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Home | Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

Tag Archives: University of Texas at El Paso

NIH to Fund UTEP Study into Anti-Depression Drug

The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences recently awarded a three-year, $400,000 grant to The University of Texas at El Paso’s Sergio Iñiguez, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, to study the possible long-range side effects of a drug treatment for pediatric depressive disorder.

Iñiguez’s research, “Enduring Effects of Juvenile Ketamine Exposure,” will examine the enduring neurobehavioral consequences of early life exposure to the painkiller ketamine.

The researcher, who is the project’s principal investigator, believes that juvenile ketamine exposure will make the individual more susceptible as an adult to drug addiction, memory loss and decreased sensitivity to stress.

“We need to know ketamine’s impact on the developing brain,” Iñiguez said. “We’re talking vulnerable populations, especially girls, who are three times more likely to suffer from depression.”

The UTEP professor said his research team includes three graduate students and four undergraduates who represent the departments of psychology, biological sciences, and chemistry and biochemistry.

Iñiguez called this research project an excellent training ground for students who can use the experience to develop their own studies as they move on to master’s and doctoral programs or enter into the neuroscience or pharmacological fields.

Immigration Research Part of UTEP Summer Program

When Jeremy Slack, Ph.D., planned his initial Immigration and Border Community – Research Experience for Undergraduates (IBCREU) program, the assistant professor of geography at The University of Texas at El Paso thought his 2018 summer interns would study efforts to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The goal of the IBCREU program is to teach social science research methods to students interested in border studies. Participants would team up with agencies that promote human rights and civil rights. The three-year, $487,000 program is funded by the National Science Foundation.

As the IBCREU prepared to launch, an unexpected development enhanced its scope. In June, the U.S. government opened its shelter for unaccompanied or separated migrant children in Tornillo, Texas, and the focus of the IBCREU quickly changed to asylum hearings, migrant family separations and research into “zero tolerance” policies made in Washington, D.C. The 10 students selected from 350 applications from around the country dealt with the court systems and visiting elected officials from the local to national levels.

“It was an atypical summer,” said Slack, the project’s principal investigator (PI). “It was great, but chaotic. (The students) were thrust into the limelight so they made it part of their research experience.”

Slack and his co-PI, Neil Harvey, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Government at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, have opened the application process for the 2019 IBCREU, which is scheduled from May 20 to July 27, 2019, at UTEP. It will include a $5,000 stipend and a research trip to the U.S.-Mexico border around Nogales, Arizona. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 15, 2019. Interested students can learn more about the program at utep.edu/bordercommunity.

The UTEP professor said he wants to build on the collaborations with last year’s partners – the American Civil Liberties Union, Hope Border Institute, and the Border Network for Human Rights – as well as new partner NM CAFé, a faith-based group headquartered in Las Cruces.

Slack said his 2018 partners, who helped set the research parameters, called the reports written by last year’s students “valuable tools” that enhanced their day-to-day efforts. For example, Hope Border Institute focused on assistance at asylum hearings, the ACLU team studied President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and developed a manual for borderwide documentation, and the Border Network for Human Rights group developed a 20-year history of the network and border organizations with similar missions.

While some participants were from UTEP and NMSU, the majority were from other institutions such as Vassar College (New York), Brown University (Rhode Island), the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley.

Joseph Nevins, Ph.D., professor of geography and director of the Independent Program at Vassar, said he believes the IBCREU is an invaluable experience because it allows students to learn from and work closely with some top scholars along the U.S.-Mexico border. The students also benefit from being able to conduct research alongside community partners familiar with the border.

Nevins said Carlos Espina, the student from Vassar, told him the program was “intellectually rigorous” and “eye-opening” in terms of the numerous field visits. Nevins said Espina looked forward to promoting the program at the professor’s next U.S.-Mexico border course.

Among the other 2018 student participants were UTEP seniors Estrella Loredo and Sandra Dominguez. Loredo is a political science major with a minor in intelligence and national security studies. Dominguez is a communication studies major with a minor in secondary education. Both were born elsewhere but grew up in or near El Paso, speak English and Spanish, and are familiar with the border.

Loredo said she applied for the program because of her interests in border studies, immigration and the plight of children who are subject to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. She had taken numerous courses about Latin America and had studied human trafficking. She called this program “an incredible opportunity” because it tied reality to classroom theory.

Among her duties were to help prepare a report on the closing of the border and to observe asylum cases at the El Paso Processing Center. She said the program broadened her knowledge of border policies and sharpened her critical thinking skills.

“It was an education to see how the legal system worked and didn’t work,” said Loredo, who assisted the Hope Border Institute. She called the court sessions informative, but emotionally draining. “Seeing people who requested asylum gave me a different perspective. It humanized the studies.”

Dominguez was part of the Border Network for Human Rights team. She attended weekly meetings that dealt with family separation issues and the Tornillo detention center.

As part of the network, she studied the effect of extreme militarization of the border, helped present to El Paso County Commissioners a resolution to close the Tornillo center, and observed numerous protests to include two that temporarily closed an international port of entry and the El Paso Processing Center. She said it was impressive to see how quickly the network could organize a protest, but heartbreaking to witness the human suffering.

Dominguez strongly suggested that other students – especially those who are passionate about the border – apply for this program because it will expand one’s perspective of border issues, knowledge of border policies, and network of academic and professional contacts.

“Although the program is only 10 weeks long, it will change your life,” Dominguez said.

Slack laughed and shook his head when asked about his plan for 2019 program. He said the evolving nature of politics on the border makes it uncertain. That said, he still hopes to launch additional investigations that could lead to groundbreaking border studies research.

Slack said he plans to expand on the 2018 program model. Among his ideas is to develop creative ways to involve more UTEP faculty and graduate students. Having said that, he admitted that everything depends on the policies coming out of Washington, D.C.

“What I learned from last summer is that we don’t know what’s coming next,” he said.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP Attains National Research Top Tier Ranking

The University of Texas at El Paso has attained a coveted R1 designation (top tier doctoral university with very high research activity) in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

UTEP is one of only 130 (4.5%) top tier universities among the 2,883 four-year higher education institutions across the U.S. to earn this prestigious R1 distinction, joining the ranks of such universities as Stanford, M.I.T., Michigan, Arizona and California-Berkeley.

The Carnegie Classification process analyzes higher education institutions in the U.S. on the basis of such factors as research expenditures, undergraduate and graduate instructional programs, enrollment profile, size and setting, and basic classification.

“This newly earned Carnegie R1 classification in the top tier of national research universities strongly validates UTEP’s success in delivering on our innovative access and excellence mission,” said President Diana Natalicio. “It also powerfully affirms the stature of UTEP faculty researchers, the quality of their innovative work, and their competitiveness in securing funding to support it. What makes UTEP’s rise to this R1 level even more impressive is our abiding campus commitment to access, which places a high priority on ensuring that research excellence always be accompanied by a deep and sustained access commitment. Engaging our students, both graduate and especially undergraduate, in this growing research activity at UTEP provides them with outstanding learning opportunities and raises their aspirations to pursue advanced degrees and research careers. Of significance, too, is that this R1 classification enhances UTEP’s national brand and increases the value of a UTEP degree.”

Thirty years ago, when Dr. Natalicio began her tenure as UTEP’s president, the university boldly set a goal of expanding the scope and quality of research activity and increasing the number of doctoral programs. Since then, annual research expenditures have grown from $6 million to $95 million, and doctoral degree offerings have increased from a single program in geology to 22 programs offered by all colleges and schools across the campus.

A key leadership role in this UTEP research success story has been played by Dr. Roberto Osegueda, Vice President for Research. Under his guidance, the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects has provided strong and creative support to faculty and staff members as they prepare their proposals and, once funded, as they conduct the research and manage the myriad accounting and reporting documentation requirements.

“We are honored and energized by UTEP’s designation as a Carnegie R1 top tier institution,” Osegueda said. “UTEP is committed to recruiting and fostering the development of outstanding faculty members, nearly two-thirds of whom are now engaged in externally funded research activity. Because of their efforts, UTEP ranks third in federal research spending per tenured and tenure-track faculty member among all public universities in Texas, after UT Austin and Texas A&M. This newly attained status reflects UTEP’s abiding commitment to excellence in our education and research mission, and in the quality of our faculty and graduates. We are confident this recognition will bolster our ongoing efforts to drive innovation and technology through high-level research, and augment the El Paso-Juárez region’s economic development efforts.”

Other Texas universities designated as R1 include The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at Dallas, Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas.

The Carnegie Classification has been a framework for recognizing and describing U.S. higher education institutions for more than 45 years. The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education’s unique classification system of colleges and universities supports its program of research and policy analysis and is an important framework widely used in the study of institutions of higher education.

For more information about the significance of the R1 top tier classification, click here.

New Partnership Offers UTEP Students Pharmacy Access in the Community

Alfred Hijar’s ability to collect his diabetes medication from a pharmacy during the day was previously impacted by his loaded schedule.

Between attending classes at The University of Texas at El Paso, volunteering at health fairs and charity walks, and raising four children, Hijar needed access to a pharmacy that was affordable, near his home, and, above all, open after 5 p.m.

A senior in UTEP’s undergraduate nursing program, Hijar was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. A glucose test at the UTEP Student Health and Wellness Center showed that his blood sugar level was high above normal blood glucose levels.

Hijar immediately went to the emergency room at University Medical Center (UMC). Doctors prescribed medication to treat his diabetes, which Hijar has refilled at the UMC pharmacy ever since.

“When I was first diagnosed, I would always come to the UMC pharmacy on Alberta Avenue to get my prescriptions, but now UMC has pharmacies throughout the city,” Hijar said. “The pharmacies are very convenient and prices are low. It’s better because there are a lot of students like me that don’t have health insurance.”

A satisfied customer for more than 10 years, Hijar is pleased with a new partnership between UTEP and UMC that will provide greater access to pharmacy services for thousands of UTEP students.

Starting Jan. 2, 2019, students will be able to purchase their prescriptions at any of UMC’s seven pharmacies located throughout El Paso.

The partnership provides students an alternative to the pharmacy services that were offered at the Student Health and Wellness Center until Dec. 14, 2018.

Students will benefit from services that were not available at the UTEP pharmacy such as citywide locations and longer hours. UMC pharmacies are open until 7 p.m. at most locations, Monday through Saturday. Prescriptions can be purchased at equal or lower cost than students would have paid at the UTEP pharmacy. They also will be able to use health insurance to pay for prescriptions. This option was not available previously at the Student Health and Wellness Center.

“This new partnership provides enhanced services for UTEP students,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “Their access to affordable pharmaceutical services will now be offered during expanded hours at multiple locations across the community. We thank our partners at UMC for not only enabling us to broaden our pharmaceutical services for UTEP students, but for their collaborations with us on so many other fronts as well.”

Throughout the years, UMC has played a major role in in educating UTEP students through programs and initiatives with the College of Health Sciences and School of Nursing.

According to Jacob Cintron, UMC president and chief executive officer, UMC’s new collaboration with UTEP is in line with the hospital’s mission to provide greater access to care for all El Pasoans.

“UTEP students are part of our El Paso family, our friends, our neighbors and the future leaders in our community,” said Cintron, who earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from UTEP. “Through this program, we are hoping to take one less concern away from students so they can focus on their education while having much greater access to the prescriptions they need, at the same low prices they’ve come to expect.”

Catie McCorry-Andalis, Ed.D., associate vice president and dean of students, said that partnerships with the medical community across the region are instrumental to students’ success.

After assessing the health care needs of students, UTEP’s Division of Student Affairs, the College of Health Sciences and the Student Government Association worked with UMC to provide students access to pharmacy care in the community.

Convenient pharmacy access will now be among the list of healthcare services available to UTEP students, which also includes affordable health insurance through the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) and medical care at the Student Health and Wellness Center.

“The partnership with UMC will enable our students to seek services and support in their home community in addition to what is available to them on campus,” McCorry-Andalis said. “Access to medical care including pharmaceuticals when needed, is critical to our students success in and out of the classroom.”

UTEP Nursing Faculty Member Published in Journal of Nursing Education

Integrating emotional intelligence competencies into graduate nursing education can better prepare advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) with the leadership, communication and teamwork skills to improve patient outcomes, according to Kathleen Cox, DNP, director of the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) program at The University of Texas at El Paso.

“These intentional efforts will foster emotionally intelligent APRNs who can advance interdisciplinary relationships and impact the future of health care,” Cox said.

In the paper, titled “Use of Emotional Intelligence to Enhance Advanced Practice Registered Nursing Competencies,” she recommends that nursing educators incorporate the key emotional intelligence competencies of social awareness and relationship management into their curricula to promote APRN students’ professional development.

Learning strategies such as reflective journaling, online clinical conferencing, and shared blogs can enhance emotional intelligence in students.

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

Cox is a Ph.D. candidate at The University of Texas at Tyler and holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Master of Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She graduated from UTEP’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in 1991.

Cox’s paper appeared in November’s Journal of Nursing Education.

UTEP, UMC Announce New Pharmacy Services Partnership

On Thursday, officials with the University of Texas at El Paso and the University Medical Center of El Paso announced a new partnership that will bring new and greater access to pharmacy services for thousands of UTEP students.

Through a new and innovative agreement between two of our region’s oldest and most dedicated organizations working for the benefit of all who call El Paso home, students will have access to prescriptions anywhere UMC services are located.

“Our new partnership with UTEP is in keeping with our mission of providing greater access to care for all El Pasoans,” said Jacob Cintron, UMC President & CEO.

“UTEP has been a true partner with UMC for many years, whether through their College of Health Sciences and School of Nursing programs, and many other opportunities we have had to work together. UTEP students are part of our El Paso family, our friends, our neighbors and the future leaders in our community. Through this program, we are hoping to take one less concern away from students so they can focus on their education while having much greater access to the prescriptions they need, at the same low prices they’ve come to expect.”

“This new partnership provides enhanced services for UTEP students,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio.

“Their access to affordable pharmaceutical services will now be offered during expanded hours at multiple locations across the community. We thank our partners at UMC for not only enabling us to broaden our pharmaceutical services for UTEP students, but for their collaborations with us on so many other fronts as well.” 

  • This new partnership allows both on- and off-campus students to access medications at seven different locations.
  • Through this partnership, students can purchase their prescriptions at the same or lower cost than they would have paid at the Student Health and Wellness Center.
  • Students can utilize insurance coverage (public or private) to pay for prescriptions.
  • Students can receive expanded continuous service for pharmacy access. UMC pharmacies are open mornings through early evenings for student convenience, Monday through Saturday.
  • Students will have access to UMC pharmacies even during Spring Break or the Winter Break, at locations close to their homes in El Paso.

UTEP Participating in Nationwide Collaborative to Improve College Access

The University of Texas at El Paso is participating in the largest ever collaborative to improve college access, equity and degree completion.

At its annual meeting in New Orleans this fall, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) unveiled Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success, a nationwide initiative that consists of 130 public universities and systems collaborating to increase college access, close the achievement gap and award hundreds of thousands more degrees by 2025.

“We take great pride at UTEP in serving students who are talented and have high aspirations for themselves and their families,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs. “Unfortunately, we see too many situations where students have decided not to attend a university because of a lack of financial resources, not academic ability or a desire to succeed. UTEP’s long track-record of providing access to all students is an example for many institutions and fits perfectly with APLU’s desire to have a national conversation to enhance college access and degree completion. We are excited about adding our voice to this effort.”

The participating institutions will work within clusters of four to 12 institutions and will collaboratively share aggregate data and refine, implement and assess effective practices on their campuses. By working in clusters, the initiative expects to identify common obstacles between campuses and effectively work together to implement improvements that will advance student success.

UTEP is part of the High-Pell cluster. Collectively, the institutions involved enroll 3 million students, including 1 million students who receive Pell Grants – federal funding available for students with financial need who are working to earn their first bachelor’s degree.

Despite Pell Grants being an effective resource in increasing college completion rates, there are still gaps in graduation rates by family income. According to the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, the likelihood of a student from the lowest income quartile entering college is nearly 60 percent, but only slightly over nine percent for completing a bachelor’s degree. H

owever, at UTEP, 53 percent of students who earn a baccalaureate degree are first-generation college graduates, almost 60 percent are Pell grant recipients, and more than 51 percent of the graduates are from families with an annual household income of less than $38,000.

“UTEP has been nationally recognized for successfully fostering social mobility,” said Carol Parker, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for UTEP to participate in and learn from as we continue to provide more students with access to the best education possible. One focus of our cluster is faculty professional development – enhancing active learning and evidence-based teaching to improve student progression. Faculty play a key role in student success and engagement. It’s a focus in which we continually want to invest as we build upon the success of the UTEP Edge, the University’s student success initiative that develops students’ assets through a variety of high-impact practices.”

The clusters have identified focus areas for their work. UTEP will work alongside seven universities to look at the various interaction points among students, faculty and staff to identify institutional barriers to student progression and address those barriers through evidence-based interventions.

UTEP will work closely with Northern Arizona University, Northern Illinois University, Rutgers University-Newark, Texas State University, The University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of California-Merced, and the University of North Texas. The institutions participating purposely reflect a wide variety of institutional characteristics such as student demographics, enrollment, selectivity and regional workforce needs.

The broad diversity of the institutions is intended to help create a playbook of adaptable student success reforms that can be adopted and scaled up across a variety of institution types – including those with limited resources.

The goals of the initiative strongly align with UTEP’s mission of providing access to higher education with a commitment to excellence reflected in rigorous programs that prepare students to make significant contributions to their professions, their communities and the world.

The APLU’s newly created association called the Center for Public University Transformation will oversee the effort. The center was established to help drive transformational change across public higher education.

“Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a real and growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion nationally,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “We have to seize the moment and mobilize institutions to improve not just college access, but also equity in student outcomes and the number of students who earn degrees. That’s what Powered by Publics is all about and why we’re thrilled to work with our member institutions toward such an important national goal.”

UTEP to Celebrate 2018 Winter Commencement Saturday

The University of Texas at El Paso will celebrate summer and winter graduates during UTEP’s three Commencement ceremonies Saturday in the Don Haskins Center.

The celebrations are at 9 a.m. for the College of Liberal Arts; 2 p.m. for the colleges of Education, Business Administration and the School of Nursing; and 7 p.m. for the colleges of Science, Engineering and Health Sciences. Each ceremony will also be streamed live.

The livestream can be accessed from any home computer, mobile device or tablet at utep.edu.

Guests may not bring food, drinks, baby strollers, balloons, noisemakers, fireworks, poppers, glass containers, tripods or banners into the Don Haskins Center during Commencement.

Visit the commencement website for the latest information about the University’s graduation ceremonies.

UTEP will stream the Commencement ceremonies live. Since its introduction during the 2012 Winter Commencement, live streaming of UTEP’s Commencement has become a popular option that enables thousands of Miners and viewers from around the world to join the celebration.

The “Mining Minds” pickaxe sculpture at UTEP’s University Avenue roundabout will be illuminated in blue and orange from Wednesday evening, December 12 through Sunday evening, December 16, to commemorate UTEP’s Class of 2018.

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

On special occasions, including historic dates, major annual milestones and to celebrate special accomplishments, the pick is illuminated in blue and orange.

To make the most of their Commencement experience, graduates and guests should be aware of the following:

• What: UTEP’s Winter Commencement

• When: 9 a.m. for the College of Liberal Arts; 2 p.m. for the School of Nursing and the colleges of Education and Business Administration; and 7 p.m. for the colleges of Science, Engineering and Health Sciences

• Where: UTEP’s Don Haskins Center, 151 Glory Road

Glory Road Closure

Glory Road from Oregon to Randolph will be closed in order to enhance pedestrian safety, ease traffic congestion and help with the flow of crowds from the Don Haskins Center to Celebration Plaza.

Commencement Parking (Includes previous lot names)

Parking map: (Link to campus map here)

Free parking:

  • Accessible via Glory Road: GR2 (formerly P-9).
  • Accessible via Sun Bowl Drive: Lots SB2 (S-3), SB3 (S-4), SB10 (R-6) and the Sun Bowl Parking Garage. SB7 (R-2) will have reserved parking for event staff, but the remaining spaces will be available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Accessible via Schuster Avenue: Lots SC1 (P-4), SC2 (P-3), SC3 (P-2), SC4 (P-1), and the Schuster Parking Garage.

Parking with Fee: 

  • Glory Road Transfer Center and Parking Garage (accessible via Glory Road at Mesa Street). ($10)
  • Public monthly and daily parking lot at 3003 S. Mesa St.

ADA Parking: 

  • Permit required, Lots SB8 (R-3) and ME1 (R-4) near the Don Haskins Center.

Two UTEP Professors Among 24 Selected Nationally for Winter Fellowship in Israel

A pair of engineering professors from The University of Texas at El Paso have been selected to take part in an academic exchange and exploration of Israel through an opportunity offered by the Jewish National Fund.

Luis Rene Contreras-Sapien, Ph.D., associate professor and undergraduate program director in UTEP’s Department of Industrial, Manufacturing, and Systems Engineering; and Calvin M. Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Material at Extremes Research Group under the direction of UTEP’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration Technology and Research (cSETR), are among a group of 24 professors from universities and colleges throughout the United States selected for the Jewish National Fund’s 2018 Winter Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel from December 26, 2018, to January 8, 2019.

Participants will travel throughout Israel, meet Israeli professors from their respective disciplines and with the same, or similar, research interests, all with the goal of developing collaborations, research projects, co-authoring articles, and establishing exchange programs between faculty and students.

“I am humbled and elated to be selected to take part in this fellowship,” Contreras-Sapien said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for UTEP to help facilitate collaborations on research and education between the United States and Israel. We hope to share all of the vital work we have conducted in the College of Engineering, while meeting and learning from international scientists working in the same research areas.”

The tour, in which more than 250 researchers have already taken part, is a fully-paid intensive program to Israel for full-time U.S.-based academics from a recognized university/learning institution.

The Jewish National Fund also runs the annual Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission to Israel, for which 80 college students will travel to Israel in December; the Winter Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel, and a host of other trips and missions.

“This fellowship is a major opportunity for UTEP to foster international research collaboration with Israel,” Stewart said. “International collaborations are often difficult to foster due to distance and time. This intensive fellowship will give me the opportunity to travel across the entire country and meet with Israeli researchers at all the major and minor institutions. Considerable high-quality research is being conducted in the country. I am interested in fostering collaborations in high-strain rate and hypervelocity impact testing of materials, an area of research of considerable interest in Israel. Upon returning to UTEP, I hope to continue my discussions with Israeli researchers, write collaborative research proposals, and foster student exchange.”

Along with UTEP, other participating U.S.-based universities include Temple University; the University of California, Davis; Arizona State University; Stetson University; Cornell University; Fort Hays State University; Washington State University; the University of Florida; Stevens Institute of Technology; Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Arkansas and Loyola University-New Orleans.

Collaborative Culture at UTEP Continues to Expand; Recent Symposium Highlights Progress

Change is apparent throughout The University of Texas at El Paso campus. New buildings and updated roads are in the works, with plans for more.

There are also new facilities, new deans and new coaches. But one particularly profound change has quietly been taking place in classrooms, labs and offices across the University for several years now.

“It’s a new way of thinking; it’s looking at the University differently,” said Ann Gates, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, referring to the growth of interdisciplinary research and education (IDRE) at UTEP.

Interdisciplinary research, also known as collaborative research, is a way of tackling a problem through an integrative approach; one that brings together the expertise and perspectives of people who work in different and, sometimes, seemingly unrelated disciplines.

The practice of collaborative research at UTEP is not new, but thanks to the work of individuals such as Gates, it is an idea that has seen clear growth in standing and acceptance.

“There is more awareness now of the range of the interdisciplinary projects that are occurring on campus,” said Andrea Tirres, interdisciplinary network manager in the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP). “There are now also more prominent discussions about IDRE and the support that the University offers for interdisciplinary research in terms of things like equipment and policies.”

One initiative that has been essential in this effort is the annual UTEP IDRE Symposium.

Now in its sixth year, the most recent symposium was held in early November at the Tomás Rivera Conference Center. The event featured a series of poster presentations, a connector event that gave researchers an opportunity to discuss their projects with interested members of the audience, and presentations on best practices in collaborative research.

Another highlight of the event every year is an address delivered by a featured guest. This year’s special guest was Kevin E. Bennet, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Engineering, and co-director of the Neural Engineering Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Bennet’s varied educational background, which includes a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, an MBA and a doctorate in engineering, made him well-suited to discuss the opportunities that collaborative research presents. He spoke about topics such as an artificial liver, magnetic stents and mechanisms of deep brain stimulation that his team developed through an interdisciplinary effort. Bennet also encouraged his audience, which was comprised of students, faculty and staff, not to be discouraged by the sometimes lengthy discussions that are necessary to bring collaborative projects to fruition.

“It’s that conversation that allows us to figure out what are the problems that need to be solved, and who are the people that are interested in working together,” Bennet said.

It’s a message that appears to be resonating with the UTEP research community. Having started in 2012 as a gathering for members of the faculty exclusively, the symposium now welcomes staff and graduate and undergraduate students who are engaged in or interested in participating in interdisciplinary research.

The growing popularity of the symposium is the result of a deliberate strategy to be as inclusive as possible. To this end, organizers this year expanded the membership of the symposium planning committee to include leaders from across the University. As a result, the latest committee included several department chairs, associate deans for research and an associate provost.

It’s a strategy that yielded the highest number of participants in the event’s six-year history. Approximately 125 presenters, speakers and guests took part.

Students made up a large portion of this year’s record number of participants, making it clear that the culture of collaborative research is gaining a foothold in colleges throughout the University.

“Collaboration is essential for true progress,” said John Ciubuc, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering. He was part of a team that presented a project at this year’s symposium that outlined a process to identify and distinguish between different types of breast cancer tumors through a process known as Label-free Raman Imaging. The project brought together students and faculty from physics, biological sciences and biomedical engineering. While the work did not reach a point where it can be applied in real-life medical situations, Ciubuc credited the progress the team was able to make to the diversity in its members’ professional and academic backgrounds.

“(Research) will not reach its full potential without collaboration occurring, because then, not only will others help you to see new perspectives on the project, but you can help others as well,” Ciubuc said.

The “E” in IDRE stands for education. Ultimately, proponents of collaborative research at UTEP say that’s what it’s all about: giving students the richest educational opportunities available in order to prepare them for a 21st century workforce.

“Interdisciplinary research gives students a sense of the application of their expertise in various fields, so it gives them some latitude to explore areas where they thought there wasn’t a connection, and it challenges them to be more creative,” Tirres said. “It also challenges them to think about the boundaries of traditional disciplines or problems that maybe are relegated to particular fields. So, it pushes their understanding of what the intersections are in approaching problems.”

Several other important developments across the University signal a continual rise for IDRE. One major example is the upcoming completion of the new Interdisciplinary Research Building (IDRB).

Expected to begin operations in 2020, members of the planning committee for the $85 million facility say it will offer a physical and a social space for students, faculty and staff from multiple academic areas to come together, meet and work jointly on a scale not seen to this day.

Another important example of the growing standing of collaborative research at UTEP can be found in the number of research grants and the dollars awarded to projects submitted under this category. In its Fall 2018 Research Forum, the University’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects recognized four awards in the collaborative category totaling more than $8.7 million.

Proponents of collaborative research say it is one of the most effective ways to take on some of society’s most insidious and persistent problems.

With growing investment, and a rise in participation, standing and support for interdisciplinary work, UTEP researchers at all levels — faculty, staff and students — appear poised to be among the leaders in the search for solutions to some of the most important challenges of our time.

Author: Victor Arreola – UTEP Communications

UTEP Nursing Faculty Member to Study End-of-Life Cancer Care in Latinos

Guillermina Solis, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at The University of Texas at El Paso, will serve as the El Paso region’s principle investigator on a national multisite study called, “Coping with Cancer III.”

Led by Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, the study is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Other sites include New York, Chicago, Florida and Dallas.

Solis will collaborate with Javier C. Corral, M.D., division chief of hematology and assistant professor of internal medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

They will recruit patients, their informal caregivers, and their oncologists for a study to identify beliefs and practices among Latinos that significantly contribute to advance care planning and end-of-life care.

The goal is to gain a better understanding of Latino versus non-Latino disparities in making treatment decisions upon the progress of the disease.

Researchers will look at how Latinos and non-Latinos differ in oncology care, religious and familial beliefs that are related to cancer care in comparison to other ethnic groups, and how those differences contribute to care received.

According to Solis, Latino patients with advanced cancer are more likely to receive aggressive treatment at the end of their lives, which may lead to prolonged suffering and higher health care costs than non-Latino cancer patients.

The data will help determine potential interventions to lessen existing ethnic disparities in advance care planning and end-of-life care in Latino patients, caregivers and oncology professionals.

“The uniqueness of this study is that we will gain the perspective on end-of-life and advance care planning from a comprehensive group involved in the decision-making process that includes patients, caregivers and oncology providers,” Solis said.

Study participants must be 21 or older with certain types of cancer and receiving medical treatment. They must have an adult non-paid caregiver and an oncology provider who are willing to participate in the study.

Coping with Cancer III is a longitudinal cohort study of advanced cancer patients and their oncologists led by principle investigators Holly Prigerson, Ph.D., and Paul Maciejewski, Ph.D., co-directors of the Center for Research on End-of-Life Care at Weill Cornell Medicine.

For more information, contact Guillermina Solis at gsolis2@utep.edu.

UTEP Expands Partnership with America Makes via W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation

Thanks to an expanded partnership with America Makes, officials with the University of Texas at El Paso say that the college will be a “pivotal leader in the collection of critical performance data for the 3D-printing industry while offering immense benefits to students.”

“We are excited to announce this expanded collaboration with America Makes,” UTEP President Diana Natalicio said. “This is a significant step in the effort to generate data that can be used to move the additive manufacturing industry forward. It is also a validation of UTEP, through the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, as a national leader in additive manufacturing. We look forward to addressing the needs of America Makes while offering our students opportunities to participate in groundbreaking work in a thriving technology industry.”

The amended agreement is an expansion of one originally signed in April 2015, which made UTEP the first America Makes Satellite Center. The updated pact expands the Keck Center’s national impact by providing additional services to America Makes member institutions that will add significant value to their association.

The new agreement will help fill the tremendous need in the additive manufacturing (AM) community for access to critical performance data from AM-produced parts.

Managed by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), America Makes is the nation’s leading public-private partnership to innovate and accelerate additive manufacturing technology.

“Since our inception, America Makes has worked tirelessly to foster a highly collaborative membership community for the open exchange of additive manufacturing information and research with the singular goal of advancing our industry,” said Rob Gorham, America Makes executive director.

“Today’s announcement of our newly updated agreement with UTEP further underscores our dedication to our industry and demonstrates the ongoing success of our collaboration with UTEP and the Keck Center. The goal of the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to expand our current Satellite Center relationship by incorporating services that will provide tremendous strategic value and competitive advantage to the America Makes membership community.”

In 2015, America Makes designated UTEP’s Keck Center as its first America Makes Satellite Center with the goal of promoting America Makes’ mission and expanding its regional, industrial and technological footprint to innovate and accelerate 3D printing as well as increase domestic manufacturing and economic competitiveness.

Under the new MOU with America Makes, UTEP’s Keck Center will be the focal point of an effort to provide America Makes’ membership community with greater access to critical performance data for 3D-printed components.

“The Keck Center’s ongoing dedication to advancing additive manufacturing and all of the supporting technologies and creating a skilled workforce aligns perfectly with the mission of America Makes,” said Ralph Resnick, America Makes founding director and NCDMM president and chief executive officer.

“On behalf of all of us at America Makes, we are pleased to have our relationship with UTEP and the Keck Center enter this new phase. The America Makes membership community and industry at large will benefit greatly from the expanded services available at the America Makes Satellite Center.”

Additionally, workforce needs will be significantly addressed through the increased number of graduates who will have direct expertise in specific additive manufacturing and testing technologies.

“Dr. Ryan Wicker, director of the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, has built an extraordinary facility, program and operation over the years,” said Theresa A. Maldonado, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Engineering. “The Keck Center is an international beacon for 3D manufacturing capabilities that support the fabrication of a range of components, from very large-scale aerospace fixtures to the most delicate biological elements for human health. At the same time, Dr. Wicker is deeply committed to developing a workforce with the technical and leadership skills required to advance this dynamic manufacturing environment for years to come.”

“UTEP has done an exemplary job growing the America Makes partnership for our students and community in El Paso,” said U.S. Rep.-elect Veronica Escobar.

“This program is not only expanding the skillset and opportunities in science and technology for our young minds but is also allowing us to be more competitive through advanced manufacturing research and innovation. UTEP is playing a leading role in economic development by connecting our talented workforce to job opportunities here in our region.”

An added benefit for America Makes members who seek services at the Keck Center will be an option to apply the costs incurred to build and test 3D-printed components toward membership fees through the ‘@Program.’

“It’s an arrangement that benefits all parties,” said Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., founder and director of the Keck Center. “Through this initiative, America Makes members will be able to utilize our state-of-the-art equipment and generate significant data that can in turn assist our industry in determining how best to use 3D printing for designing and producing next generation products. We will be working with 3D printing equipment manufacturers and materials suppliers to maintain a high level of technological advancement at the Keck Center. Lastly, our students will benefit from the direct work they perform and through the research avenues that companies will pursue as they learn more about their products.”

Wicker added that the collaboration with America Makes will make UTEP an attractive institution to companies in the additive manufacturing sector seeking a locale near high-end expertise and performance. Wicker points to the recent announcement from Aconity3D — one of the world’s emerging technology leaders in the production of 3D printing equipment, which installed its North American base of operations at UTEP in July — as evidence of the campus’ rising prominence.

“Every company that we work with will recognize the value UTEP adds,” Wicker said. “We are confident that we will produce a substantial quantity of follow-on research, increase industry-sponsored activities and interest in our region, and build this initiative into a thriving workforce and economic development platform for this community.”

The announcement was made Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, at a joint press conference with America Makes held at the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation at UTEP.

UTEP Announces New Binational Academic Partnership

The University of Texas at El Paso is taking another decisive step in its commitment to access and excellence in education with the launch of a new partnership with one of the leading educational institutions in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico.

Last week, UTEP President Diana Natalicio and Ma. Teresa Ortuño Gurza, director general of the Colegio de Bachilleres of the State of Chihuahua (COBACH), met at UTEP to sign a memorandum of understanding.

The agreement’s main goals are to increase awareness among COBACH students about the opportunities available to them at UTEP, and to encourage faculty and staff from both institutions to explore opportunities for research and professional development through exchange programs.

“This agreement is important because it’s a continuation of UTEP’s effort to make the young people of our region – on both sides of the border – aware of the opportunities that are available to them,” President Natalicio said. “Many of these students, especially those who come from low-income families, don’t believe that going to college is a real option for them. So, with this agreement between UTEP and COBACH, we are telling these students, ‘That’s why we’re here: to offer opportunities to you.’”

The COBACH system consists of 31 state-run public high schools located throughout the state of Chihuahua, including several campuses in Juárez.

The agreement also signals UTEP’s continuing recognition of Mexico as a strategic partner in the University’s ongoing efforts to increase access to higher education for students of this region.

“During her tenure as head of The University of Texas at El Paso, President Natalicio has increasingly created more opportunities for students from Mexico, and the benefits of this effort cannot be expressed in mere numbers or statistics,” Ortuño Gurza said. “Thanks to UTEP, there are now more young people in Mexico for whom the thought of obtaining a college education in the United States, and all the advantages that derive from this, is no longer a far-fetched dream. This is something we want students across all 31 of our campuses to know.”

One COBACH graduate who understands the transformational effect partnerships like the one between the Mexican institution and UTEP can have on students is Valeria Romo de Vivar. Through her hard work and perseverance, and the efforts of UTEP and COBACH officials and staff members, she learned about the scholarship and employment opportunities available to her. Romo de Vivar thrived as a UTEP student. She graduated in May 2018 with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in communication.

With the signing of the agreement between UTEP and COBACH, Romo de Vivar said more students like her would be able to make their academic dreams come true. She referred to students who may have the talent to succeed in college, but see their socioeconomic issues as an insurmountable obstacle.

“It’s important to know that there is a support system,” Romo de Vivar said. “I believe there are too many students who are simply not aware of this, so their thinking is, ‘Why would I even think of going to college in the United States?’ My message to them is, ‘You’ll have to put in the work and you may have to knock on a lot of doors, but it’s definitely possible.’”

COBACH is celebrating its 45th anniversary during the 2018-19 academic year. Officials with the Mexican institution said the partnership agreement with UTEP is one of the highlights on its commemorative events calendar.

Author: Victor Arreola – UTEP Communications

UTEP Launches Fundraising Campaign in Honor of Natalicio’s 30 Years of Leadership

On Thursday, the University of Texas at El Paso launched the “Thank You for 30” campaign to celebrate UTEP President Diana Natalicio’s leadership and build on the momentum to propel the University forward for the next 30 years and beyond.

“Our institution and community have been profoundly transformed under Dr. Natalicio’s visionary leadership and extraordinary service,” said Ben Gonzalez, vice president for asset management and development. “It is bittersweet to bid her farewell, but we’re happy to know that she will have an opportunity to enjoy her retirement.

“We know many alumni, friends and community members want to thank her for her invaluable contributions to this community. This campaign is a unique way to do just that. It’s about coming together to show support for our institution in the name of someone who has advocated tirelessly for our students and our region for over 30 years.”

Under the leadership of President Natalicio, the longest-serving president of a public research university in the country, UTEP has earned national and international acclaim for successfully preparing students to compete in a global economy, pursue graduate studies, conduct world-class research, and give back to their communities and the nation.

UTEP is encouraging all UTEP faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the community to show appreciation for President Natalicio’s 30 years of leadership, dedication and commitment to the University and the Paso del Norte region through a gift of any amount.

College officials say that residents can choose to support the “Thank You for 30” Scholarship Fund, give to an established scholarship fund, or create an endowed fund in the name of a favorite professor, department or program, any gift will honor President Natalicio’s remarkable 30 years and build on the successes to which her leadership has contributed.

UTEP’s deep commitment to a historically underserved region’s 21st century student demographic has had a profound impact on enrollment, increasing the student population by nearly 80 percent since President Natalicio took the helm in 1988. Today, the University’s more than 25,000 students accurately reflect the demographics of the Paso del Norte region.

The University has also increased the number of doctoral programs from 1 to 22 and the number of doctoral students from 16 to 921 during President Natalicio’s tenure. UTEP’s annual research expenditures have grown from $2.6 million to $100 million,  full-time faculty positions have more than doubled to support an ever-growing student population, and new state-of-the-art facilities have transformed the campus.

In May 2018, President Natalicio announced her plans to retire once a successor is appointed and assumes the office.

To learn more about the “Thank You for 30” campaign or to give a gift, visit 30.utep.edu.

UTEP Receives $13M Grant for GEAR UP Program

The University of Texas at El Paso’s GEAR UP program has received a $13 million, 6-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will help more than 2,700 students get more out of high school and navigate the path to college.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, program will provide comprehensive support to students in 10 Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) middle schools through academic counseling, tutoring, mentoring, community service opportunities, academic workshops and activities, college tours, college and career awareness and readiness activities, and financial aid planning.

Juliette Caire, who has been the director of GEAR UP since 2001, said the new grant’s main goal is to assist students in preparing for and attending college.

This six-year grant will follow and support all members of the class of 2024 enrolled at the 10 YISD middle schools through their high school graduation.

“We are very grateful for the support of the U.S. Department of  Education and for their investment in UTEP and YISD,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs at UTEP. “The GEAR UP program has proven to be a catalyst for educational attainment and progression to a post-secondary degree. This grant will result in more students completing high school and pursuing a college degree. What a great win for El Paso!”

UTEP’s GEAR UP program has served area students since its first grant cycle in 1999.

The next group of students for the program will be pulled from Bel Air, Camino Real, Desert View, Eastwood, Indian Ridge, Parkland, Rio Bravo, Riverside, Valley View and Ysleta middle schools.

“We have three goals: one is increasing the academic readiness for postsecondary education,” Caire said. “Everything we do for the seventh grade through the 12th grade is increasing academics, knowledge of navigating the postsecondary application process, increasing knowledge about degrees and careers, and very important, the financial aid process.”

Since 1999, UTEP’s GEAR UP has secured more than $49 million in research grants and has guided 10,688 students in the Ysleta, Socorro and El Paso independent school districts.

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