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Home | Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

UTEP, UT Austin to study enhanced asphalt production processes for longer lasting roads

A trio of researchers from The University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Transportation Infrastructure Systems (CTIS) will partner with The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research on a $494,000 award from the Texas Department of Transportation to create realistic conditions for assessment of asphalt mixtures in an effort to enhance their durability.

Leading the CTIS team is Soheil Nazarian, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering, the project’s principal investigator. Nazarian; Imad Abdallah, Ph.D., research associate professor of civil engineering and executive director of CTIS; and Victor Garcia, CTIS research associate, will oversee staff and civil engineering students who will support the project’s research efforts.

“We appreciate the trust and support of TxDOT in such a multifaceted and challenging project,” Nazarian said.

The CTIS research team will work with UTEP graduate and undergraduate students to develop, deploy and spur rapid adoption of new laboratory protocols to simulate the hardening of asphalt mixture due to exposure to the diverse environmental conditions presented throughout Texas. This work has the potential to improve current practices through a better understanding of the long-term aging potential of asphalt mixtures.

“The challenges from this project will provide a great opportunity for students to hone their innovative and creative engineering skills,” Garcia said.

“I look forward to collaborating with our partners at UT Austin,” Abdallah said. “It is an excellent opportunity for students from both universities to work together.”

The center’s unique laboratory facilities and expertise will enable the research team to perform innovative tests that will be key to achieving the research grant’s objectives.

To learn more about the Center for Transportation Infrastructure Systems, click here.

Author: Darlene Barajas – UTEP Communications

UTEP RISE Program fostering scientific potential

The Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) Program at The University of Texas at El Paso Department of Biological Sciences is at the helm of biomedical and behavioral research on the border, utilizing 21st century technology to promote biomedical research that includes anti-cancer drug discovery, vaccine development against infectious agents, drug addiction, health disparities, and other basic research.

For over 16 years, RISE has provided financial support and mentorship to the next generation of aspiring scientists, many of whom are first-generation college students. Qualifying students receive stipends to conduct undergraduate research in biological sciences and other STEM fields during the academic year.

The RISE Program provides undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to engage in hands-on research training to prepare them for academic and other scientific careers.

RISE is funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Sciences which administers research training programs aimed at increasing the number of biomedical and behavioral scientists from institutions that serve historically underrepresented individuals in the field of science.

Most RISE students are mentored by faculty of the Border Biomedical Research Center (BBRC) Program at UTEP. Thus, much of their research addresses the biomedical and health needs of the bicultural population of the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez region of the Texas-Mexico border.

Leading the program is Renato Aguilera, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences and director of the Biology Graduate Program, and deputy director of the Border Biomedical Research Center. He and his co-investigators, Elizabeth Walsh, Ph.D., and Wen Yee-Lee, Ph.D., provide mentoring and professional development activities to undergraduate and graduate RISE scholars from departments across the campus.

“The program was intentionally designed to give students opportunities to develop critical skills for successful careers in science,” Aguilera said.

“From a humble beginning with 25 participants, the program has served over 250 trainees over the past 16 years. It is impressive that over 90% of the trainees obtained their B.S. degrees while completing their research projects. Of those who completed their undergraduate degrees, 72 have completed master’s or Ph.D. degrees.”

The program is currently funded until 2022, and by then it is anticipated that more than 350 students will have received RISE support. Upon successful renewal of the program, it would be funded for an additional 5 years.

Aguilera wants to ensure students at UTEP are aware of the program and take full advantage of all it has to offer.

There are currently 12 Ph.D. trainees that are fully funded by the RISE Graduate Scholars Program, funding that includes tuition and fees. Up to now, 19 Ph.D.s have been awarded to RISE graduate students and the vast majority are currently pursuing postdoctoral research at prestigious institutions.

With opportunities for academic training, research and conference travel, students who participate in the program are better prepared for the challenges they will face in the field of science. Students complete the program with a comprehensive understanding of their research field and experience in the use of advanced technological equipment.

Many go on to careers as researchers at prestigious universities such as Princeton and Harvard, government research facilities, or biotech companies.

Stephanie Medina, an undergraduate student majoring in cellular and molecular biochemistry, has found the RISE Program particularly beneficial, supporting her financially and providing guidance through the process of applying for graduate school. Motivated by her peers and mentors, Medina intends to pursue a Ph.D. in cancer biology upon graduation.

“I believe that programs like RISE are very beneficial to the scientific community and to individuals attending university in a border city like ours,” Medina said. “These programs provide students with the opportunity to gain research experience, network with other students in the scientific community, and connect us with valuable mentors.”

Author:  Julian Herrera – UTEP Communications

Department of Defense names UTEP winner of 2019 Mentor-Protégé Nunn-Perry Award

The University of Texas at El Paso was awarded the 2019 Mentor-Protégé Nunn-Perry Award by the Department of Defense (DoD) and Office of Small Business Programs through its industry collaboration with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and Marvin Engineering Corporation.

The agreement between Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and Marvin Engineering was one of six Mentor-Protégé teams chosen to win the award.

The DoD Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) was established in 1990 after DoD contractors raised concerns about their inability to meet Small Disadvantaged Business (SBD) subcontracting goals. The award is named for the contributions of Sen. Sam Nunn and former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who both played critical roles in the implementation of the DoD Mentor Protégé Program.

“The Department of Defense and the American economy succeed because of the innovations borne from small companies like those in the DoD Mentor Protégé Program,” said Shannon Jackson, deputy director of the Office of Small Business Programs within the Office of Industrial Policy.

“Within the defense industrial base these companies work to deliver cutting edge technologies and services that challenge the status quo and have the capacity to shape the future of their respective industries. In order to create these capabilities to support the warfighter, their companies have to deliver more than technology or services.

In March 2017, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics was awarded more than $1 million to participate in the MPP with Marvin Engineering and UTEP. The collaboration has resulted in the successful transfer of critical technology and capabilities to Marvin Engineering.

The UTEP-TMAC team involved in the Mentor Protégé project consisted of Ivan Renteria, Benito Flores, Jason Farley, and Amit Lopes.

“The Mentor-Protégé program is an extremely valuable program,” said Amit Lopes, Ph.D., assistant professor of industrial manufacturing and systems engineering at UTEP. “It enables important small business protégés to significantly reduce the learning curves for implementing required technological and operational changes to fulfill the ever-changing needs of the DoD mission.”

The partnership between Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, UTEP and Marvin Engineering focused on protégé growth, infrastructure development, technical development, and program management. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics provided guidance in:

  • Robotic paint-spraying capabilities
  • Lean manufacturing techniques supporting F-35 final assembly work cells
  • Strategic planning and ethics training
  • Project management training
  • Training within industry methodologies
  • Foreign object damage (FOD) prevention awareness training
  • Truth in Negotiations Act compliance training for Marvin Engineering and its international partners
  • Supply chain procurement dashboard capabilities

“The program allows a prime contractor, such as Lockheed Martin, to help strengthen our supply base and enhance the protégé capabilities that support our programs/platforms as well as the warfighter,” said Lockheed Martin Aeronautics MPP lead Chantay White-Taylor.

“It has been my honor to have led such a talented team of individuals and give back to the small business community. The relationships built with USAF OSBP, MEC and UTEP is an experience I will cherish for years to come.”

UTEP Career Center offering Virtual Resources to help students, graduates

When it became clear that the spring 2020 semester would deviate from its traditional conclusion, the staff at The University of Texas at El Paso’s University Career Center acted quickly to shift their valuable services to a virtual format after UTEP transitioned to distance learning in March.

The staff launched the Virtual Career Center, which includes links to resume and cover letter virtual reviews, virtual interview tips, links to job postings, and video tutorials.

Faculty members can find information on professional development workshops and links to academic college liaisons, while employers can post jobs and internships.

“In the midst of this global pandemic, we want to ensure that we do everything we can to help our talented and motivated students reach their goals,” said Louie Rodriguez, associate vice president for divisional operations and strategic initiatives, who oversees the University Career Center staff.

“We are working to help our students navigate these unprecedented circumstances and feel empowered with the knowledge and skills they gained during their time at UTEP.”

University Career Center Director Betsy Castro-Duarte said the consultations they provide students on virtual interviews is not that much of a departure from their other programming throughout the year, such as their Dinner Etiquette events.

“We teach you the mechanics so that you can tell your story to an employer,” she said. “Same thing with technology. You need to be able to be at ease and have an idea of what you’re going to say with some of those common interview questions.”

After a consultation with her college liaison, senior marketing major Evelyn Lopez was accepted into AmeriCorps’ BRACE Play, Learn, Grow Summer Camp in Pensacola, Florida.

“[The advisor] was super helpful and professional, and not too long after our meeting, I was selected as a summer associate for the camp,” Lopez said.

Staff members have also been busy this spring creating college-specific guides titled “Graduating in the Time of COVID-19,” which detail how students can plan for long-term success, proactively search for a job and build their skill sets in this context.

Students, including those who have earned their degrees, have an opportunity to join more virtual events, including a virtual career fair June 16. Staff will continue to assist students throughout the summer, and they are posting regular updates on their FacebookTwitter and Instagram accounts.

Castro-Duarte emphasized the importance of students taking advantage of the resources and guidance available to them at the Career Center, which can help give them the agency to be proactive in a volatile market.

“Students need to realize that this is something that’s not within their control, but what they can control is what they do with this time,” she said.

Gallery+Story: UTEP welcomes 2020 Terry Scholars via virtual ceremony

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing guidelines, UTEP hosted a virtual event Friday, May 15, 2020, to recognize the newest recipients of the Terry Foundation Scholarship.

“We are so happy to welcome the 2020 cohort of Terry Scholars to the UTEP family,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs.

“This fantastic group of students represents the very best of this years graduating high school senior class. Their academic excellence and extracurricular achievements are impressive and will be put to good use as they start classes this fall and become engaged leaders on the UTEP campus.”

The interactive meeting featured questions addressed to the nine Terry Scholars from the El Paso area. It also welcomed parents, school administrators and peers to partake in this remote, yet collective, experience by offering a few words of praise to the students for their accomplishment.

The Terry Foundation serves 13 public institutions throughout Texas and has partnered with UTEP since 2015.

The foundation provides a full-ride scholarship to individuals who exhibit qualities of leadership, community engagement and academic merit.

“These nine high school seniors are outstanding representatives of their schools, their communities, and their city in every way,” said Annet Rodriguez, UTEP Terry Scholars coordinator.

“I look forward to working with them and seeing their professional and academic growth as they pursue their degrees from The University of Texas at El Paso.”

To learn more about the Terry Scholarship program, click here.

The 2020 Terry Scholars are:

o   Bryan Arriaga – Horizon High School

o   Ania Fierro – Jefferson High School

o   Ana Garcia – El Paso High School

o   Eric Gardea – Horizon High School

o   Matthew Gardea – Horizon High School

o   Emiru Ishikawa – J.M. Hanks High School

o   Alberto Villegas – J.M. Hanks High School

o   Yesenia Juarez – Maxine Silva Health Magnet School

o   Diana Lopez-Valdez – Loretto Academy

UTEP set to celebrate Spring Class of 2020

The University of Texas at El Paso will celebrate spring graduates with remote activities in honor of the Class of 2020 during what would have been the University’s Commencement weekend, May 16-17, 2020.

This spring, more than 2,300 graduates and candidates are eligible to receive degrees. More than 630 of those are expected to earn graduate degrees, including 98 doctoral candidates.

“In normal years, our spring semester – like that of universities across the country – would end with the celebration of this milestone in your life with family and friends. Because this year is anything but normal, we will delay that celebration until the fall, when I hope to see you again,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said in a letter to graduates.

Spring Commencement ceremonies were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graduation candidates can stay connected through social media using the hashtag #utepgrad to post photos in their regalia, celebrating with household members, decorated caps and decorated lawns or doors.

Community members are encouraged to wear orange and walk in their neighborhoods on May 16 and 17 in honor of graduates and candidates who would have walked the stage at the Don Haskins Center throughout Commencement weekend.

On campus, the “Mining Minds” pickaxe sculpture at UTEP’s Sun Bowl-University roundabout will be illuminated in blue and orange from Wednesday evening, May 13, through Sunday evening, May 17, to commemorate UTEP’s Class of 2020.

UTEP Announces 2020 Top 10 Seniors

On Monday, the Miners’ Best of the Best were announced, as the college unveiled their annual ‘Top 10 Seniors Awards.’

“One of the most rewarding projects for the UTEP Alumni Association each year is the selection of UTEP’s Top 10 Seniors,” said Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for UTEPs Office of Alumni Relations.

“These dedicated and hardworking individuals have already done so much in their young lives and their time at UTEP only strengthened their innate talent. We look forward to their work as UTEP alumni. They are future lawyers, educators, doctors, entrepreneurs, financiers and physical therapists. We can’t wait to see all of the great things they will do.

The Top 10 Seniors Awards are presented annually by The University of Texas at El Paso’s Alumni Association to the most zealous and distinguished future alumni.

Seniors who are spring graduation candidates and winter graduates are evaluated in all areas of their academic careers at UTEP.

Recipients of this honor display strong adherence to community engagement, steadfast perseverance, and a commitment to the advancement of not only themselves, but their peers as well. This award recognizes students that approach opposition with hope and passion to turn challenges into opportunities, embodying the spirit of a UTEP Miner.

“Sadly, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to celebrate these seniors in person with the traditional Top 10 Seniors Banquet, but we have been so impressed by the strength and resolve of these seniors, all of whom stressed the importance of family during this time. We are so proud of them,” Villalva added.

The 2020 UTEP Top 10 Seniors Are:


Ruben Aguirre

Major: Political Science

Future Plans: To open his own law firm in El Paso and provide UTEP students with internships.

 “This University has given me all of the tools to succeed in a demanding and difficult field of law. It allowed me to overcome numerous obstacles throughout my life and has placed my family and I in a much better position,” Aguirre said.

 

Bryn Ireland Birdwell

Major: Applied Learning and Development

Future Plans: Remain actively promoting UTEP academic and scholarship opportunities, and become a professor in UTEP’s College of Education.

“Thanks to the amazing faculty and staff in the UTEP College of Education, when my two roads diverged, I took the road less traveled by – and that truly has made all the difference,” Birdwell said.

 

Isaac Noel Gándara

Major: Biological Sciences

Future Plans: To continue medicinal and surgical practices in El Paso.

“By choosing to study at UTEP, I was granted the opportunity to gain extremely valuable experiences that have prepared me for [the] future,” Gándara said.

 

Yeshey Lham

Major: Economics

Future Plans: Institute a study abroad program for UTEP in Bhutan, work for the Bhutanese Ministry of Economics, and mentor international students.

“Even though UTEP is the first international campus where I have studied, it has always been a home away from home. It never failed to open my eyes to new opportunities and experiences,” Lham said.

 

Nohemi Lopez Valdez

Major: Biological Sciences

Future Plans: Open a clinic and perform research while mentoring students and advocating for UTEP’s scholar programs.

“UTEP has not only helped me catalyze my academic advancement but has also helped me strengthen and build upon the axioms of effective leadership that I value: collaboration, encouragement, and accountability,” Lopez Valdez said.

 

Tania Pamela Mariscal Quintana

Major: Finance and Economics (double)

Future Plans: Working with Microsoft as a program manager in the Business Operations and Development division, as well as recruit students to work at Microsoft.

“I developed personally and professionally through my academic and extracurricular experiences, and I want more students to be out there representing UTEP and living unique experiences,” Mariscal Quintana said.

 

Sandra Navarrete

Major: Accounting

Future Plans: Work in New York in finance and continue mentoring students in the UTEP College of Business Administration.

“It is the sum of my experiences at UTEP that exposed me to new ideas, different career opportunities, and greatly shaped me as a professional,” Navarrete said.

 

Marlon Andre Picado

Major: Economics

Future Plans: Construct a nonprofit on the Southwest border for immigrant and low-income population health clinics.

“Each UTEP experience prepared me to vigorously work toward a path of becoming a physician and improve the lives of those who yearn for a symbol of hope,” Picado said.

 

Aiyana Minee Ponce

Major: Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry

Future Plans: Open an inclusive clinic supporting underrepresented groups and become involved in public policy.

“Individuals do not become successful on their own, and I attribute my involvement on and off campus to the UTEP community composed of inspirational students and caring faculty/staff who pushed me to have a high standard of excellence,” Ponce said.

 

Jozelyn A. Rascon

Major: Rehabilitation Sciences

Future Plans: Become a licensed neurological physical therapist and open a clinic.

“My experience at UTEP has provided me with confidence in my abilities, leadership skills, and a passion for serving my El Paso and Ciudad Juárez communities,” Rascon said.

UTEP Center to study how men overcame alcohol abuse

A new study at The University of Texas at El Paso will look at the psychological factors that led some Hispanic men to successfully change their heavy drinking behavior in order to help others make similar changes. The study begins during Alcohol Awareness Month.

National statistics show that Hispanics – who comprise 82% of the population in El Paso – largely abstain from alcohol. However, when they do drink, they drink in ways that are more likely to adversely impact their lives.

Binge drinking can lead to many types of problems that can affect individuals, their family and their community.

Some of these drinkers realize their problem and they have found ways to change their drinking habits with treatment or participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, but many of them change on their own.

Those individuals – the ones who solved their problems through their own devices – can help researchers from The University of Texas at El Paso.

A cohort of faculty, staff and students who are part of UTEP’s Latino Alcohol and Health Disparities Research (LAHDR) and Training Center plan to launch a new self-funded research effort, called CAMBIOS, in April 2020 that will focus on successful changes among heavy drinkers that may include abstinence.

For CAMBIOS, LAHDR hopes to recruit Hispanic men ages 20 to 50 from the Paso del Norte region who have effectively changed their drinking behavior. The researchers want to learn what, how and why the participants decided to alter their behavior.

The center will study the psychological factors and cultural risks the men encountered.

“In the end, these men have made a change that will impact their lives in positive ways,” said Craig Field, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the LAHDR center. “That change will benefit them, their families, their careers and their communities. We want to learn more about the factors that led them to make this change and how those factors contribute to their success. If we better understand what it is that allows them to succeed, we can help others successfully make this change, too.”

Prospective participants are encouraged to read more about CAMBIOS on the LAHDR website. The researchers will conduct their study electronically so participants can respond privately at their convenience.

This is an important and worthwhile project, said Raul Caetano, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center, which is part of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Berkeley, California. He also is professor emeritus of epidemiology at the The University of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas Regional Campus. He met Field there more than 15 years ago. They have collaborated on several research projects since then.

Caetano, a member of LAHDR’s advisory council, called Field “an excellent researcher” who is an expert in studies to reduce alcohol-related injuries in a medical setting, particularly among Hispanics. This research has led to a culturally informed intervention that is tailored to the needs and values of Hispanics.

He also lauded UTEP for its support of LAHDR, which Field established in 2014. Caetano called it an important center based in an area of major interest to alcohol abuse researchers. He called the U.S.-Mexico border a unique place to study because U.S. residents, especially older teens, often go to Mexico, where the drinking age is lower – 18 as opposed to 21 – and the alcohol is cheaper.

“Dr. Field is an asset for UTEP, and the center creates a lot of opportunities for communication, collaboration, education and training of psychology students,” Caetano said.

UTEP places 2nd in National Competition for Asphalt Mix Design

A team of civil engineering undergraduate and graduate students from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) earned second place out of 10 universities renowned for their asphalt teaching and research at the inaugural National Asphalt Mixture Design Competition sponsored by CRH Materials Americas Inc.

The competition, which took place via a webinar presentation, introduced students to designing asphalt mixtures and helped them identify parameters that differentiate between good and poor performing asphalt mixtures, while providing exposure to asphalt testing with real-world economic considerations.

The objective of this competition is to demonstrate and execute the process of optimizing the use of pavement materials to produce a Balanced Mix Design (BMD) that would perform satisfactorily against the two major pavement distresses of cracking and rutting.

The UTEP team was comprised of five students from the Center for Transportation Infrastructure Systems (CTIS) — doctoral student Deepak Jichkar, master’s student Denis Vieira, and undergraduate students Sarah De La O, Gabriela Montes and Monica Santillana, who are actively working in research projects under Soheil Nazarian, Ph.D., and Imad Abdallah, Ph.D.

The team was mentored and guided by Victor M. Garcia, a transportation engineering doctoral student who works as a CTIS research engineer. Garcia helped the team develop and evaluate several asphalt mix designs using specifications from the Texas Department of Transportation to achieve a sustainable and cost-effective BMD mix.

“We are very proud of our team’s performance and accomplishment in this competition,” Garcia said. “Our team demonstrated great commitment, responsibility and confidence in representing UTEP at a national level. I really enjoyed my time mentoring and supporting our CTIS students to experience this type of challenge and achieve their academic and professional goals. I hope the UTEP team’s accomplishment paves the road for future generations to get involved in more professional and educational opportunities.”

UTEP represented Texas in the competition, which also included teams from the University of Arkansas; Auburn University; the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; the University of Missouri; the University of Nevada, Reno;’ the University of New Hampshire; Oregon State University; Purdue University; and Rutgers University.

UTEP’s second-place finish means the members will split $5,000 and be recognized by the asphalt industry. This year, CRH Americas Materials awarded a total of $20,000 in academic scholarships to promote the field of transportation engineering through a well-organized and professional competition.

“CTIS has sparked my interest in the transportation engineering field,” Santillana said. “I enjoy my time getting involved in organizations at UTEP, where I’ve gained leadership skills and professional development. I plan to advance my knowledge to improve my community’s transportation safety and engineering practices.” 

“Working at CTIS research labs has really broadened my horizons in the field of transportation engineering as I am able to witness topics presented in my classes,” De La O said. “Currently, I am working on acquiring academic knowledge and technical skills in the field of transportation engineering so that I can later apply them in my professional career. My career goal is to contribute to the improvement of transportation systems with the use of ingenuity and applying the professional skills that I am soon to acquire.”

Author:  Darlene Barajas – UTEP Communications

Thanks to UTEP-EPISD partnership, Franklin students one step closer to careers in law

A career in law is one step closer to reality for six Franklin students thanks to a partnership between EPISD and the University of Texas at El Paso, which is preparing the high-schoolers to become certified paralegals.

The six seniors, enrolled in Franklin’s legal studies pathway, are nearly finished with the online course, which was contracted through UTEP and conducted by JER Online Workforce Certification and Courses. The students expect to take the certification exam in the coming weeks.

“These certifications help elevate the offerings of programs for future students at the magnet school, make them better prepared for their field of study and employable right out of high school,” said Franklin assistant principal Gabriela Marquez.  “At the current time, we are the only high school in El Paso and only one of three for the entire state that offers such a program since there are typically barriers that prevent high schools from being able to take part in certification programs such as this.”

Marquez worked on the collaboration with the UTEP’s Continuing Education Department to find a way to be able allow students to complete the certification while still enrolled in high school. Tom Lott, who spent 28 years as an FBI agent before becoming a teacher, facilitates the certification course at Franklin and is currently preparing them for the certification exam with materials he receives from JER.

“It’s set up online but during class time we go over the chapters and discuss it,” Lott said. “It’s a tremendous amount of reading but they are excited and motivated to finish this course. “

The total cost of the program is $1,400 per student.  Franklin covered half the cost and students made payments to cover the balance. Marquez said they are working with UTEP to find financial assistance for those students who might not be able to pay – especially considering that next school year enrollment is expected to jump to 30 students.

Despite the cost, the students know the advantage the program gives them for their future.

“My love and passion for law is what made me decide to take this paralegal certification course,” said Ashley Alanis, who is currently interning at the Law Offices of Michael J. Zimprich, PLLC. “The paralegal work has helped me tremendously. When I’m speaking to the lawyers at the office I am able to understand legal terms that I normally wouldn’t have known.”

Alanis, who’s interested in medical malpractice and business law, plans go to UTEP and eventually Baylor University to complete her degree and law school.

“I know this internship will help me a great amount with my law career because this internship has prepared me to be able to talk to real clients, handle real situations that would happen at a law office and have experience in the office,” she said.

Story by Reneé De Santos – EPISD |  Photo by UTEP

NIH Group appoints UTEP Psychology Professor to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism advisory council

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recently appointed The University of Texas at El Paso’s Laura O’Dell, Ph.D., to a four-year post on its advisory council.

The NIAAA, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), selected O’Dell, an award-winning researcher and professor of psychology, because of her outstanding scientific contribution in the study of neural mechanisms that control addiction to certain drugs of abuse such as nicotine.

O’Dell attended her first National Advisory Council meeting for NIAAA in February 2020. She described the group as interdisciplinary, which reflects the problem of addiction that crosses various scientific disciplines such as neuroscience, biology, psychology and sociology as well as analysis at different levels.

The UTEP professor, whose research focuses on the addictive properties of nicotine, said the NIAAA expects its council members to use their expertise to inform the institute about the issues and initiatives that it should address related to alcohol and public health.

“Alcoholism is a debilitating, pervasive problem that cuts across all health agencies,” O’Dell said. “The problem of alcoholism is pervasive particularly in our border region. I am excited to work with the group to better address this problem that disproportionately affects Hispanics.”

As a council member, she will advise, assist and make recommendations to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and NIAAA directors on matters related to the activities carried out by and through the institute, as well as policies that affect those activities. She plans to focus on the underlying reasons for health disparities and their causes such as language barriers and lack of access to medical help.

“I will use my voice to try to understand how drug addiction might contribute to health disparities in Hispanics,” she said.

O’Dell said this appointment is an opportunity to learn from “top-notch” researchers in their own health-related fields. She added that it also was a chance to represent UTEP and to create a network that would benefit UTEP students and other faculty members.

“This is a prominent group and it is wonderful to be included in circles like this,” O’Dell said. “Where there is a prestigious post, there is an element of respect from people in your field. It’s nice that people in my field recognize that I’m someone who can influence what we should be studying.”

Abraham Bautista, Ph.D., director of the NIAAA’s Office of Extramural Activities, said O’Dell was the first UTEP representative on an NIAAA council. She has been a member of the NIAAA’s Advisory Council Working Group on Diversity and Health Disparity for about a year. He said that the institute’s leaders were impressed with the UTEP professor’s research, awards and efforts to support future researchers.

Bautista mentioned O’Dell’s work funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse into sex differences and predictive biomarkers, as well as when she earned the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2008 from the President of the United States. He added that institute leaders also noted her grant-funded efforts to train post-doctoral fellows and undergraduate investigators. This background will help the NIAAA know the best ways to enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce for abuse researchers.

O’Dell, an El Paso native who graduated from Loretto Academy in 1987, attended UTEP for two years before she transferred to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degrees in psychology and biology in 1992. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees in behavioral neuroscience from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, in 1994 and 1997, respectively. UTEP hired her in 2005.

Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the college was proud of O’Dell and of her appointment to this prominent group.

“It is a mark of success,” O’Hearn said. “It is a reflection of the caliber of scholars we have in our college and at UTEP.”

O’Dell’s department chair, Edward Castañeda, Ph.D., professor of psychology, echoed the dean’s comments.

“This is a highly prestigious appointment in the upper echelons of the NIH,” Castañeda said. “It speaks loudly to the resource that Laura is to the science of addiction at the national and international levels. With great distinction, she also represents opportunity to Latinx students – females and males – because she is a native El Pasoan who has paved a path into scientific inquiry for nontraditional people.”

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP names John Wiebe Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

UTEP President Heather Wilson announced Tuesday that University administrator and longtime faculty member John Wiebe, Ph.D., will be promoted to the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

Wiebe has held the position in an interim capacity since January 2019.

“John has 21 years of experience at UTEP and helped to build the institution into a top tier research university that is arguably the best Hispanic-serving university in the country,” President Wilson said. “He is deeply committed to the students we serve and the scholarship we advance.”

Wiebe earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Health Psychology from the University of Iowa, having completed his undergraduate education at Ohio Wesleyan University.

He joined the UTEP faculty in 1998 and began a program of community-engaged research on mental health and medical adherence in severe chronic illness, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. He has secured millions of dollars in external funding for research and student success initiatives. Wiebe served as the President of the Faculty Senate for two terms and became Associate Provost in 2012 and Vice Provost in 2018.

“Especially at a time of stress and uncertainty for so many, it has been inspiring to work with students, staff, faculty, chairs and deans who are joined together by a clearly defined and deeply meaningful institutional mission,” Wiebe said.

“People who work at UTEP make a real difference in the world, whether on the lives of individual students and their families or through leading innovative initiatives on campus, in the community, or around the globe. As we face the current challenge and move forward to new opportunities, I am excited to work alongside my colleagues to build upon the excellent foundation that exists here and serve the region even better in the future.”

“John’s experience, commitment and work ethic have been invaluable to UTEP,” President Wilson said. “He is well regarded by faculty and students for his expertise and calm problem-solving ability. We are fortunate to have him.”

UTEP partners with City Accelerator to provide insights on El Paso Minority Business Ecosystem

The Center for Hispanic Entrepreneurship (CFHE) housed in the College of Business Administration (COBA) at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has partnered with the City of El Paso City Accelerator to help expand minority businesses by removing common barriers to markets, contracts, capital, education and consulting.

In 2018, the City of El Paso received a $100,000 Living Cities grant funded by the Citi Foundation to build a support system for small businesses with the help of local business organizations including the Center for Hispanic Entrepreneurship.

“Accelerate El Paso provided us with a great opportunity to gather insights about our local minority businesses and to look at our current entrepreneurship infrastructure,” said Denisse Olivas, director of the Center for Hispanic Entrepreneurship at UTEP. “We hope that our findings can help organizations better serve our local entrepreneurs.”

Other partners include the Small Business Development Center (El Paso Community College), Workforce Solutions Borderplex, El Paso Chamber, El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hub of Human Innovation and the El Paso County Economic Development Office.

The local partners developed the design of the accelerator to begin to map an ecosystem that supported minorities in all phases of their business, including starting, continuing and scaling up. The program was developed to offer training, events and guidance through one-on-one consulting through the specialization of each of the local partners. The program’s end goal encouraged the formation of a central location for small businesses to find guidance on topics such as how to start a business, how to fund a venture, best accounting practices, networking opportunities, access to government contracting, marketing, communication, leadership and employee training.

The program, called Accelerate El Paso or Accelerate EP, recruited 70 small- to medium-sized minority businesses to participate as a cohort through a one-year program.

The CFHE contributed by providing a research template and guidance, disseminating the survey, analyzing the data and writing the final paper submitted to Living Cities, which is now available as a download.

“This was a very exciting project for us because, through the development of a cross-functional team consisting of multiple City of El Paso departments, we were able to put together a plan to consolidate efforts and ensure business access to high quality resources,” said Aimee Olivas, socioeconomic compliance officer for the City of El Paso.

Key findings include:

  • 78% of businesses in El Paso are minority owned.
  • Major industries include services, retail, financial and real estate.
  • Top training needs include accounting and marketing.
  • Acquiring capital to start or grow a business is a major challenge.
  • There is a lack of awareness of local resources.
  • There is a need for networking and mentorship.

For more information on the Center for Hispanic Entrepreneurship at UTEP and to download the full report, click here.

Author: Darlene Barajas – UTEP Communications

Patricia Nava appointed Interim Dean of the College of Engineering

Patricia Nava, Ph.D., has been named interim dean of The University of Texas at El Paso College of Engineering, effective March 4, 2020.

“Dr. Nava’s distinguished record of scholarship and service to UTEP and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has prepared her well to guide the college during this time of transition,” said John Wiebe, Ph.D., interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“She is recognized by her peers as an effective leader who is committed to creating opportunities for students and faculty. I am pleased that she will take on this vital role to help us move forward at a time of opportunity for UTEP Engineering.”

Nava arrived at UTEP in 1996 as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. She was named professor in 2008. She served as program director for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2004, then subsequently served as chair of the department until 2011.

She was appointed associate dean for academic affairs and undergraduate studies from 2011 to 2017.

Nava will succeed Theresa A. Maldonado, Ph.D., who has accepted a position as vice president for research and innovation at the University of California System.

“We’re grateful for the effort that Dr. Maldonado has put into leading the college at a time of institutional transition, culminating in a successful accreditation review by ABET,” Wiebe said.

Before her work at UTEP, Nava taught at Northern Arizona University and California State University, Los Angeles, and worked as an electronics engineer at White Sands Missile Range and as a design engineer at IBM.

Nava was awarded her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from New Mexico State University.

In addition to her scholarly work in engineering, she has a strong record of service to students. Nava is a 2019 inductee of the UTEP Academy of Distinguished Teachers and a recipient of The University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (2009), the Chancellor’s Council Outstanding Teaching Award (2004), and the Lockheed Martin Award for Teaching Excellence (2003).

In 2016, Nava was instrumental in leading the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative at UTEP, an opportunity to expand the institution’s efforts to prepare students for a dynamic and diverse workforce in STEM fields. She has worked with dozens of graduate students in research and mentored them toward their master’s and doctoral degrees.

Socorro ISD students receive $676,000 in UTEP scholarships

Officials with the Socorro Independent School District announced that high school students in their district have earned a combined total of $169,000 in annual scholarships from the University of Texas at El Paso so far this school year.

The UTEP Scholars Excellence Program has selected 52 scholarship recipients in Team SISD, with the four-year award totaling $676,000.

Montwood High School has had 27 recipients earning a collective $74,000 in scholarships, the most in SISD so far and one of the top schools in the region.

Eastlake High School has 11 recipients earning $40,000 in scholarships. Americas High School has five recipients earning $14,000 in scholarship funds. Socorro High School has four recipients earning $11,000. Mission Early College High School has two recipients receiving $13,000. Pebble Hills High School also has two recipients receiving $9,000. El Dorado High School has one recipient who received an $8,000 scholarship.

“This shows all the effort on behalf of the teachers, the students, the families and our counseling team,” said Annette Monsivais, lead counselor at Montwood High School. “This embodies and definitely signifies endless opportunities.”

Montwood senior Brian Gonzalez, who received the Presidential Scholarship, was grateful for the scholarship, assistance that will relieve him from depending on student loans.

“I’m so grateful to be given the opportunity to further educate myself and better myself for the future,” said Gonzalez, who intends on studying electrical engineering.

It’s a motivator for students to see each other succeed and looking for those opportunities, like applying for scholarships, said Wendy Dorado, counselor at Mission Early College High School.

“They’ve worked hard for it and when you see their faces glow like that it makes you happy to see their hard work pay off,” Dorado said.

Montwood High School parent Valeria Lara also expressed gratitude to UTEP and the district for the endless opportunities offered to her son, saying it is a huge financial relief.

“I love that we made the choice to get educated here,” said Lara. “We feel grateful and blessed to be a part of the family of Montwood High School.”

Potential El Dorado High School valedictorian Allie Perez said she is excited about what receiving the scholarship signifies for the next chapter of her life.

“Getting this scholarship shows all the hard work that I’ve been putting in has paid off,” said Perez, who plans to study kinesiology. “I am ready for college.”

Another round of scholarships from UTEP will be awarded later this spring semester. Incoming freshmen or transfer students who have been accepted into UTEP are eligible to apply for scholarships from the university. To qualify students must have scored well on the SAT/ACT exams and maintain a high-grade point average.

For more information, visit the UTEP Scholarship webpage

Photo courtesy SISD
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