History Major Named an Archer Fellow Departs for Washington, D.C.
Brownsville native Graciela Cano, a senior history major at the University of
Texas at Brownsville, eagerly welcomes the New Year as she embarks on
an adventure that is bound to make a profound impact on her future.
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JANUARY 3,
2014 – Brownsville native Graciela
Cano, a senior history major at The University of Texas at Brownsville, eagerly
welcomes the New Year as she embarks on an adventure that is bound to make a
profound impact on her future. Cano is among 40 University of Texas System
students selected to participate in the Bill Archer Fellowship
program in Washington, D.C.
was accepted into the program last February,” Cano said. “It still hasn’t
really sunk in that I am going to D.C. I’ve had a lot of help along the way;
the Vela family gave me a scholarship to cover housing during my time in D.C.,
the Archer Fellow Alumni Association also helped, and I have received several
scholarships from the History Department, including the Rudy de la Garza
Scholarship. They’ve all been very generous, and I am extremely grateful for
As a Bill Archer Fellow, Cano will spend the 2014 spring
semester attending classes, living and working in Washington, D.C. Classes are
held at The Archer Center which
recently relocated to 1750 Pennsylvania Ave. and is just a half block from the
Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the New Executive Office Building and the
An internship is a critical component of the Archer Fellows
program. Fellows apply for internships based on their areas of interest. Cano
has been accepted to intern with The Leadership Conference on
Civil and Human Rights. As an intern, she will have the opportunity to increase
her knowledge and awareness of civil and human rights issues, enhance her
understanding of coalition politics and observe the legislative process of the
know I want to work in the area of human rights in some capacity,” Cano said.
“I am not entirely certain what path I will take, but I think this experience
will point me in the right direction.”
nation’s capital will not be the furthest Cano has travelled. She attended a
summer study abroad class in photojournalism that took her to Spain, where the
group studied and photographed the architecture of Seville, Granada, Cordoba
and Malaga. The trip continued on to Poland, where the students visited Krakow
and attended the National Conference on Language, Culture and Politics held in
she received word that nine of her photos had been selected for a student
exhibition, Cano was able to return to Kielce with financial assistance from
the UTB Annual Fund.
was very fortunate to have gotten scholarships for both the summer study abroad
program and the photo exhibition in October,” she said. “I’m glad I got to see
the exhibition, to see my photos on display; and I got to reconnect
with the friends I made over the summer. We still talk on Skype and on
Professor in the Department of
led the study abroad group to Spain and Poland, and he accompanied Cano when
she returned in October.
is an accomplished photographer and has demonstrated leadership skills,” Rehman
said. “I know she is very interested in human rights and I am certain she will
succeed in whatever way she chooses to help make this world a better place.”
knows graduate school is on her horizon, probably to study international
relations, though she would first like to work for a while to gain experience.
Her education thus far has been a bit non-traditional; she was homeschooled and
she attended Brownsville’s First Baptist High School, but did not graduate.
Although she had already been taking college courses through her high school,
she nevertheless was required to obtain a GED to become an “official”
classes here have been really engaging and relevant,” Cano said. “That is why I
left high school early and came to UTB, and I’m glad I came here. I’ve had
really good mentors – Dr. Van Wagenen, Betsy Price, Dr. Rehman, Dr. Fisher and Dr. Medrano have
helped me out a lot. I’ve been surrounded with people who have inspired me and
Cano worked with Betsy Price in the Center for
Teaching and Learning, assisting professors and students who used the online
learning tool called “virtual islands.”
“Gracie is an amazing young lady who is
multi-talented, creative and curious,” Price said. “This feeds her desire to
expand her horizons, and she will surely be a lifelong learner. I know that someday
I will read about her accomplishments in the New York Times and will be very proud she was a UTB student.”
oldest of two children, Cano has a 19-year-old brother who is a freshman at The
University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg. She says she chose UTB because
she could live at home and keep her costs low while trying for as many
scholarships as possible to cover tuition and books.
the 40 Archer Fellows bound for the nation’s capital, the Rio Grande Valley is
represented by four students; along with Cano are two from UTPA and one Valley
student attending The University of Texas at San Antonio. Archer Fellows reside
in international student apartments in townhouses in D.C.
departs Brownsville on January six and will return in time to walk across the
stage at Spring Commencement on Saturday,
more information on the Bill Archer Fellow Program, visit The Archer Center. For information on the UT Brownsville Annual Fund, visit the Office of
MSA-to-Master’s is Quick Route to Mathematics Career
Thirty days after walking across the 2013 Fall Commencement stage to
receive his Master of Science in Mathematics from The University of Texas
at Brownsville, Jose Juan Vera will begin his new job as a mathematics
instructor at UTB.
TEXAS – JANUARY 9, 2014 – Thirty days after walking across the 2013 Fall
Commencement stage to receive his Master of Science in Mathematics from The University of Texas at Brownsville, Jose Juan Vera
will begin his new job as a mathematics instructor at UTB.
will begin teaching college algebra and pre-calculus on the first day of
classes for the spring semester, Monday,
21-year-old’s journey to become a mathematics instructor began almost six years
ago when his mother learned about a new school, the UTB Mathematics
and Science Academy, where students combine their
junior and senior high school years with the first two years of college taught
by UTB faculty.
Jose Juan Vera
be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled at the idea of leaving Pace High School; basketball
was kind of my life,” Vera said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ll apply, and maybe I
won’t get in.’ But I was accepted, and when we went to the orientation, I
thought MSA looked like it would offer what appealed to me – a challenging environment
with other students who felt the same way.”
entered the second class of MSA, and he didn’t have to give up basketball. MSA
had a sports club with teams that played intramurals at UTB. Vera was also on
the MSA chess team and competed with other high schools; he later became an
alternate on the UTB chess team, and continues to play in area tournaments.
graduated from MSA with his Associate of Arts degree in May 2010. He accepted
an offer to continue his studies at UTB as a University Scholar.
think I could have received scholarships at other schools, but I am close to my
family, and I wanted to stay in school here,” Vera said. “This scholarship included
tuition, books and housing, but I chose to live at home.”
initially declared education as his major, thinking he would teach high school
mathematics. However, when he heard about a program called the Mathematics 4+1
Program – that allows a student to fast-track through the bachelor’s degree and
go straight for the master’s degree – he knew that was the route for him to
thought this was such a great opportunity, and I would be able to devote my
studies to my interest in mathematics,” Vera said. “I was fortunate that I had
support from my professors, especially Dr. Jerzy
[Chair, Department of
and Dr. Paul-Hermann
[Professor, Department of Mathematics], who introduced me to the theoretical
part of algebra, which I found so appealing. He is such a smart man; I learned
everything I know from him.”
took both undergraduate and graduate classes with Zieschang, who was also
Vera’s thesis advisor.
“I always found Jose
eager to learn and well prepared for classes,” Zieschang said. “In the more advanced classes, Jose always
went with a certain ease over even the most difficult topics of the material,
so I was pleased when he decided to write his master thesis with me. It was about association schemes of rank 6, a very
modern and specific subject in algebra.”
shared his enthusiasm for mathematics by taking a campus job as a student tutor
in the Learning
really enjoyed tutoring,” Vera said. “Some students would come in and be
completely lost and have no idea what to do. I admire them for seeking help
with Learning Enrichment; it’s a non-threatening environment where there is
always someone available. It was such a good feeling when I worked with someone
and then they would understand the concept, and you hear them say, ‘Oh, now I
get it,’ and you know you played a part in helping unlock that door.”
said he feels confident his studies at UTB have prepared him for his chosen
feel my studies here at UTB, including my two years at the Math and Science
Academy, have given me a solid foundation,” he said. “My focus now is to do a
good job teaching my classes, to learn more in my field, and in a few years
I’ll be ready to apply for my doctorate. What university, I don’t know; but it
will definitely be one with a specialization in algebra.”
more information on the Mathematics 4+1 Program, contact Melissa De La Rosa at
956-882-6636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
more information on the Mathematics and
contact Brenda Valero at 956-882-5742 or Brenda.email@example.com.
and parents are invited to attend a recruiting session to learn more about MSA
on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 22. Both sessions will
take place at noon in Room 2.402 of Main. Parking is available across
Science and Engineering Fair Participation Motivates UTB Graduate in Medical School
Humberto Gerardo Mendoza knows what it feels like for students
participating in last weekend’s 54th annual Rio Grande Valley Regional
Science and Engineering Fair at The University of Texas at Brownsville.
Humberto Gerardo Mendoza, a UTB alumnus and a medical student at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, was twice named the regional science and engineering fair’s grand champion when he was a student at Brownsville’s Hanna High School.
But the bountiful opportunities for Mendoza did not stop there. Because of his status as grand champion, he went twice to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and was interviewed in 2004 by Chinese media for being the competition’s youngest international participant at age 14.
“Exposing students to the scientific method and exploring different ways to solve a problem inevitably changes the way you think,” said Mendoza. “Participating in science research makes you a more inquisitive person – one who tries to solve problems rather than state them and makes you a more critical thinker – one who challenges our present in light of a better tomorrow.”
The 54th annual Rio Grande Valley Regional Science and Engineering Fair was held on Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22. Students competed in 17 categories including animal science, chemistry, electrical and mechanical engineering and plant sciences.
“My recommendation for middle and high school students participating in the science fair can be summarized in three words: determination, passion and perseverance,” said Mendoza. “In my humble opinion these are the three pillars to success. Having determination allows us to become centered in pursuing a given goal, which when combined with passion and love for what makes you happy, it creates a powerful combination generating an intrinsic drive to excel.”
Mendoza graduated from Hanna High School in 2007. He enrolled in fall 2007 at UTB and graduated in May 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He taught chemistry and physics at Los Fresnos High School before enrolling at UTMB.
He will graduate from UTMB in June 2015 and wants to enter an internal medicine residency and seek a fellowship in cardiology.
“Ever since I was 4 years old, I had two career options in mind: being a firefighter or a hopefully a doctor,” said Mendoza. “Although both have an altruistic origin, my passion for science and medicine grew more than the former. Contributing to this was the sight of my dad, a physician, coming home with his briefcase. Though the briefcase was not something out of the ordinary, it sure amused me. As time elapsed and I became mature enough to understand interpersonal relationships, I became aware of the nature of his work and the gratitude patients felt for him.”
The first regional science and engineering fair was held in 1960 and for several years took place at the Elks Lodge in Harlingen. Some of the event’s earliest leaders were the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District and Raul A. Besteiro Jr., a longtime Brownsville Independent School District employee and former Director of the Port of Brownsville. UTB has hosted the event since 2002 as a commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the Rio Grande Valley.
Peer Tutoring = Student Success
Several initiatives, some new and others tried-and-true, are in place this fall to assist freshmen leap over the first-year
hurdles that often result in students’ dropping, withdrawing or failing a course.
Link2Success, or L2S, is built upon research that shows students benefit when they work closely with each other and
peer tutors. L2S consists of study sessions built into the course schedules for the high drop/withdraw/fail, or DWF
Historically, the stumbling blocks for freshmen are Composition I and II, History I and II, College Algebra and
Link2Success will serve about 1,640 students per semester and will provide on-campus employment for up to 120
students as tutors and coordinators.
“As an L2S coordinator, I feel I will be able to use my experience working with the tutors to help students on a larger
scale,” said Anyelin Roche. “L2S is a great concept, and I feel it will be the key for many students to get through their
freshman year successfully.”
Joining L2S are new programs implementing study tools through Khan Academy and the use of iPads in select classes.
Summer Bridge math students, who were the first to work with Khan Academy on supplied iPads, gave rave reviews
to the Khan approach to learning.
“The burden falls upon us as universities to ratchet them up and help them hone and develop their skills that are vital
not only to their success in college but their success in careers and lives in general,” said Dr. Javier Martinez, Dean of
the College of Liberal Arts.
Enrollment Services Components Now Conveniently Located Together
Convenience is the operating word at the new
Enrollment Center @ the Tower, where first-time
and returning students had all of their enrollment
activities processed in a fresh, modern space by
cross-trained staff who facilitated students’ seamless
enrollment experiences. Encompassing the Offices
of Financial Aid,
Admissions and Recruitment,
the Registrar, Cashiers and Veterans Services,
the entire Enrollment team gave a cheer when the
semester’s official numbers were announced - they
had successfully enrolled a higher–than–anticipated
total of 8,420 students.
“Customer service is our number one priority,”
said Dr. Nikkie Hodgson, Executive Director
for Enrollment Services. “Our goal is to provide
exceptional service in one comfortable location.
Students will benefit because we will be able to
respond to all of their concerns.”
Further simplifying necessary visits, the Academic
Advising Center is now located just across the
courtyard from the Tower in Main 1.400, directly
below Salón Cassia.
“The mission of the Academic Advising Center is
to support students’ academic success,” said Selma
Yznaga, Director of Advising. “We provide services
for academic major exploration, workshops for
increasing GPA and accessing campus resources,
course planning, and preparation for graduation.”
Academic advising is required for freshmen and
students who are on academic probation. All students
are welcome and encouraged to see an advising
specialist throughout their academic career to get
support early on and stay on track for graduation.
“The Advising Center offers advising appointments on
campus, or via telephone, chat, or video conference,”
Yznaga said. “We strive to provide multiple options
for our students’ convenience. Anything we can do
to streamline their lives means they have more time
for their studies and family obligations. We are here
to help students reach their goal of finishing in four
years with a degree that will prepare them for their
Other relocations include:
Learning Enrichment has relocated to the second
floor of the Student Union, directly upstairs from
the student lounge.
Veterans Upward Bound is also located on the
second floor of the Student Union.
The Language Institute and the Office of Testing
have moved to Resaca Village, 1601 E. Price Road (at
the Expressway intersection).
The Division of Institutional Advancement has
set up shop in the historic Cueto Building at 1301
E. Madison St. The departments in this division
include Alumni Relations, University Relations,
Creative Services, News and Information and
The Center for Civic Engagement has moved next
door to the Cueto Building into the charming Lucena
Transforming Classroom Experiences Using Technology
Faculty members are taking innovative measures to transform the classroom experience using technology.
One initiative will include using iPads as a tool in select classes. Dr. Philip Samponaro, Assistant Professor of
integrates the devices that are loaned to the students for the semester to facilitate learning in his U.S. History I class.
“The incorporation of iPads enhances students’ critical thinking skills in reading, writing and communication by
accentuating individual participation in the class and increasing contact with peers,” Samponaro said. “Each week,
students create group presentations and then lead class discussions on specific primary source materials included in
the textbook chapter under consideration.”
Dr. Reynaldo Ramirez, Associate Professor for
Secondary and Science Education, is working with his graduate
students to help them engage their middle and high school environmental science students. One way is by capturing
images (artifacts) that can be used to create instructional materials. Ramirez’ student teams are developing these
materials that will be part of an iBook that can be shared with colleagues at their respective schools.
Dr. Matthew Benacquista, Professor in the
Department of Physics and Astronomy, is downloading all his general
education astronomy lecture material into an iTunes U style document. Using a mix of his own programming,
adapting keynote documents and commercial apps, he is incorporating animations and interactive materials into the
“We are excited to launch this new initiative and look forward to learning from the students who participate.” said Dr.
Janna Arney, Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs.
A Valuable Personal Assistant for College Students
An investment made by The University of Texas
System for students at all UT System schools has
brought MyEdu, a new “personal assistant,” to
“MyEdu is similar to Facebook, but it is definitely
more serious,” said Jesus Lopez, a Brownsville
sophomore working toward his Bachelor of
Business Administration in finance. “Actually,
it is a great way to build a résumé. I plan to
update my student profile a couple times during
each semester; by graduation the web pages will
present a clear picture to prospective employers
of who I am and what I have to offer.”
With the profile, students can visually present
their classes, projects, internships and the
talents and passions that make them unique. It
can be tailored to highlight personal experiences
such as group projects, language skills, military
service, certifications, and community service
and work history.
“Students have repeatedly told us that they are
not well-served by the traditional résumé or
most professional networking sites,” said Frank
Lyman, Senior Vice President of Products and
Marketing at MyEdu. “It takes more than reading
a list of historical jobs to truly understand what
a student or young professional is capable of.”
Students Design New KMBH Website
Cristian Torres, a senior computer
science and music/vocal performance
major from Matamoros, Mexico, and
Pedro Rodriguez, a graduate student in
educational technology from Harlingen,
have designed a new website for the
Rio Grande Valley’s public radio and
television station KMBH. The updated
website, kmbh.org, includes television
and radio schedules, larger photographs,
social media links and an online donation
Dr. Juan R. Iglesias, Associate Professor
and Chair of the School of Engineering
and Computational Science, said the
program is always seeking opportunities
to match students’ skills with businesses
and organizations that want computer
and online expertise.
For more information on partnerships
with the School of Engineering and
Computational Science, contact Iglesias
at 956-882-6605 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Attends Young Latina Leaders Conference
Rachel Ballesteros, a 22-year-old senior and
Texas Academic Rising Scholars] scholarship student, said
it pays to read the online campus announcements – that
is where she learned about the Latinas Learning to Lead
Program in Washington, D.C.
Ballesteros was one of 22 female students from throughout
the country – and one of two from Texas – selected for
the 2013 summer program of the National Hispana
“Attending the conference was such an amazing week for
me,” Ballesteros said. “We were busy from early morning
until late every evening; I learned so much and came back
The group attended classes, ventured forth to tour the
sights, witnessed Congress in session and attended
presentations by motivational speakers.
A 2009 Harlingen High School graduate, Ballesteros
is the second to last of 10 children, and the first in her
family to pursue higher education. She will graduate from
UTB in December 2013 with her Bachelor of Applied
Arts and Sciences with a concentration in psychology and
sociology. Next step: graduate school to prepare for her
career in guidance and counseling.
Since transferring to UTB in August of 2012, Ballesteros
has worked with students as an Upward Bound tutor at
Rio Hondo High School.
Two Programs Lauded for Latino Student Success
The Student Employment Initiative Program (SEI) and the
College of Science, Mathematics and Technology (CMST)
were named among the top programs in the U.S. increasing
Latino student success in college.
Excelencia in Education, the only national initiative to
honor programs boosting Latino academic achievement
in higher education, placed CMST among the 18 finalists
that included 165 programs from 22 states, the District of
Columbia and Puerto Rico. SEI received top honors as the
number one initiative at the baccalaureate level.
“At UTB, SEI has been able to successfully incorporate oncampus
internships that help students define their roles
as students and future professionals while encouraging
dedication and success each semester,” said Juan Andres
Rodriguez, SEI Program Director.
Excelencia in Education systematically reviewed more than
500 programs to identify and recognize over 100 programs
and departments that demonstrate with evidence that they
effectively boost Latino enrollment, performance and
“The spirit of innovation has long been a part of the UT
Brownsville campus culture,” said Dr. Juliet V. Garcia,
UTB President. “Our faculty and staff are relentless in
seeking ways to improve student success through initiatives
that have regional relevance and the potential for global