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Home | Tag Archives: utep

Tag Archives: utep

Undergraduate Research Talent on Display at 2019 COURI Summer Symposium

Josue Martinez, a sophomore computer engineering major who was a visiting student at The University of Texas at El Paso in summer 2019, has a very clear idea of what he would tell any fellow undergraduate student who is pondering a research experience.

“Apply, apply for everything, without any fears,” Martinez said. He is one of more than 170 undergraduate researchers from a variety of disciplines who presented and discussed their work with judges, faculty members, peers and the community during the 2019 Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI) Summer Symposium.

The event, which is now a tradition and one of two COURI symposia held every year, took place on Aug. 3, 2019, in the lobby of the Undergraduate Learning Center. Projects featuring art, philosophy, science and engineering were just some of the research works on display.

The authors and presenters included UTEP students and international undergraduate researchers from China, Colombia, Guatemala and several others.

“This has been another exciting summer for undergraduate students conducting research on our campus alongside their teams of faculty, post-docs and graduate student mentors,” said COURI Director Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D. “The richness and variety of projects is a testament to UTEP’s commitment to student research training and a validation of our R1 (top tier research university) status.”

Martinez, the computer engineering major, is a student from Universidad Ana G. Méndez, Recinto de Gurabo, in Puerto Rico, who spent the summer at UTEP as part of a research-focused exchange program. At the summer symposium, he presented the results of a project to create software that allows an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, to operate fully autonomously within a confined space. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, and its second major breakthrough, Martinez said, is that the software his team developed allows a drone to operate without a GPS signal.

Jessica Barnes, a junior biological sciences major at UTEP, was also a presenter at the symposium. She is part of a team working on an ongoing project that seeks to shed light on some of the underlying mechanisms of Type 2 diabetes. She echoed Martinez’s advice to fellow undergraduates about being fearless in the pursuit of a research experience, but added that perseverance is equally important.

“I was lucky enough to find a lab that I fell in love with right away, but it’s not going to happen that way for everybody,” Barnes said. “So, I would tell them that they have to go out there and look, they have to put themselves out there and market themselves.”

Oscar Najera, a junior psychology major at UTEP, is part of a group of students who are so perseverant that they’ve been able to participate in and present multiple research projects at past COURI symposia.

This summer, Najera presented his early findings in a project that seeks to determine if speakers of two languages can use a memorization technique known as paired associative learning more successfully than monolingual speakers. While there was still much work to be done before the project could yield any actionable results, Najera said he was convinced that he was already reaping the benefits of his involvement in the process.

“It really cements that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” Najera said. “I started out wanting to be a psychiatrist, as most psychology majors do, but then I found out about research. I love the creative process; I love analyzing the different mistakes you make in order to get a more accurate reading of whatever it is you’re trying to measure. So, it’s something that takes a lot of thought and creativity, and hopefully I can continue with it.”

For more information about COURI and its symposia, visit

Author: Victor H. Arreola – UTEP Communications

Letter: A Few Words from New UTEP President Heather Wilson

When I was in first grade, I had a bank made out of a tin Crisco can with a slot cut in the top. It had pennies and nickels and a few quarters I had earned or been given.

One day, my mother told me that I could go to YMCA camp the following summer. I could use the coins I had saved in my can and she would pay the rest.

“I can’t use that money for camp,” I told her. “I’m saving for college.”

My mother laughed. I probably would have too in her situation with a six-year-old saving for college.

But I was serious.

The truth is, I don’t know where I got the idea that I was going to college. No one in my family had ever been. But as my schooling continued, my commitment to make my life better by working hard and going to college deepened.

My father’s family came to America after the First World War. My grandfather was a mechanic and a pilot who ran little airports and taught people to fly. He served in the Second World War for the United States, towing targets for gunnery practice and patrolling the coast looking for submarines. My grandmother was a seamstress and worked in a shoe factory.

My Dad started flying as a kid and enlisted in the Air Force for a few years after high school. He was a mechanic and, after he got out of the Air Force, he was a pilot.

My Mom’s family came from Ireland. After my Dad died in a car accident when I was in second grade, she went back to work as a nurse in our local hospital.

When I was a junior in high school they opened the Air Force Academy to women. It was a full ride scholarship – a ticket to a dream.

My grandfather was still alive when I left home for the Academy. I was seventeen years old – the same age he had been when he lied about his age and joined the Royal Air Force. I was his only granddaughter and he was so proud of me. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.

I worked hard and thrived at the Academy. It challenged me and helped me grow from an awkward teenager from a small town into an educated young woman of promise. It opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed.

The boys and girls in first grade today, saving pennies and nickels for camp or college, will be graduating from high school 12 years hence. Those students will be preparing for careers that do not yet exist, using technology that has not yet been invented.

I believe in the power of education to change lives because it changed mine.

When it comes to education, what was good enough for our parents and our grandparents is not good enough for our children or our grandchildren. The pace of change is accelerating.

A commitment to continuous learning for everyone – to access, excellence, and impact – will separate the regions of the world that thrive in the 21st century from those that don’t.

UTEP is committed to building this bright future, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Warm Regards,

Heather Wilson


Photo gallery courtesy UTEP

Derron Gatewood is the Center of Attention for the Miners

The 2018 season wasn’t much fun for UTEP’s Derron Gatewood.

It began with tremendous promise, as he earned a spot on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, presented to the nation’s top center. But before he could play a single down in a game, he tore his ACL and MCL, bringing his senior year to a screeching halt.

A negative experience to be sure, but Gatewood found some positives in it.

“I learned a lot more about the offense,” he said. “I got to really see what was going on and helped break down the defensive films for the players. But the biggest positive I took out of it was that I realized how much I missed playing. My love for the game grew even more from sitting out for so long, as opposed to taking it for granted.”

Now he’s back on the Rimington Trophy list, eager to make up for lost time and on a mission to close out his Miner career on a high note.

“I’m excited to get back out there and have a big senior year,” he said.

Gatewood grew up in an athletic family.

“My mom [Denisa Gatewood] played softball and basketball in high school,” he said. “My dad [Kevin Gatewood] played football and baseball. He went on to Cisco Junior College and Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He won a national championship there.”

So it was only natural that Gatewood would follow in his parents’ footsteps. He first picked up a football when he was about five years old.

“My dad put me in flag football,” he said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I started liking it. And then I loved it, and I never wanted to stop playing.”

Originally a quarterback in flag football, Gatewood moved to the defensive line in third grade as he got bigger and stronger. Then he went back and forth between the defensive line and the offensive line for several years, before playing exclusively on the O-line as a junior and senior in high school.

Gatewood attended Permian High School in Odessa, Texas, made famous by the motion picture “Friday Night Lights.”

“It was awesome playing there,” he said. “I wear my mojo shirt everywhere and everybody is like, ‘Oh, you went to Permian!’ People came from everywhere to see our school.”

Gatewood made the varsity team as a sophomore, at the age of 14. He watched college recruiters come through the program scouting his junior and senior teammates, while he longed to play at the next level.

“I told my dad, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to play college football,’” he said. “I grew up watching the game. It was my dream.”

Gatewood earned a spot on Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Super Team as a senior, and was an honorable mention All-State honoree. He drew interest from Abilene Christian, Angelo State, Arizona State, Navy, Texas Tech and West Texas A&M, but UTEP’s recruiting pitch made the biggest impression.

“UTEP was the only school I made an official visit to,” he said. “I came here and just fell in love with the place.”

The excitement of joining a Division I program was soon replaced by the stark reality that he wasn’t ready to contribute immediately.

“I actually came here as a guard, and the day before camp [then-offensive line coach] Spencer Leftwich called me and said I was getting moved to center,” Gatewood said. “I said ‘Coach, I’ve never snapped in my life.’ He said ‘We’ll teach you.’ I went to camp in Alpine and I struggled my first year. I redshirted on the scout team. I didn’t like it. I was nervous. I felt like I couldn’t do it. The next year, I had Eric Lee in front of me at center. He showed me the ropes and taught me everything. I just started slowly getting better and better at the position.”

Gatewood’s confidence continued to grow, and he was a staple in the starting lineup in 2016 and 2017 prior to getting hurt.

“Every time I went into a game, I got to feel out different teams and how they did things,” he said. “I have a lot of experience under my belt, I’ve seen it all and I’ve gone against a lot of guys.”

Two years ago, he had the added benefit of playing alongside future NFL second round draft pick Will Hernandez.

“Man, was he physical and tough,” he said. “He taught me how to push myself. He would always yell at me in the weight room and say, ‘Go up a weight.’ He taught me different techniques that he used, and basically how to be physical on the field. It worked out perfectly, us playing together. I knew that if something happened and I got beat, he was going to be right there next to me.”

Gatewood is looking to put together a consistent senior season.

“Every game, I’ve got to play my best,” he said. “This is it. This is my last year. This is my last chance. I’ve got 12 games. I’ve got to take it one game at a time, make them count and play to the best of my ability.”

Gatewood received his Kinesiology degree in May, 2018 and is working on his Masters in Leadership Studies this fall. And while he dreams of following his former teammate Hernandez to the NFL, he fully plans to complete that degree.

“My motto has always been that when you start something, you’ve got to finish it,” he said.

As he works to make all his dreams come true, Gatewood will continue to lean on his wife, Rylee Jones, for support.

“She was actually my high school sweetheart,” he said. “I was getting ready to go to UTEP, and she was going to Texas Tech for PT school. That was her dream. Of course we didn’t want to be separated, so she talked to [UTEP Director of Sports Medicine] Dawn Hearn and she got a scholarship to be an athletic trainer here. So we’ve been together at UTEP. I proposed to her on Christmas Eve [2018] and we got married in February.”

Gatewood found it difficult to manage family life, football and school when he first arrived at UTEP, but he has a handle on it now.

“It’s all about being committed and knowing you’ve got to get things done,” he said. “The first two years, I was in the MAC [Miner Athlete Academic Center] so they helped with tutoring and keeping me on track. And after that, Rylee helped me. We were in the same major, so we kind of had the same classes. If I was taking classes in the fall, she may have taken those classes already.”

So this is it, Gatewood’s final go-round in the classroom and on the field, and he’s excited about the Miners’ prospects on the cusp of the 2019 season.

“I just want us to have a winning season, and anything that happens from there is going to be great,” he said. “I’ve told all the guys, ‘I want to go to a bowl game.’ I got to experience it my first year. I didn’t play – I redshirted – but it was the greatest feeling ever just being there.

“We’ve got to take it one game at a time. That’s our thing, the 1-0 [concept]. I feel like this has to be my best year, and I just want to play to the best of my ability and give it my all for 12 games.”

NIH Awards $2.7M Grant to UTEP Biology Professor to Study AIDS-associated Fungal Meningitis

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $2.7 million grant to Luis R. Martinez, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso, to study a potentially life-threatening fungus and suggest possible treatments.

Martinez will investigate the basis for Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that invades the central nervous system (CNS), which controls many body functions. If it infects the lungs, it could develop into pneumonia for patients with weakened immune systems. It is the most common cause of fungal meningitis amongst AIDS patients.

The UTEP professor said he became intrigued with this fungus as a doctoral student. He noted how the fungus led to tumor-like lesions on brain tissue of affected patients.

The fungus, which resides in animals, plants and bird excrement, could infect people who inhale the fungal spores. Cryptococcal meningitis starts with flu-like symptoms but can be fatal if not treated quickly. Findings could prolong and improve the life of those affected.

“If we understand the predilected route C. neoformans uses to enter the brain, we can develop therapeutics to block this process,” Martinez said. “Also, by understanding microglial function – the immune cells of the CNS – during C. neoformans brain infection, we can design therapeutics to stimulate these cells to combat fungal colonization of the CNS.”

Martinez is the principal investigator of the five-year project. He uses high-resolution microscopy, mass spectrometry, histology, cell biology and immunological techniques at his UTEP research lab.

His UTEP collaborators are Igor Almeida, D.Sc., professor of biological sciences, and Arshad Khan, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences.

Other teammates include Michael Dores, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York; and Eliseo Eugenin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology and Anatomy at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

UTEP Football Fan Day to feature open practice, autograph session August 24

Fans are once again invited to attend UTEP football practice, then interact with players and coaches as part of the team’s annual “Fan Day” festivities on Saturday, August 24.

The Miners will conduct an open practice on Glory Field from 9:20-11:20 a.m.  Immediately following practice, UTEP players and coaches will sign complimentary UTEP football schedule posters in the Sun Bowl stadium concourse. 

The UTEP cross country, rifle and soccer teams will also participate in the autograph session.

“We are looking forward to having the fans come out to watch us practice on Fan Day so they can get a good feel for what they are going to see from us this year,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel said.  “It will also be nice to have fans meet the team afterward and learn about the guys they are going to see on the field this fall.”

Fan Day promises to bring fun for the entire family with games and a DJ.  The UTEP band and cheerleaders will also take part in the day’s events.

“This is a great opportunity for fans to get up close and personal with our student-athletes before the season starts!” UTEP Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing Daniel Veale said.  “Giving them the chance to connect and interact with the community is the best way to kick off a new year!”

UTEP Football Season Tickets are on sale now and prices have been reduced at all levels for the 2019 season.  The UTEP Season Ticket Office is located at Brumbelow Building Room 109 (next to the Don Haskins Center). 

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Tickets can also be purchased online, or by calling (915) 747-6150.

UTEP Athletics Announces #ElPasoStrong Campaign,Will include all Fall sports

Following the tragedy in the Sun City on August 3, UTEP Athletic Department officials have announced the #ElPasoStrong campaign, to be spread over two months and encompassing home events for football, men’s basketball, soccer and volleyball.

“Anyone who has spent even the slightest bit of time in our great community has been touched by the warm, loving and welcoming nature of El Pasoans,” Director of Athletics Jim Senter said.

“The events of Aug. 3rd left us shaken, but it hasn’t deterred our spirit.  Our objective is to not only pay tribute to the victims of this senseless violence, but to celebrate all things that make El Paso so wonderful – including the efforts of the first responders and other heroes in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.”

The #ElPasoStrong campaign will kick off at the soccer team’s season opener versus Wyoming on August 22 at University Field (7 p.m.), and continue at the football season opener against Houston Baptist on August 31 in the Sun Bowl (6 p.m.), and the volleyball season opener versus Coppin State on September 6 at Memorial Gym (10 a.m.).

In addition, the Miner men’s basketball team will battle 2019 national runner-up Texas Tech in an exhibition game at the Don Haskins Center on October 12 (7 p.m.), with all proceeds being donated to a local non-profit supporting the victims of the August 3 tragedy.

The UTEP football team will wear #ElPasoStrong decals on their helmets throughout the duration of the 2019 season, beginning against Houston Baptist on August 31.

The HBU game will include recognition of the victims and heroes of the August 3 tragedy as well as a halftime celebration of “Everything El Paso” including performances by the UTEP band, cheer and spirit teams, as well as other special appearances.

The football game will be held in conjunction with a busy weekend of #ElPasoStrong events on the UTEP campus, with Minerpalooza slated for Friday, August 30 and a Khalid benefit concert scheduled for Sunday, September 1 in the Don Haskins Center.

The basketball exhibition will also feature a celebration of El Paso.  All tickets will be $10 with general admission (first come/first served) seating.

The exhibition game is not part of the 2019-20 season ticket package as all proceeds will benefit a local non-profit supporting the victims of the tragedy in El Paso.

Tickets are on sale now at the UTEP Ticket Center, located at 2901 North Mesa next to the Don Haskins Center and the UTEP Ticket Center East Side location, located at 1452 Zaragoza Suite A-1500.

Tickets can also be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234 as well as online.  Parking for the exhibition game will not be reserved and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.


In addition, all UTEP student athletes will wear #ElPasoStrong warmup t-shirts prior to their 2019-20 home events.

Mining Minds: Special lighting to celebrate UTEP President Diana Natalicio’s Tenure

The University of Texas at El Paso will illuminate the “Mining Minds” pickaxe sculpture at the campus’ Sun Bowl-University Roundabout in blue and orange each evening from Monday through Wednesday, Aug. 12-14, 2019, to celebrate the 31-year leadership tenure of UTEP President Diana Natalicio.

President Natalicio concludes her term in the campus’ highest leadership position Aug. 14. In May 2018, she announced that she would retire after 31 years as UTEP’s leader. In her time at UTEP, she has overseen the conferral of approximately 93,500 degrees.

This week, each second the “Mining Minds” pickaxe sculpture is illuminated in orange and blue will represent one of those degrees. In total, the sculpture will be lit for 26 hours throughout the course of three evenings, or about 93,500 seconds.

Throughout the last three decades, President Natalicio has deftly guided the University to national prominence as a top tier research institution, all the while being relentless in ensuring access and affordability for the student population that it serves.

In 2019, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education designated UTEP as an R1 top tier doctoral university with very high research activity. UTEP is one of only 131 (4.5%) universities among the 2,883 four-year higher education institutions across the U.S. to earn this distinction.

President Natalicio’s tenure makes her the longest-serving current president of a public doctoral/research university in the country.

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

The University illuminates the pick in blue and orange on special occasions such as historic dates, major annual milestones and celebrations of special accomplishments.   To earn more about “Mining Minds” click here.

UTEP Volleyball emphasizes efficiency, effort in first practice of 2019 season

The UTEP volleyball team engaged in its first practice of the 2019 season on Saturday morning at Memorial Gym.

Head coach Ben Wallis is entering his 12th season coaching Division I collegiate volleyball, and his first leading the Miners. Wallis has seen many first practices, and understands these days come with an extraordinary amount of excitement for the staff and team. However, even he was surprised by the enthusiasm that was brought to the court in the initial practice.

“It was pleasantly surprising,” Wallis said. “I thought everybody was really excited. I think that is natural, but even still some teams in some years you have to get them to be excited the first day, and these guys were ready to roll. They were pumped about being here. They were amped up, and paying attention to detail pretty early. I think they are excited about the year and excited about learning, so that was a really good sign.”

Coach Wallis and staff made it a point on day one to preach the mindset of being relentless, and beating every team they play in the category of effort.

“There is a real need for our team to be the hardest playing, most relentless team in our conference, in order for us to beat some of the teams we are going to play,” Wallis noted. “I think we can out play people just by pure unadulterated effort. We could lead the conference in effort if we wanted to. That is why we started out with some of the effort drills that we did, to set the tone. We are going to play harder than everybody. We will put the people on the floor that will play harder than everybody. It’s a message I wanted to send quickly.”

The Miners are also maintaining a focus on improving their offensive and defensive efficiency. Last year’s squad struggled on both sides of the court, resulting in a five-win season. The first-year head coach understands the need for improvement, and when asked on what the focus is heading into the season he had a short and simple answer: “Scoring.”

“This team was dead last in the conference in offensive efficiency, being able to score,” Wallis emphasized. “They were also second-to-last in defensive efficiency. So they didn’t stop anybody and they didn’t score enough. For us, we really want to raise our offensive efficiency to a place where we can compete with the top teams in our conference. If we do that we will be able to win matches against low-RPI teams that maybe we aren’t expected to right now.”

The Orange and Blue’s first bit of action will come on August 17th at 2 p.m., in Memorial Gym. This will mark the inaugural “Meet the Miners” event, where fans can come watch UTEP in an intrasquad scrimmage. Fans can come interact with the new staff and players, as well as pick up a team poster.

For complete coverage of UTEP Volleyball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPVB (Instagram) and @UTEP_VB (Twitter) or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at

UTEP Practice Report: Friday, Aug. 9 – Miner O-Line Mixed with Old and New Talent

RUIDOSO, N.M. – After some light-hearted fun on Thursday, the UTEP Miners got right back down to business on Friday morning with a physical day five of practice at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso.

The majority of the session was spent working on individual position drills, including on the offensive line, a group that enters the 2019 season with a wealth of experience after enduring an injury-ridden 2018 campaign.

“We have a lot of competition going on up front and you have to have that in order for guys to get better,” offensive line coach Mike Simmonds said following practice. “You need people pushing you. We have some young guys rising to the top. We are really excited about some of the guys we brought in here with recruiting because we are going to be playing some freshman. We started a couple last year and I know that is probably going to end up happening again this year.”

UTEP returns just one offensive lineman who started all 12 games in 2018 in redshirt sophomore Bobby DeHaro, but the Miners were able to get the younger guys in the group plenty of experience due to the injuries suffered last season. Simmonds is hopeful the experience gained a year ago combined with the incoming freshman translates well to the gridiron this fall.

“Your older guys have to be on the field, your older guys who have been in the wars,” Simmonds said. “Greg Long didn’t get a chance to play last year, so I am excited to see him get back out there. We need the older guys to be in that lineup and kind of pave the way for this offense. Those young guys could be in a reserve role and we use them when we need them.  We are going to end up starting some young guys this year again, but they are going to be more skilled then last year of course because they got some game time under their belts.”

Long, who is entering his redshirt junior season for the Miners, missed most of the last two seasons due to injury, while Derron Gatewood sat out the entire 2018 season because of injury.

“Derron is a true natural-born leader for us,” Simmonds said of Gatewood returning to the lineup. “Unfortunately, he lost last season, but he got it back with a medical redshirt. He is going to be a rock for us inside. He is very intelligent. He is a force on the inside and we are excited to have him lead this group.”

Gatewood, a redshirt senior from Odessa, is one of the experienced veterans on the offensive line, and is looking to end his Miner career on a high note in 2019, beginning with the work done by the unit this week in Ruidoso.

“It is a nice environment out here and I feel like the whole team has bought in,” Gatewood said. “We have been putting consistent practices in and everyone has finally bought in. I feel like we are getting on the right track. It is a great feeling just knowing I get to be back out here with my brothers and actually be on the field with them instead of the sidelines this year. It is about being out there with them and being a leader to make sure we stay on track and win some games. This offense is going to be a tight unit that will be physical, fast and smarter about everything we do so we eliminate mistakes.”

UTEP returns to the practice fields at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning for a two-hour session. Fans are invited to spend Saturday afternoon mingling with the 2019 Miners at the annual Community Day, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

The 2019 season begins with the Miners playing hosts to Houston Baptist on Saturday, Aug. 31 in the Sun Bowl. Kickoff for the season-opener is set for 6 p.m. MT.

UTEP Football Season Tickets are on sale now and prices have been reduced at all levels from the 2018 season. The UTEP Season Ticket Office is located at Brumbelow Building Room 109 (next to the Don Haskins Center). Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased online, or by calling (915) 747-6150.

For complete coverage of UTEP Football, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPFB (Twitter/Instagram) or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at

Homeless Shelter Offers Community of Learning for UTEP Social Work Students

After earning a bachelor’s degree in digital media, Rivyann Blount produced stories about social issues such as poverty and immigration that affected vulnerable populations. But rather than write about people’s unfortunate circumstances, Blount felt the need to help them turn their lives around.

That is why in 2019, Blount started the Master of Social Work program at The University of Texas at El Paso.

“A lot of my (media) work was focused on the community, so I decided to work in something that would help me give back to the community in the best way possible,” said Blount, who earned her bachelor’s degree in digital marketing at The University of Texas at Dallas. “I realized that (social work) is where my heart is and it’s what I want to do. … The (digital marketing degree) was a stepping-stone to get here.”

Eager to make a difference, Blount applied for a new Community of Learning (CoL) initiative at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless (OC).

With support from the Daughters of Charity Mission and Ministry Inc. and the UTEP College of Health Sciences, the CoL offers graduate social work students enhanced case management training that is focused on the homeless population in El Paso.

Blount, Alexandra Van Mier and Rosanna Camarena were selected to participate in the program in July. Daniela Guerra will start in September. As the CoL’s graduate research assistants, they work to identify service priorities for clients of the Opportunity Center’s emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing programs.

“I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to us at UTEP,” said Camarena, who graduated from UTEP with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Her project involves documenting different homeless populations through video and photography. Blount is based at the Opportunity Center’s Magoffin Safe Haven facility for men and women with mental disabilities. Van Mier will work with aging and frail individuals experiencing homelessness, and Guerra, a student in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. program, will focus on research and grant writing opportunities.

“This is a great way to make connections and serve our community,” Camarena added. “At the OC, I want to engage with our community and see what the underserved go through and what they need. That will help me figure out what part of social work I want to go in.”

A Different Kind of Classroom

After cuts in federal funding led to a reduction in services at the Opportunity Center in 2014, the center partnered with UTEP’s Department of Social Work to provide educational opportunities to graduate students in the macro-level social work class. Students provide critical support to Opportunity Center staff while gaining hands-on experience in evidence-based practices used in homeless services.

In spring 2019, UTEP and the Opportunity Center launched the CoL to enable students to address homelessness through impactful practice, research and advocacy.

“The vision that we had is for the OC to become a teaching classroom for the students,” said John Martin, the center’s development director.

While researching grant opportunities, Martin said he has not found any other social work programs in the United States, aside from UTEP, that have incorporated a homeless shelter into their curriculum.

In addition to social work, students in UTEP’s Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program also provide job preparedness services to OC residents.

The Opportunity Center also accepts interns from El Paso Community College and from universities and colleges across the U.S.

UTEP students from nursing, pharmacy, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy and clinical laboratory science also participate in the center’s H.O.P.E Health Fair organized by the University.

“This is much more intensive training,” Martin said. “The vast majority of our staff have experienced homelessness. We wanted the students to learn from them. However, we also wanted our staff to learn from our students. So it has always been intended to be a two-way experience.”

Putting Knowledge into Practice

Located in Downtown El Paso, the Opportunity Center is the largest homeless shelter system in West Texas and Southern New Mexico with two shelters – one for men and one for women – and seven residential centers for the elderly, mentally ill, veterans, families and other homeless populations.

In 2018, the center served more than 1,600 individuals experiencing homelessness.

Eva Moya, Ph.D., associate professor of social work, and the CoL’s co-principal investigator, said that Master of Social Work students are trained to provide emotional and mental health education and conduct psychoeducation activities to help clients understand the challenges of their mental health conditions. They also learn how to work with groups. All of these skills give students a better understanding of the services needed at the Opportunity Center.

During the spring semester, CoL graduate research assistants Perla Chaparro, Delia Dominguez and Leonardo Martinez worked with Opportunity Center case managers to identify what processes were working, what services were needed, and what community resources were available to help.

They talked about improving the center’s intake process, expanding internship opportunities, and overcoming barriers to accessing transportation and mental health services. Students also developed self-care strategies to help case managers mitigate burnout.

“I was really surprised to see how much (OC staff) were doing with so little – to see how much personal commitment went into their work,”  said Martinez, who graduated from UTEP’s Master of Social Work program in May 2019. “This is the kind of experience that, as a graduate student, I expected to get out of the program: to take it out of the classroom and to be able to see how these organizations make things happened.”

Moya said CoL projects will be based on the Opportunity Center’s needs to improve the delivery of services to residents.

“This is a community environment where you learn, you practice, you have integration of assignments, you have direct services and you have engagement from multiple colleges, schools and community partners,” Moya said.

Amy Joyce Ponder, CoL’s project manager, said the Opportunity Center strives to provide students with the best learning experience possible.

“We want to have structure for the social work students,” Ponder said. “We want to ensure that they feel that they’re having a quality experience and to use all the knowledge that they’ve been gaining here and put it into practice.”


UTEP Practice Report: Thursday, Aug. 8 – Miners Enjoy Relaxed Day on the Links

RUIDOSO, N.M. – After a brief walk-through on Thursday morning, the UTEP Miners enjoyed the rest of the afternoon away from the gridiron on the team’s fourth full day at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso.

The Miners headed out to the practice fields first thing on Thursday morning for a light walk-through, but were able to have a laid-back afternoon with the players being given the option between hitting the links to do some golfing or head to the local movie theater.

The majority of the week has been filled with physical training sessions and team meetings, but many of the Miners traded in pads for golf clubs on Thursday. The long drive and putting competitions highlighted the afternoon on the golf course with players trying their hand at golf.

The Miners return to the practice fields at 9 a.m. on Friday at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso, New Mexico. UTEP will practice in Ruidoso for the remainder of the week before heading back to campus on Sunday.

The 2019 season begins with the Miners playing hosts to Houston Baptist on Saturday, Aug. 31 in the Sun Bowl. Kickoff for the season-opener is set for 6 p.m. MT.

UTEP Football Season Tickets are on sale now and prices have been reduced at all levels from the 2018 season. The UTEP Season Ticket Office is located at Brumbelow Building Room 109 (next to the Don Haskins Center). Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased online or by calling (915) 747-6150.

For complete coverage of UTEP Football, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPFB (Twitter/Instagram) or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at

UTEP Professor Wins 2019 Great Minds in STEM Hispanic Engineer Award

Natalia Villanueva Rosales, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at The University of Texas at El Paso, has been named a recipient of the 2019 Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) Education Award.

“I am extremely proud of Dr. Villanueva Rosales and her recognition as the GMiS Most Promising Engineer or Scientist,” said Ann Gates, Ph.D., chair of computer science in UTEP’s College of Engineering.

“She is truly an emerging leader in computer science and a role model for the Hispanic community. Her research portfolio, which is focused on knowledge representation, negotiation and integration, primarily addresses water sustainability challenges and applications for building smart and connected cities – areas that have societal impact. What is impressive is her multi-national collaborations, and her dedication to develop undergraduate and graduate student researchers who have a global perspective.”

Rosales’s work aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the discovery, integration, and trust of scientific data and models. Her work links human and machine knowledge to address problems in areas that require interdisciplinary research and international collaborations such as the sustainability of water resources and planning of smart cities.

Villanueva Rosales is passionate about encouraging and supporting women and Hispanics pursuing a career or education in science and engineering. This is the second national award she will receive this year.

On May 14, she was awarded the 2019 Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award that recognizes not only my work but the collective efforts at UTEP to provide excellence and access in research and education,” Villanueva Rosales said.

“Computer science can be used for transforming communities and improving people’s life. I believe that training the next generation of engineers to be data-savvy with a global perspective and local impact contributes to creating a more inclusive society. It is a privilege to serve as a professor and mentor at UTEP and be a role model for Hispanic students, particularly Latinas in STEM.”

GMiS has recognized the achievements of America’s top engineers and scientists within the Hispanic community during the HENAAC Conference for more than three decades.

“It is with extreme honor that Great Minds in STEM announces the selection of our 2019 HENAAC Award Winners,” said Anna Park, chief executive officer and board member of Great Minds in STEM. “The University of Texas at El Paso has so many outstanding role models. Professor Villanueva is a stellar honoree. These outstanding individuals are evidence that we, as a nation, have what it takes to keep America as the world’s technology leader.”

Villanueva Rosales joins 26 other scientists, engineers, educators and STEM professionals who will receive awards that recognize the achievements of the country’s top engineers and scientists within the Hispanic community during the 31st annual Great Minds in STEM Conference Sept. 25-28 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

UTEP Soccer Holds First Practice Of Season

The UTEP soccer team held its first practice to prepare for the 2019 season under the lights of University Field Wednesday evening. First-year head coach Kathryn Balogun led her squad through a two-hour workout with a big-picture perspective in mind.

“We were excited to get started tonight,” Balogun said. “As a coaching staff we believe defense and team chemistry wins championships. With that being said, we will spend a great amount of time this preseason working on our defensive organization and team unity both on and off the field. As a new staff we have 24 players who don’t know our day-to-day in-season expectations, which will take considerable repetition and attention to detail by us.”

The opening practice contained a lot of emphasis on defensive shape and communication, two things that will be of upmost importance for a squad which will start a freshman in net. In the mix for that starting goalkeeper nod will be newcomers Zoey Lopez (Montwood HS) and Emily Parrott (Lone Star HS).

The duo is part of a big influx of talent, with 11 freshmen set to suit up this fall. That works out to nearly half of the roster (11 of 24) being comprised of freshmen, something Balogun isn’t shying away from.

“Our freshmen will be a big part of our success on and off the field,” Balogun said. “Not only do they make up a large part of our roster, many of them passed their fitness test on the first day. In addition, freshmen are typically eager to learn which makes teaching them our system a bit easier.”

Overall UTEP returns 13 players from last year’s squad, including six who started at least eight matches in 2018. Seniors Danielle Carreon, Lauren Crenshaw and Kori Lewis will be counted on for their leadership, something Crenshaw understands is especially vital this season.

“Having leadership this year is really important because we have such a young squad,” Crenshaw said. “Going into my senior year, I want to leave on a good note and make a good impression on the younger players so they can hopefully become leaders one day.”

The Miners will continue training over the next two weeks before kicking off the 2019 season at home against Wyoming on Aug. 22 (7 p.m.).

The match will be the first of two in the Sun City to start the year, with ACU (Aug. 25, 1 p.m.) rounding out the opening weekend of action.

For complete coverage of UTEP soccer, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPSoccer (Twitter), @UTEPMinersSoccer (Instagram) and on Facebook or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at

UTEP Practice Report: Tuesday, Aug. 7- Homegrown Products Look to Make a Difference

RUIDOSO, N.M. – Sunny skies returned to the practice fields on Wednesday as the UTEP Miners grinded out another two-hour practice at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso.

A significant storyline in this year’s fall camp is the homegrown talent displayed on UTEP’s roster. A total of 23 players on the 2019 UTEP Football roster are considered El Pasoans, hailing from local high schools and looking to make a major impact this upcoming season for the Miners.

One of those local products is redshirt junior Greg Long, who was a standout lineman at Eastwood High School during his prep days before joining the Miners in 2016. Long is gearing up to make his long-awaited return to the offensive line after missing the majority of the last two seasons due to injuries.

“The offense is really working to establish our identity,” Long said of his team’s progress through fall camp. “It is a lot of fun being out here with my team playing for UTEP and I am really excited for the season. Being a hometown hero for my town and playing for UTEP means a lot, especially after what happened last week. I am proud to be a Miner, proud to be an El Pasoan and proud to be El Paso Strong.”

Another offensive lineman found right in UTEP’s backyard is redshirt sophomore guard Bobby DeHaro, who earned All-Conference USA Honorable Mention accolades in 2018 after starting every game for the Miners a season ago. The El Paso native hails from Montwood High School and looks to continue to be a mainstay on the Miner offensive line in 2019.

“This is my third camp and I am just trying to perfect my craft,” DeHaro noted. “Coach (Dana) Dimel and Coach (Mike) Simmonds have a really good system going on here. It’s about being mentally tough and getting through the camp grind. With what happened last week, I want to give my condolences to the families. These are tough times, but we are working hard. We are aware of what is happening with everything going on back home right now. We want to do everything we can for the town of El Paso and be El Paso Strong.”

In addition to the El Paso natives on the offensive line, another local standout looking to make a name for himself in a Miner uniform is freshman running back Deion Hankins. Hankins graduated from Parkland High School in El Paso and joins the Miners fresh off a stellar prep career where he set city records for rushing yards and touchdowns during his high school days.

“I am still getting used to the experience and trying to get the plays down,” Hankins said following the team’s third practice in Ruidoso. “I am just trying to be myself and more comfortable in my running style. Once I get the plays down, I will be good. I am just trying to execute better. Coach (Reggie) Mitchell is really concerned about every little detail, so I am just trying to get the small things down and put everything together for this season.”

The Miners return to the practice fields at 9:40 a.m. on Thursday for a one-hour walk-through at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso, New Mexico. UTEP will practice in Ruidoso for the remainder of the week before heading back to campus on Sunday.

The 2019 season begins with the Miners playing hosts to Houston Baptist on Saturday, Aug. 31 in the Sun Bowl. Kickoff for the season-opener is set for 6 p.m. MT.

UTEP Football Season Tickets are on sale now and prices have been reduced at all levels from the 2018 season. The UTEP Season Ticket Office is located at Brumbelow Building Room 109 (next to the Don Haskins Center). Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased online, or by calling (915) 747-6150.

For complete coverage of UTEP Football, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPFB (Twitter/Instagram) or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at

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