 months and younger, the cost is $115 per week for a full day or $99 a week for less than six hours a day. For children age 1 and older, the cost is $110 a week for a full day or $97 a week for less than six hours a day.

“We are so close to campus so students, faculty and staff have easy access to their children,” Valles said. “We have an open-door policy where they can come and visit their children at any time during the day. For infants we have a breast-feeding room so mothers can come in and breastfeed their children. We are exclusive to UTEP so everybody knows each other. It’s a big family that we have here.”

Author: Victor R. Martinez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Engineering Professor Duo Awarded $393K NSF Grant

A pair of engineering professors from The University of Texas at El Paso will address the need to develop faculty who are adept at effective teaching strategies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Benjamin Flores, Ph.D., professor and director of The University of Texas System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, was named the principal investigator of the NSF award worth $393,601 with co-PI Heidi Taboada-Jimenez, Ph.D., associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering.

The duo will work on the effort, which is part of a broader NSF initiative — the Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) program.

“We are grateful and thrilled to be selected as recipients of this National Science Foundation grant,” Flores said. “From what we have seen, there is a need to develop future faculty who are well-trained in teaching strategies that can positively impact undergraduate students enrolled in community colleges. What we plan to do is to implement a sustainable program to make graduate students keenly aware of career opportunities at community colleges. Many of our graduate students have a passion for teaching and we want to provide guidance for that passion. So, if they do decide to pursue careers at community colleges, they will have the right tools to hit the ground running.”

Flores and Taboada-Jimenez will use the five-year grant to harness an already existing network dedicated to promoting best practices in teaching. The pair will work closely with The University of Texas at Arlington in the formation of two regional cooperatives (RCs) in Texas.

Through the RCs, graduate students will be paired with professors to form a mentor-protégé team that exposes students to best practices in teaching and its applications at the college level.

Flores said he hopes this effort will eventually result in a faculty that better reflects the diverse student populations that begin their higher education journeys at community colleges.

“We know that a majority of Hispanics, African-Americans, Native Americans and other minority groups that decide to pursue higher education are starting that journey at community colleges,” Flores said. “It becomes clear to us that we need to ensure we have a full understanding of their challenges as students. One of the historical roadblocks is that the educational system doesn’t necessarily consider the diversity of our STEM population background that impacts their success. We want to make sure that our graduate students who are thinking about academic careers learn the best teaching practices, developed and tested over time.”

Flores said that over time, the hiring of a more diverse and well-prepared teaching faculty will improve science and math community college courses and curricula, bolstering their compatibility with four-year programs.

“We’re looking forward to working with our collaborators,” Flores said. “We have at least six community colleges, including El Paso Community College, which we are reaching out to throughout the state. Our joint efforts are really going to make the difference.”

UTEP Helps Student Build Confidence for Law School

Samantha “Sam” Natera never had use for the old adage, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” The Chihuahua City native grew up in a caring and supportive family believing that people achieved their success independently. Her perspective changed as an undergraduate at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Natera, who earned her bachelor’s degree in finance and general business in 2018, fell into a reserved routine as a freshman: cross the border, attend class, return home, study, and repeat.

Some of her fellow students gently nudged her out of her comfort zone. They encouraged her to learn about student organizations and to get involved on campus. She did, and that led to a student research job with the College of Education, membership in several student groups aligned with her major, a study abroad trip to China, and participation in UTEP’s Law School Preparation Institute (LSPI), where she developed an interest in the legal field.

In the same way, friends suggested she apply for a student assistant position in the Provost’s Office. She got the job but quickly showed the skills to move from the front desk to help with the office’s financial operations. This opportunity proved instrumental in the creation of the support network that led to the latest step in her life’s journey at the University of Kansas School of Law.

“I never planned on a career in law until my junior year when a friend told me about the LSPI,” Natera said. “I learned more about the program, applied and was accepted. I got to do things I never thought possible, like present arguments in front of real judges. It was a great experience that changed my career path.”

David Ruiter, Ph.D., associate provost for student and faculty success, recalled Natera’s positive nature and was impressed with her work ethic and customer service skills. As with all the office’s student employees, he met with Natera regularly to discuss how things were going with work and school. When Ruiter learned that Natera wanted to apply for law school, he volunteered to help with her admissions paperwork.

“When these student workers are here they become our responsibility, and their success is our responsibility,” Ruiter said. “They aren’t just here to do tasks, but they are here because they are on their way somewhere – to graduate school, careers, and leadership roles – and we can contribute to that in a really meaningful way. We want our student employees to know that the work they do in our office is valuable to them moving forward professionally, and so are the relationships and networks they build in this office.”

At some point, Natera’s resolve began to waiver because she was anxious about leaving her family and having to support herself. Later she confessed that her main concern was about having to answer questions from the law school interviewers in English, which is her second language. The self-doubt ate at her to the point where she almost convinced herself that she was not ready for law school.

Ruiter took action after Natera explained her worry to him. It did not take long before several members of the campus community rallied around to help.

“It was interesting because Sam has everything in the world going for her,” Ruiter said. “She is incredibly talented, has great family support, and had already done great things at UTEP. But she was hung up on this one thing, and it was a big enough worry that it was going to be hard for her to move forward. It took me a couple of minutes to make a few calls around campus to colleagues who had the expertise to assist her. With their support, Sam was able to get prepared for her challenge and realize that she truly is ready for this opportunity.”

Ruiter put Natera in contact with Louie Rodriguez, associate vice president for student affairs, and Arturo Barrio, senior advisor to the President on Mexico and Latin America at UTEP. Rodriguez, a former New York City lawyer, gave her an idea of the types of questions she might be asked. Barrio, who recalled how UTEP students, faculty and staff helped him as an undergraduate, reached out to friends in the legal field who could give her useful advice.

One of Barrio’s friends was Monica Perez, shareholder and attorney at Mounce, Green, Myers, Safi, Paxson, & Galatzan, P.C. in El Paso. The UTEP alumna said she remembered feeling the same way as Natera as she prepared her law school applications. She and other UTEP alumni volunteered their time to work with Natera and conducted mock interviews with her to build her confidence and ease some of her fears of the unexpected.

“It is our responsibility as alumni to lend our experiences, time, and/or funds to support the students and programs of the University,” Perez said.

Natera said the help and encouragement she received from the UTEP community gave her the confidence to continue her law school application process – to include the interviews. In the end, she had six offers from law schools around the country.

“The way the UTEP community came together to help me touched my heart,” Natera said. “They all wanted good things for me and just wanted to see me succeed. I don’t think I could have done it without them. I want to thank everyone who helped me, and it is my hope to one day be able to help other students succeed as the UTEP family helped me.”

Author: Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Alumnus Joins Ranks of Award-Winning Faculty

Since it was established in 2008, 70 faculty members from The University of Texas at El Paso have been named recipients of one of the nation’s most competitive teaching recognition programs in higher education — The University of Texas System Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA).

This year, the roster of deserving Miners includes not only UTEP faculty but alumni as well. Alumnus Russell Broaddus, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of pathology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, is now part of a distinguished band of faculty from the eight academic and six health institutions in the UT System to earn a ROTA for their extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in instruction.

“Receiving the Outstanding Teaching Award is truly an honor,” said Broaddus, who earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1987 and was named a UTEP Gold Nugget Award recipient for the College of Science 30 years later. “It is especially meaningful when I consider that many excellent teachers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have received this award in the past. Many of these are faculty who I have always looked up to and respected.”

Broaddus credits UTEP faculty members for the role they played in inspiring him to join the professoriate. He can still name a number of professors and teachers, both in and out of the sciences, who devoted tremendous time and enthusiasm to teaching and learning while he was a UTEP student.

“Their enthusiasm was infectious,” Broaddus said.

When Broaddus attended the University in the 1980s, the only doctoral program available in science was geological sciences. Therefore, much of the research in the sciences was dependent on undergraduate students doing the work.

“This is a very valuable asset not offered at many larger universities,” Broaddus said. “For example, it is not uncommon for Rice University undergraduate students to pursue research opportunities in the Texas Medical Center, because graduate students perform most of the on-campus research.”

As an undergraduate researcher, two UTEP professors, in particular, left a lasting impression on Broaddus and were pivotal in paving his path to becoming a researcher and professor. They were Lillian Mayberry, Ph.D., and Jack Bristol, Ph.D.

Mayberry and Bristol knew Broaddus since he was a child on the same little league team as their sons. They were excited when Broaddus responded to a call made by a postdoctoral fellow, Steven Upton, Ph.D., in his freshman biology class seeking anyone interested in pursuing research in a lab.

“When Russell entered UTEP, he desired to go to medical school,” Mayberry said. “But enthusiasm is infectious, and between Steve, Jack and I there was lots of enthusiasm. By the time he graduated, he decided he wanted a career in medicine as well as research.”

Upon joining Mayberry, Bristol and Upton’s lab, Broaddus applied for and was awarded the Staley Grant, which provided money for research supplies and travel to professional meetings. Mayberry recalls that, by the end of his freshman year, Broaddus had secured funding for a research proposal centered on parasites and the host’s response. By the end of his junior year, Broaddus had submitted his data for publication to the Journal of Parasitology and had his first major work published by the time he graduated.

Mayberry and Bristol nurtured Broaddus’ interest of research and medicine and eventually introduced him to another formative mentor in his career, Gilbert Castro, Ph.D., from the U.T. Health Science Center at Houston, where he went on to complete his medical and doctorate degrees. Broaddus proudly states that he models his teaching and mentoring style off of what he learned from these influential professors.

“I think our influence was through our enjoyment of our careers, it was catching,” Mayberry shared. “Obviously we are extremely proud of Russell … He is a truly gifted individual.”

Broaddus’ research M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is instrumental in better understanding endometrial cancer, the most common gynecological cancer in women. His lab focuses on the study of the molecular pathogenesis of endometrial cancer, and his current projects include examining the molecular differences between aggressive and non-invasive endometrial cancers, gene methylation patterns in endometrial cancer, and the characterization of novel genes essential in endometrial cancer.

As for UTEP establishing itself as the first national research university in the United States with a 21st century student demographic, Broaddus feels it has already hit the mark.

“There are UTEP alumni far more accomplished than myself,” Broaddus humbly stated. “In my opinion, the University somewhat undersells itself as a ‘rising university.’ The proof of UTEP’s status is in its many successful alumni.”

Author: Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Students Bridging the Gender Gap in Nursing

Wesley Stonell was two semesters shy of graduating from The University of Texas at El Paso with a bachelor’s degree in biology when he switched his major to nursing.

Geovany Ruiz delayed entering nursing school because his friends teased him about his childhood dream to become a nurse.

Jeremy Alexander followed his older brother’s example and enrolled in UTEP’s nursing program.

Tabare Faison was a medic in the Texas Air National Guard when he decided to pursue a nursing career.

They are four out of 19 male students who completed UTEP’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in August 2018. The University’s School of Nursing honored the program’s 80 graduates Aug. 15 at the Summer Class of 2018 Pinning Ceremony in Magoffin Auditorium.

According to school officials, males make up 21 percent of undergraduate students and 20 percent of graduate students enrolled in UTEP’s School of Nursing. These numbers are higher than the national average of 15 percent for baccalaureate programs and 13 percent for master’s and doctoral nursing degree programs, reported by the National League for Nursing in 2016.

“I am very privileged to be around some of the smartest, most compassionate, hard-working people,” said Stonell, who was president of UTEP’s Texas Nursing Students’ Association and a 21st Century Scholar. “The majority of them are female, but that makes no difference to me. I am proud to be a male nurse and I hope that more male students want to go into nursing … because myself and my male peers have led by example.”

Stonell and his peers are part of a growing number of male nurses in the United States who continue to expand gender diversity in a workforce historically dominated by women. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the number of male nurses has tripled since 1970, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent.

“We are very proud that our efforts to create a more diverse nursing workforce have resulted in this upward trajectory of recruiting and graduating more male nurses at UTEP,” said School of Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez, Ph.D. He was the country’s first Hispanic male to earn a doctorate in nursing and lead a nursing school.

“Our outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs support the development of all nursing professionals who not only provide the highest quality care, but also closely represent the diverse patient populations they serve,” he said.

In “Why the Ratio of Men in Nursing is Growing,” a story published on Nov. 7. 2017, in, Elizabeth Munnich, Ph.D., shared some of her research findings on the topic. Munnich, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, said some of the reasons behind the increase include a greater high school completion rate, additional access to two-year colleges, more urbanization, and a liberalization of gender role attitudes.

Changing attitudes about gender roles prompted Ruiz to pursue his dream to become a nurse. The Puerto Rican native and U.S. Army veteran used his military education benefits to enroll at UTEP.

“In my neighborhood, especially my old friends, they always thought that being a nurse was a job for females,” said Ruiz, who plans to work as an oncology nurse. “So, I put off being a nurse for a long time. But when it comes down to doing the job, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. We can both do the job.”

Alexander echoed his classmate’s sentiments. He said men and women go into nursing for the same reason. They want to help people.

Alexander had just graduated from high school when his older brother earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing from UTEP. He wanted to make a difference in people’s lives so he followed his brother’s path to the University to earn a nursing degree.

“We all want to help people,” said Alexander, a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. “It takes a special person to do this job because we see a lot more than a normal person has seen, and I feel that God has blessed me with this knowledge and skills to do this job.”

While most patients are comfortable with either a man or a woman for a nurse, Faison, who was the only male nursing student in his clinical rotation, said there are times when patients may prefer a nurse that is of their same gender, especially when it comes to treating male and female conditions.

“It helps the patient to have options,” said Faison, who graduated cum laude.

Faison had been a police officer and then a medic in the Texas Air National Guard for 10 years when he decided to expand his scope of practice and become a nurse. He decided to study at UTEP because its School of Nursing has a strong regional reputation, state-of-the-art facilities and an outstanding faculty, he said.

“(As a nurse) society looks at you like someone who can help,” Faison said. “Not every profession is like that where people come to you for help and look up to you. (When I was) in law enforcement, sometimes it was hard to see how I was helping people. Whereas in nursing, especially in the emergency room, everyone that you encounter you’re helping them in some way.”

Jennifer Hernandez, a senior nursing student, agreed that there were not many differences between what male and female nurses could do, but she wished that she had the physical strength of her male counterparts.

“You’ve got to move your patients,” Hernandez said. “You’ve got to turn them and it takes a lot of physical strength and energy, so having that physical ability would be awesome!”

Author: Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

UTEP Honored by Governor’s Office for Addressing Community Needs

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is the 2018 recipient of the Higher Education Community Impact Award.

Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, honorary chair of the 35th annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards., announced the 2018 award recipients on August 15.

“This recognition further validates the efforts of our outstanding faculty, staff and students who generously share their talents, expertise, time and energy to a variety of organizations and initiatives in our community,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio.

“Their sustained efforts to reach out to community partners contributes significantly to this region’s prosperity and quality of life, and creates valuable opportunities for UTEP students to apply what they learn on the campus to real-life settings across this community. Public research universities, like UTEP, have a responsibility to extend their  impact far beyond the teaching and research that occurs in their classrooms and laboratories, and UTEP has deservedly become a national model for our deep commitment to community engagement.”

Last year, UTEP’s commitment to strategically engage faculty, students and the community led to more than 1.5 million hours of community engagement: 22 percent in community service and 78 percent in service learning. To effectively engage nearly 8,000 students in academic-based service, UTEP integrated community engagement into 386 courses, and had more than 150 faculty members working with students in community-based learning and research.

“This recognition comes at an exciting time as the Center for Civic Engagement is approaching its 20-year anniversary and we are in the midst of documenting and celebrating our progress as an engaged institution over the last decade,” said Azuri Gonzalez, director of the Center for Civic Engagement at UTEP.

In 2010, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching granted UTEP the Community Engaged Classification for demonstrating institutional commitment to community engagement through its mission, identity, infrastructure, and academic, co-curricular and outreach practices.

The reclassification process occurs every five years and is required for the institution to maintain its Carnegie Foundation status as a community engaged institution. The University is reapplying for the 2020 classification.

“We are especially pleased to acknowledge our partners – the YWCA and The Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV) – who supported UTEP’s nomination for this award,” President Natalicio added. “Together, we make transformational social, intellectual and economic gains by helping to address the critical needs of the region.”

Presently, UTEP has more than 200 community partnerships – many of which have existed for decades. Over the past five years, CASFV and UTEP have jointly engaged in a variety of collaborative research and community service projects in the arena of sexual assault services. This work has resulted in over $4.2 million in external funding to serve victims of domestic violence while addressing related root causes and issues collaboratively with students and faculty.

“Community-based nonprofit agencies rarely have the resources, knowledge and expertise to conduct research studies that assess services and outcomes,” said Stephanie Karr, executive director of The Center Against Sexual and Family Violence. “Today, CASFV has been able to capitalize on objective research outcomes to enhance our services.”

The Governor’s Volunteer Awards, administered by OneStar Foundation, honor the contributions of individuals, businesses and organizations in Texas that have made a positive impact in their communities or across the state through service and volunteering.

The Higher Education Community Impact Award recognizes a Texas university or organization that encourages civic engagement as a core value and demonstrates how students are engaged in intentional cross-sector collaboration to address identified needs within the community.

The University will be recognized in the fall at an evening reception at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.

UTEP Chemistry Professor Featured in Renowned Scientific Journal

The work of a University of Texas at El Paso professor has been published in one of the world’s leading monthly peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Two articles focusing on nanotechnology’s impact on drinking water and agriculture co-written by Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, Ph.D., the Dudley Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering, were published in the August 2018 edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

The journal, published by Nature Publishing Group, covers all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology.

“This is a momentous occasion in my professional career,” Gardea-Torresdey said. “We have published more than 450 research articles. These are the only two that have appeared in Nature Nanotechnology, and they are in the same issue. It is remarkable that the editor addresses our work in his commentary. This has never happened for me, it is amazing. This a great day for all of us. It is another example of UTEP’s academic and research strengths.”

The first work that appears in the journal, “Achieving food security through the very small,” discusses nanotechnology’s potential role in increasing efficiency and sustainability of agriculture.

Gardea-Torresdey co-wrote the article with Jason C. White, Ph.D., vice director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Gardea-Torresdey’s work on the uses and potential effects of nanoparticles in agriculture has been funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) University of California Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN) as a 10-year, $48 million grant.

The article was lauded in the journal’s editorial section. Of Gardea-Torresdey and White’s research, the journal stated, “The importance of such studies … is that in their absence it remains unclear whether the improvements observed in a new agrochemical formulation are indeed related to the inclusion of nanoparticles. It is true that broadly speaking the small size and high surface-area-to-volume ratio in nanoparticles can be beneficial. But using this justification without properly understanding the mechanisms of interaction between nanoparticles and crops, hence leading to the tailored design of new nanoagrochemicals, may in the long run undermine the potential of nanotechnology in agriculture, as has perhaps already happened in other fields.”

The second piece in the journal is a thorough-review article, “Low risk posed by engineered and incidental nanoparticles in drinking water.” It assesses the health risks associated with natural and engineered nanoparticles present in tap water.

Gardea-Torresdey collaborated with a number of other field experts on the article, which was funded through a five-year grant from the NSF’s Engineering Research Center (ERC) Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Systems (NEWT).

UTEP’s Tech-E Program Wins 2018 Campus Technology Impact Award

The University of Texas at El Paso’s Tech-E Outreach Program was recognized by Campus Technology magazine as one the country’s best in the Teaching and Learning category.

Tech-E, short for Technology Exploration, invites students from local school districts to visit the University to get hands-on training in computer languages, programming, gaming and more.

“This is an important recognition of UTEP’s success at exposing these elementary school students to computer technology at an early age, which will open up to them opportunities for success that otherwise wouldn’t be possible and help to grow the U.S. technical workforce,” said Stephen Riter, Ph.D., vice president for information resources and planning.

Michael Pitcher, the director of UTEP’s Academic Technologies, said the recognition has opened his eyes to the program’s reach.

“I don’t think we really realized how much of an impact we were having before we got this award,” he said. “We had to step back and take a look at what we were doing.”

The team that includes Pitcher and faculty and staff members Pedro Espinoza, Hector Lugo, Hugo Gomez, Randy Anaya and Herminia Hemmitt have grown the Tech-E Outreach program from a one-time summer camp that reached 350 elementary and middle school students in 2015 into a popular program that will attract 60,000 children this fall.

“We knew we had big numbers but we never thought we would have 60,000 kids going through the program this upcoming year,” Pitcher said. “Comparing that to what others are doing at a national level, UTEP and Tech-E are pushing pretty good numbers.”

Campus Technology announced the recipients of its 2018 Impact Awards, formally the Innovators Awards, last week.

After a nomination process that brought submissions from across the country, 14 honorees were selected in five categories.

In its 14th year, the Campus Technology Impact Awards recognize colleges and universities that are making an extraordinary impact with technology on campus, doing important work in the service of teaching, learning, administration and operations. These projects, both cutting-edge and well established, have made their mark on campus and on the higher education community at large.

Starting its third year, the Tech-E program will have classes for elementary to high school students from the El Paso, Clint, San Elizario and Tornillo school districts almost every Friday during the fall and spring semesters.

“In three years, we went from serving 350 to 700 to 10,000 and now to 60,000 students, Pitcher said. “We want to shoot for 100,000, why not? Our long-term vision is to do what we’re calling Kinder to Industry, where we have industry partners come in and tell us what they do in the real world. We then want to start to teach the same skills to kids in kinder and follow through with them until high school graduation. If we can do that, we can really be a driving force in our region.”

About 30 UTEP students from engineering, computer science, education and other fields are also part of the Tech-E team.

“For us, the award inspires us to do more,” Pitcher said. “Our students and staff want to use our tech skills as an outreach program to kids who are really interested in technology but their parents might not be able to send them to computer science camps or engineering camp. We want the kids to come in and discover their full potential for themselves.”

For more information, visit or, or call 915-747-5473.

UTEP Taps Alum to Lead Business Affairs Division

The University of Texas at El Paso officials announced the appointment of Mark McGurk as the University’s vice president for business affairs.

The UTEP alumnus oversees the University’s operating budget of roughly $500 million and advises campus leaders on the institution’s financial interests, such as controllership, financial planning and revenue cycle functions.

McGurk is responsible for managing the University’s balance sheet and capital structure, financial planning, financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, audit activities, capital planning, and human resources.

“We are very pleased to welcome Mark McGurk as UTEP’s vice president for business affairs,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “We are always delighted to welcome our UTEP graduates back to our campus. They return with an abundance of experience to share and a deep desire to serve. Mark’s extensive experience and leadership abilities will enhance the work of the Division of Business Affairs in support of UTEP’s access and excellence mission.”

McGurk is familiar with the University’s business operations. He started as a student assistant in the payroll office in 1992, and soon after received his Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting and finance from UTEP. He quickly ascended to become UTEP’s associate comptroller before leaving for Tucson, Arizona in 2003.

The alumnus served as the University of Arizona’s comptroller for nearly a decade. The institution promoted him to associate vice president and comptroller. During that time, he earned a Master of Educational Leadership in Higher Education Leadership from Northern Arizona University. From there, McGurk moved to The University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas, where he was vice president for business affairs for three years.

Overall, McGurk has worked in higher education for more than 24 years and has more than 30 years of supervisory and managerial experience.

The seasoned administrator is confident that he has the knowledge and skills to make meaningful contributions to the University. He said President Natalicio has set the institution’s “tenor and tone” on a positive course for excellence.

“I’m very proud to be back at my own institution,” he said, adding that he takes pride in UTEP’s students and its graduates, who he has seen make a difference through their work. “Every single person at UTEP should be proud to be here to support the mission and what we are doing.”

McGurk first day on the job was July 16.

Journal Publishes UTEP ‘Citizenship Profiling’ Study

Law enforcement officials are more likely to ask first-generation Mexican immigrants and their children about their citizenship status than those who have been living in the U.S. longer, according to research conducted by two faculty members from The University of Texas at El Paso.

The research paper, “Variations in Citizenship Profiling by Generational Status: Individuals and Neighborhood Characteristics of Latina/os Questioned by Law Enforcement about Their Legal Status,” was published July 17, 2018, in “Race and Social Problems,” a highly respected interdisciplinary academic journal.

Maria Cristina Morales, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, and Ted Curry, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice, led the research team made up of approximately 50 UTEP students to include a handful of sociology graduate students.

The student teams spoke to 563 residents in 46 neighborhoods throughout El Paso County in 2014.

Morales, the paper’s lead author, found that officers often base their decision to ask about citizenship on a person’s race or ethnicity as well as their “foreignness” – clothing, accent, English-language fluency, and how they follow social norms.

She called her findings “citizenship profiling,” the perception of who may be a legal resident or undocumented.

“I added the question about the citizenship profiling because I was interested in it,” Morales said. “I thought it was important given the talk about the Black Lives Matter movement and other questions about profiling. I wanted to see what the situation was (in El Paso).”

The results showed that law enforcement officials questioned second-generation Latinos about their citizenship slightly more than they questioned their first-generation parents.

The reason was that the second-generation residents were more likely to venture into parts of the community where they would make contact with law enforcement. The study found that the profiling has little to do with the person’s sex, age or the socio-economic status of their neighborhood.

Most of those who had been asked about their citizenship lived in communities with a medium population density of Latinos.

Morales said the findings are important because of the growing requirements the U.S. government has for local law enforcement officers to make distinctions of citizenship along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The researchers suggested that law enforcement officials should review their procedures because something as simple as a minor traffic stop could lead to someone’s deportation.

UTEP Announces New Binational Academic Partnership

On Wednesday, officials with the University of Texas at El Paso announced the launch of a new partnership with one of the leading research institutions in Juárez, Mexico.

The director of Universidad Tecnológica de Ciudad Juárez, Guillermo Álvarez Terrazas, joined UTEP President Diana Natalicio on the UTEP campus to sign and formally announce the creation of the joint initiative.

“This partnership is an important step toward a goal shared by both institutions – that of increasing the availability of high-quality educational opportunities for our students,” President Natalicio said. “By fostering greater academic exchange between our institutions, both UTEP and UTCJ will be better positioned to prepare our students to meet the challenges and opportunities that come with living and working in a binational community.”

The overarching goal of the agreement is to promote academic collaboration between members of the faculty at both institutions, as well as among students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Photo courtesy UTEP

To this end, the universities will look to create exchange programs for graduate and undergraduate students of both institutions, as well as organize conferences and meetings on research issues.

The joint initiative also will promote collaboration between faculty members of both institutions. To accomplish this, the universities will seek opportunities to create exchange programs in the areas of teaching, research and professional development.

“This is a day for celebration and pride,” said UTCJ Director Guillermo Álvarez Terrazas. “Binational initiatives like this partnership with UTEP are a priority for UTCJ as we look to foster development and expand opportunities for students across our region.”

This new, binational partnership also represents UTEP’s continuing recognition of Mexico as a strategic partner and, more specifically, of colleges and universities in Juárez as allies in UTEP’s ongoing efforts to increase access to higher education for students of this region.

UT Board of Regents Honor Outstanding UTEP Faculty Members

The University of Texas System Board of Regents announced that UTEP faculty members Giulio Francia, Ph.D., and Irma Montelongo, Ph.D., were among the 2018 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award recipients.

The Regents will recognize Francia, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Montelongo, associate professor of practice/online program coordinator for Chicano/a Studies, during a reception Aug. 9, 2018, in Austin, Texas.

This is the 10th year that the Regents have presented these highly prestigious and competitive awards of excellence to faculty members from its eight academic and six health institutions. Each of this year’s 27 honorees will receive $25,000.

“We are very pleased that The University of Texas System Board of Regents has recognized two of our exceptional faculty members,” University President Diana Natalicio said. “This well-deserved acknowledgement of Dr. Giulio Francia and Dr. Irma Montelongo is a source of great pride to all of us. They are powerful examples of the many talented and passionate UTEP faculty members whose deep commitment to teaching profoundly impacts our students as they develop and successfully pursue their highest aspirations.”

Carol A. Parker, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said this recognition brings great pride to The University of Texas at El Paso, where faculty commitment to student success is well known.

“This Regents’ recognition further validates UTEP’s commitment to exceptional instruction in the classroom and our faculty’s ongoing dedication to our students, our community and our mission of access and excellence,” Provost Parker said. “I’m honored to work alongside our two 2018 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award winners. I applaud this acknowledgement.”

Francia grew up in Mozambique and Swaziland in southeastern Africa. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Bristol and his Ph.D. in biology from Cancer Research UK, formerly known as Imperial Cancer Research Fund, in London, England. He worked in cancer research at the University of Toronto, Canada, before taking his first teaching job at UTEP in 2012.

“When I learned about the ROTA, I felt what would best be described as bewilderment,” Francia said. “So many UTEP colleagues and friends, and students, had helped prepare my submission. I could now call them to once again say ‘thanks,’ and let them know that their help had earned another recognition for our teaching efforts at UTEP. And that was quite a marvelous feeling.”

Montelongo earned her higher education degrees from UTEP. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and her doctorate in borderlands history in 2014. The El Paso native began to teach at UTEP as a graduate student. Since then she has held many titles and earned many state, community and University awards.

“I owe a great deal of thanks to so many people who have mentored and supported me along the way, but I especially owe thanks to my students who inspire me on a daily basis,” Montelongo said. “It’s an amazing feeling to wake up every day and know that I will be spending the majority of my day on the UTEP campus collaborating with a brilliant group of individuals, students, staff, and faculty. I am proud to be part of the UTEP family as we continue to make a difference in the lives of our students, our community and our region.”

Nominees undergo a series of rigorous evaluations by students, peer faculty and external reviewers. The review panels consider a range of activities and criteria in their evaluations of a candidate’s teaching performance, including classroom expertise, curricula quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes.

“We are indebted to these educators who exemplify great teaching on every level,” Board of Regents Chairman Sara Martinez Tucker said. “These are educators, researchers and health care professionals who – no matter how long they’ve been teaching – never stop thinking about new and innovative ways to enhance the learning experience.”

The Regents’ established the award in 2008 to recognize faculty members who deliver the highest quality of instruction in the classroom, laboratory, field and online. These awards are among the largest in the nation to recognize faculty performance. The Regents have awarded more than $19 million to 700 UT educators in the last 10 years.

Including Francia and Montelongo, 70 faculty members from UTEP have received the award since its inception.

NEA to Help UTEP Professor to ‘Bless’ Borderland

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded a grant to The University of Texas at El Paso’s Rebecca Rivas to promote the NEA’s Big Read initiative with activities tied to the popular 1972 novel “Bless Me, Ultima.”

“We thought this piece would resonate with the community,” said Rivas, an El Paso native who spent the early part of the summer as an actress at the Arkansas New Play Festival.

Rivas, assistant professor of theatre arts, said the project’s purpose is to provide border regions with access to culturally relevant literature by Latino/a writers that focus on Latino/a characters.

“Bless Me, Ultima” is a coming-of-age novel written by Rudolfo Anaya, considered one of the fathers of Chicano literature.

Rivas, who earned her bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from UTEP in 2004, is the grant’s principal investigator.

Her co-PIs are Adriana Dominguez, Ph.D., clinical professor of theatre arts; and Jay Stratton, assistant professor of performance.

Readings, discussions and performances will take place around El Paso throughout October 2018.

A CURE for The Common Lab: Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences Growing at UTEP

When Ana Polar and Nick Hantzopulos arrived early for a recent evening biology laboratory course this spring semester at The University of Texas at El Paso, they were greeted by an empty, serene classroom.

But the silence wouldn’t last. As the rest of their classmates filed in, a cacophony ensued as students discussed assignments, updated research and community outreach plans, and critiqued one another’s work. This type of boisterous setting is not often one that is associated with academia. And that’s precisely the intent of Jeffrey Olimpo, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences.

Olimpo, along with Jennifer Apodaca, Ph.D., laboratory coordinator in biological sciences, facilitate one of more than 10 Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) offered by the College of Science. Their class, “Disease and the Environment: Health Disparities in the Border Region,” is intended to offer interdisciplinary opportunities for students to develop into scholars and leaders in their respective fields.

On a national level, CUREs have been championed in recent years as a mechanism to increase student access to authentic scientific research experiences. Current evidence indicates that students who participate in CUREs achieve many of the same outcomes as students who engage in faculty-mentored research and/or research internships. These outcomes include enhanced science identity development, science literacy and career interest in the domain.

At UTEP, CUREs are funded by several sources including the National Institutes of Health’s BUILDing SCHOLARS program and the Program to Educate and Retain Students in STEM Tracks (PERSIST), supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“It gets you out of your comfort zone,” said Polar, a sophomore biology major with a biomedical concentration. “It opens the door for you to understand that there are opportunities here to work with professors even though you don’t work in a lab. It … lets you know you are capable.”

Olimpo said his course offers undergraduates access to an immersive experience that deviates from a prescriptive mindset in favor of a teaching approach based on the faculty-mentor research model.

“These kinds of courses are relatively new,” Olimpo said. “This whole movement for CUREs stems from the fact that traditional labs were seen as very cookie-cutter, where you knew the answer before you arrived at the lab. We are trying to get away from that and put students in a mindset that attempts to engage them more rigorously in the actual process of science.”

That engagement is not only a way for students to develop transferrable skills, according to Laura A. Diaz-Martinez, Ph.D., associate director of the Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI), it is also aligned with the UTEP Edge, the University’s student success culture that seeks to identify and build on the strengths that students bring with them to the campus, and propel them toward successful degree completion.

Diaz-Martinez said UTEP has a long history of faculty commitment to mentor undergraduate students who are interested in conducting research, scholarly or creative projects. That commitment has led to a growing number of students involved in those activities. That number grew to 620 in 2016-17 from 496 in 2014-15, she said.

“This growth is evidence of UTEP’s commitment not only to research excellence, but to immersing our students in this process,” Diaz-Martinez said. “Eventually, I would like to see every single UTEP undergraduate student having the opportunity to conduct a research, scholarly or creative project. However, we will not be able to achieve this through the classic mentor-mentee model where one faculty member mentors a handful of students outside of class. This is why the efforts of faculty who develop CUREs are so important, since these courses provide opportunities for more students to conduct a research, scholarly or creative project, and thus develop all those important skills and connections while completing the academic requirements for their majors.”

Olimpo and Apodaca’s CURE focuses on public health, specifically as it pertains to the El Paso community. Students in the course work on projects such as air-quality monitoring, studying microbial diversity, and working with nursing students to train in hospital settings to minimize infections, among others. The projects are developed by the students, Apodaca said. The professors are merely facilitators.

“I had a lot of great research opportunities when I came to school here at UTEP,” Apodaca, an El Paso native, said. “I felt that the laboratory environment was the best way to learn science — through practice. I wanted to create that opportunity for students, but in a way that was much broader. I wanted a class that was both an internship and a research experience to show students that biology is important and relevant in other aspects, specifically, in relation to their community in terms of public health and health disparities.”

Olimpo and Apodaca’s CURE was implemented as a two-semester sequence during the 2017-18 academic year. Their students ranged in classifications and majors, something the two professors said adds another element in their push to extend access. They set out to be inclusive and encourage students who needed a space to try research.

“I was teaching biology and had majors in sociology and engineering in my class.” Apodaca said. “I would see completely sad faces, ‘Why am I taking biology? This is pointless.’ They are losing that intrinsic motivation to even be in the class. That really bothered me. There are really important things you can do in biology. It can help you whether you’re a social worker or engineer. So, the thought was, let’s create a space that provides that opportunity, that appreciation.”

Students have not only been drawn to that notion, they have flourished as part of it.

“For me, as a student, this class kind of gives me the initiative to ask questions and brainstorm ideas,” said Hantzopulos, a junior biochemistry major. “There’s more of a, ‘How can I reach out to people?’ and ‘How can I find ways to inform the public with our research?’ as opposed to a standard lab where you learn about a pipette. For me, because I’m more of a hands-on learner, I really like to look back and see how this applies to everything I’m going to be learning later. So, more than anything, it’s given me the motivation to think on my own about these types of questions, to look up articles about this stuff that I’m doing research on.”

Hantzopulos and Polar worked together in the spring to complete a research project they began in the fall. The pair targeted hospital associated infections. As part of their work, they surveyed students in the UTEP School of Nursing to learn more about hospital sanitizing protocols and hygiene practices. They also reached out to leaders and representatives at local hospitals and clinics to glean further insight.

They said the experience not only yielded quality research findings, it also exposed them to a slew of students and professionals who could potentially help foster their long-term career goals.

“It really helps you network,” Hantzopulos said. “You meet a lot of new people, especially in the science community. You keep being engaged in your career, essentially. Even in class, we have a sociology major here and maybe down the road I could say, ‘Hey, I need your opinion on this.’ In the end, it motivates me to graduate because it really gives me a hands-on idea of what I want to do as a career.”

The initial success of the CURE also has galvanized Olimpo and Apodaca, who say they hope to conduct another such course in the fall.

“We’re not just running a course that has a cool title,” Olimpo said. “They have to do the work. And they’ve done the work. I think they’ve done a fantastic job of getting their hands dirty and understanding that science is not just, Step 1: Take test tube out of the rack, Step 2: So on and so on. We certainly hope we can do it again.”

Author: Pablo Villa – UTEP Communications

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