FY 2017-2018

  • September 2017: Dr. Diana Dominguez

    Dr. Diana Dominguez

         Name: Dr. Diana Dominguez

         Department: Literatures and Cultural Studies

         College: College of Liberal Arts

     

    I am currently a professor in the Literatures and Cultural Studies department – having been promoted to full professor in Fall 2016. I teach primarily medieval literature, women’s literature/women’s studies, children’s/young adult literature, British literature, introduction to literature, and Critical theory at the graduate level. I am also currently serving as the Graduate Adviser for the Literature/Cultural Studies and English Studies concentrations within the MA in English. My research interests are focused primarily on children’s/young adult literature and culture (especially early 20th century girls’ series fiction from a cultural critical perspective) and ancient and medieval women’s literature and historiography. I was the 2014 recipient of the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA), and have been a Fellow of the UT System Academy of Distinguished Teachers since April 2015. I am also a poet, and have published and done public readings both regionally and nationally. I am proudest of my accomplishments in teaching, as the greatest legacy teaching brings me are the thousands of students whose lives I have positively influenced over my past 24 years of teaching. My greatest thrill is to hear from previous students who update me on their accomplishments.

    Why is teaching important to you?

    I thrive on watching the light of understanding – of epiphany – come into my students’ eyes when they have an “aha moment,” when they finally “get” a concept because it is transformative. Their thinking, their lives, their minds will never be the same again; that is what discovery is all about, and knowing that I am the instigator of that adventure of discovery is what gets me out of bed every morning. No matter how “bad” my day may be because of frustrations or administrative issues, once I’m in the classroom, all that goes away – and it becomes a good day. Interaction with my students recharges and feeds my soul – I know how melodramatic that sounds, but it’s the truth.  

    What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    Teaching is not the transfer of my knowledge to my students, just as learning is not a passive collection of facts or concepts; it has never been that in my teaching career. My role as the “teacher” is to facilitate my students’ journeys of discovery, of figuring out for themselves and by themselves what things really mean to and for them. While I can share information that I have gathered over the years through my own voyage of discovery so that they are better informed, ultimately, I cannot make them learn it or absorb it or incorporate it into their lives. Only they can do that by opening themselves up to soak up the information and reflect on what it has given them. I tell my students constantly that Reflection is where learning happens. It is what you do with the facts/concepts you are introduced to that turns information into learned knowledge. My teaching philosophy can be summed up in these words from Galileo Galilei: We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves. 

    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

    My goal is to create a tight-knit community of learners who respect and trust each other as they collectively embark on their voyage of discovery. While individual grades are important, of course, and some competition is healthy, my overriding philosophy is that people achieve greater heights when they learn to collaborate and work respectfully with each other toward a common goal. It’s not about besting each other, coming out on top, and it’s not even about achieving the top grades, either – someone emerging from my class with a C or a B, but has really learned something that will forever change his or her life could be more successful than the straight A student that has just gone through the motions and never fully integrates that knowledge once he/she leaves the classroom at the end of the semester. To that end, the learning environment in all my classrooms (face-to-face or online) is highly discussion-based and includes several collaborative activities as well as individual assignments that allow students to apply the skills and concepts they’ve shared with each other. This kind of environment fosters respect for differing perspectives, helping students understand that listening is as or more important than expressing our own opinions without taking others’ viewpoints into consideration. I try to bring back the kindergarten philosophy of sharing into my classes. 

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    By far, my favorite teaching strategy is small group discussion activities that “force” students to 1) learn each other’s names, 2) listen to and understand different points of view, 3) gain confidence in speaking up about their own ideas, and 4) work collectively toward a common goal. I will usually start the semester by randomly assigning students to different small discussion groups (rather than let them self-select their own groups) so that they eventually meet and must work with everyone in the class at least once. Once the class has become a community – about 2/3 of the way through the semester – I will allow them to self-select their small groups, and, surprisingly, they often choose to work with students they would not have considered earlier in the semester. I have received feedback from many students who have told me that they always hated to work in groups, even for short discussion activities, but that my method helped them see the advantage of such an activity. My group work assignments (whether it’s low-stakes small group discussions or higher-stakes group projects) are successful because my grading system combines both individual accountability and group collaboration and engagement.

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    Learn what your most comfortable teaching style is and own it – make it yours, make it successful, and explain to your students why it’s your most comfortable teaching style. If you do not get your students to understand why you do what you do, they won’t respond to you. The moment you include your students in that conversation about what works best for you, you can then open up a discussion about what works best for them for learning what you want to impart to them. Once you fully understand what your best teaching style/method is, you can then begin to experiment – a little at a time – with a few other strategies that you might pick up from colleagues and through teaching professional development workshops. However, once again, find a way to transform those strategies into your comfort zone. Not everyone likes to lecture or does it well; not everyone is a “performer” and can tell stories that transfix their students; not everyone is comfortable with non-structured group work; not everyone is a tech wiz and prefers low-tech teaching – figure out what works best for you and involve your students – stop to ask them what works well for them and what doesn’t. Ask them what they’d like from you. And, don’t be afraid to change things up if students are not responding. After all, the goal is for the students to come away with a fruitful and relevant learning experience, not just to walk away with facts and figures or an accurately written essay. If you are honest with your students, and genuinely show them you care about their success, they will respond. It has been my experience in all my teaching years that students will rise to our levels of expectations – without fail. Tell them you have faith in their ability to succeed, and make your classroom a partnership between you and your students.

    Podcast interview with Dr. Dominguez

  • October 2017: Dr. Art Brownlow

    Dr. Art Brownlow

    Name: Dr. Art Brownlow 

    Department: Music

    College: College of Fine Arts

     

    Dr. Art Brownlow is a Professor of Music and the Deputy Provost’s Fellow for Academic Innovation at UTRGV, where he teaches music history. He was recently inducted as a Fellow in the University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers, has received the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, the College Music Society Instructional Technology Initiative Award, and has been named an Apple Distinguished Educator. Dr. Brownlow's research interests are varied, including brass instrument history, nineteenth-century orchestral music, educational technology, and flipped learning. His scholarly work includes The Last Trumpet: A History of the English Slide Trumpet, Teaching Music History with iPad, various articles in journals and conference proceedings, and many presentations at conferences and symposia. He also directs the university's Study Abroad Program in Vienna for music students. Previously, Dr. Brownlow was an active performer, having played for thirty years as Principal Trumpet with the Valley Symphony Orchestra, and with orchestras in Illinois, Texas, the Carolinas and the Spoleto Festival in Italy. In addition to a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, he received degrees from Northwestern University and Furman University, with additional studies in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An RVing enthusiast, he enjoys nothing better than a road trip to a national park with his wonderful family: wife Amy, son James, and daughter Anne.

    Why is teaching important to you?

    I suppose teaching is in my DNA. My mother taught for over forty years, mostly first grade and kindergarten. I grew up observing first-hand the impact teachers can have on the community. And as my schooling progressed from secondary to college to graduate school, I came to realize that this impacted community is much larger than I originally thought. It’s an important and sobering task that teachers have, the developing of young minds. It’s a task that our future depends upon. From my first year of teaching, about thirty-five years ago, until now, I have loved being part of this process and I hope to continue for many more years.

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    Learning is a search for discovery partaken in a partnership between teacher and student, a process that requires engagement, empathy, and personal connection. I’ve never looked on myself as a “teacher” in the traditional sense, in the narrow definition of that word. I don’t see myself as bestowing great wisdom from above, from an ivory tower. And although a professor, I don’t “profess”. Rather, I guide, I prod, I give tips, I coax, I provide shortcuts, but the teaching and learning processes are accomplished, sometimes unwittingly, in a partnership between myself and the student. For most of my career I’ve taught in both classroom situations and in one-on-one applied music lessons. This collaborative approach is much easier to accomplish in the applied lesson model, and in the classroom, it has become even more difficult lately, as I’ve begun teaching larger classes and even distant classes. But I continue to search for solutions to make the connection that will spark a student’s motivation to succeed; to create a culture of learning.

    What type of learning environment do you try to create?

    An open, collaborative and engaging one. Earlier in my career I struggled with this. It was difficult creating such an environment when all you had at your disposal was a chalkboard and a piece of chalk. Often times I had to be the traditional lecturer, utilizing the “sit and get” style of teaching, all the while searching for ways to create a more engaging learning environment for my students. Lately, I have found that technology has solved many of these problems, and my classes have radically changed from the traditional model to an active learning style. Now, technology allows my students to discover through engagement and collaboration. I must say, though, that although I use it in my classes, technology is only a tool. Devices and apps must get out of the way for learning to take place. In other words, technology alone is not enough. In many ways, I wish I were just beginning my teaching career now, what with all the exciting new innovations and discoveries in teaching and learning, and in educational technology. The future is bright for teachers.

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster learning?

    I like a combination of collaborative and team-based learning. I have “flipped” my classes, and so for in-class activities I divide the students into teams of four or five. To each team I pose a series of questions that aligns with the objectives of the daily lesson, which they have studied prior to class through online videos and reading assignments. Being that my classes are music history classes, this means that my teams are studying musical scores–discovering what makes the music tick and how that music exhibits the style of a particular time, region or composer. My students seem to appreciate this approach. End-of-semester questionnaires regularly reveal that they learn quite effectively from their own teammates and collaborative efforts, often as much as they do from me or the prepared materials.

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    That’s easy. Don’t be afraid to fail. Celebrate risk. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from a basketball player: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” That quote was from Michael Jordan. So, my advice is don’t be afraid to search for and try new innovative practices, new educational technologies, new ideas, and new strategies. If something doesn’t work, it’s okay; either adapt it or lose it, and try again. If you don’t, you will stagnate. And yet, when something does work, and your methods are a success, don’t stop searching for something else. Here’s another quote. This one is from Steve Jobs. It can be found on the wall of an entrance foyer at 1 Infinite Loop: “If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”

  • November 2017: Dr. Cristina Villalobos

    Dr. Cristina Villalobos

    Name: Dr. Crisitna Villalobos

    Department: Mathematical & Statistical Sciences

    Colleges: College of Sciences

     

    Dr. Cristina Villalobos is a Professor in the School of Mathematical & Statistical Sciences, and Founding Director of the Center of Excellence in STEM Education, which focuses on strengthening STEM academic programs and providing resources for the academic and professional development of students and faculty. Her research area is in optimization, optimal control, and modelling. Currently she is working on projects associated with optimizing certain features in the creation of antennas and on creating optimal therapies for the treatment of the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa. Due to her STEM leadership and student mentoring, she has been recognized at the national level with the 2013 Distinguished Undergraduate Institution Mentor Award from the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), a 2012 HENAAC Luminary Award from the Great Minds in STEM, and also with the recent 2016 American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Service/Teaching Award. Also, she is a recipient of the 2013 University of Texas Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. She takes great pride in her teaching to prepare RGV students to become leaders. She also serves on the SACNAS Board of Directors (2015-2017) helping to shape the organization in STEM-related activities. Finally, she wishes to state that she is a product of the Rio Grande Valley, specifically from Donna, and received a B.S. degree in Mathematics from the University of Texas-Austin and the Ph.D. in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Rice University.

    Why is teaching important to you?

    Teaching allows me to share my excitement and knowledge of the subject matter in Mathematics to create the next leaders in Mathematics, Science, Engineering, Education, Medicine, and the Arts, to name a few. As an educator, teaching also provides me with opportunities to challenge students and to build their self –confidence through explorations/discoveries.

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    Teaching should be a combination of discovery and delivery. When posed with a new topic to teach to students, I implore discovery methods of teaching and learning to allow students to self-discover patterns, or make conjectures together in groups. Many times I ask students to “talk to your peer/neighbor” to solve a problem or to explore a concept.

    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

    The learning environments that I have in my classroom consist of guided discovery and group work. As much as possible, I like to guide students to discover concepts instead of delivering the content to them. Many times I hear students say “Wow” or “Aha!” when they discover a pattern or understand a concept. I also encourage students to draw diagrams/pictures of the concepts. In Calculus classes, I’ve been using Desmos, a graphing tool, as an aid to assist students in their learning. I allow students to use their cell phone in class in conjunction with Desmos and link concepts to graphs. Finally, I try to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable to ask questions individually or during group work.

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    I have several but if I need to select one it would be guided discovery of which a flipped classroom also has. With guided discovery, the idea is to guide students in the discovery of patterns. And to me the most important issue in students discovering is to boost their self-confidence and to believe that they can solve a challenging problem knowing that it takes time and patience.

    What advice do you have for our new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    Finding a teaching method that works for one takes time to explore and it takes tries. What may work for one subject may not work for another subject and what may work for a small class may not work as well for a large class. So also explore as one wants their students to explore. Finally, increase students’ self-confidence and many times this can be done by giving students challenging problems and helping them along the way by breaking the problem into smaller steps, for example, or incrementing the difficulty level during the semester. Most importantly, as a teacher you play an important role and our students depend on us to help them gain new knowledge and apply it to new fields and problems.

  • December 2017: Dr. Rene Corbeil

    Dr. Rene Corbeil

    Name: Dr. Rene Corbeil 

    Department: Teaching & Learning

    College: College of Education & P-16 Integration

     

    Dr. Rene Corbeil is the program coordinator for the Master of Education in Educational Technology and the Faculty Lead for the Educational Technology specialization in the Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Both of these programs are offered 100% online. He currently teaches courses in both of these fully online programs.

    Why is teaching important to you?

    I love learning and I spend countless hours learning everything I can about the things that matter to me. One passion I have involves finding novel ways to make online learning as effective and rewarding as traditional face-to-face instruction. I am continually tinkering and experimenting with new technologies and instructional strategies to develop the most user-friendly, engaging learning environment possible. As I identify effective best practices, I feel an obligation and a strong sense of gratification to share my findings with current and future online instructors.

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    My philosophy of teaching is rooted in the belief that our students are the most important people on campus; that teaching is the most important responsibility of the faculty; and student learning and success are the most important outcomes of teaching. I believe skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity, will allow students to actualize their professional and personal goals today and into the future. I feel a commitment to assist in the mastery of the competencies that will serve students not only in their classroom experiences but also in their life experiences.

    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

    All of the courses I teach are delivered via distance learning (e-learning). My courses are meticulously designed and organized, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. Aesthetic design presents and communicates course expectations and information clearly, all web pages are visually and functionally consistent, and accessibility issues are carefully addressed. Teacher presence and teacher immediacy are established through a variety of instructional strategies and mechanisms. I believe the scaffolded design of my online courses, coupled with my enduring support and encouragement, enables hard-working students to achieve the high expectations I have set for them.

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    Through my online courses, I am continually experimenting with novel ways to get students to actively engage with their peers to analyze, design, develop, and implement instructional solutions to address real-world problems at work, school, home, or in their communities. I believe that by making the learning experience personal, students will internalize discipline knowledge and best practices and apply them to their personal and professional lives. Therefore, one of my favorite teaching strategies involves having students identify a real-world instructional need or opportunity in their community and design and develop an instructional intervention to address it. The final product is a self-paced, just-in-time instructional module that can be implemented at work, school, or community to solve an identified real-world instructional problem.

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    If you wish to become an online instructor, take it slowly. Take time to learn and understand how online facilitation works. Course design is only half of the work. The more time-consuming part is establishing an environment that facilitates effective communication and collaboration between and among students and faculty through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous methods. Establishing social presence and teacher presence are also very important. Students need to feel that the instructor is visible and present in the course and that they are not taking the course in isolation.

  • January 2018: Dr. Karen Lozano

    Dr. Karen Lozano

    Name: Dr. Karen Lozano

    Department: Mechanical Engineering 

    College: College of Engineering & Computer Science

     

    Dr. Karen Lozano is the Julia Beecherl Endowed Professor and Director of the UTRGV Nanotechnology Center. Lozano focuses mostly on the development of nano-reinforced polymer composites and development of nanofiber systems through Forcespinning® (centrifugal spinning). She is a prolific inventor, co-founded an industry focused on the industrial production of nanofibers and has received several national/international awards such as the Outstanding Research Award, American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) 2018; Inspiring Leaders in STEM Award, Insight into Diversity 2017; Engineer of the Year, Great Minds in STEM, 2015; and the R&D 100 award 2011 to mention some. Lozano’s secret ingredients are hard work, personal responsibility and innovation. She is a very passionate educator/engineer. Through high tech projects, she encourages, inspires, and educates students. Lozano also enjoys instilling in k-12 students a passion for engineering careers, she has developed numerous summer camps, workshops and presentations and recently launched a YouTube Channel, “Karen’s Lab” to promote STEM based innovation.

    Why is teaching important to you?

    I have always been interested in learning and have personally witnessed the importance and rewards of education. Through education I have discovered the amazing world of science and engineering and have as a strong desire to share this passion with young students. I see teaching as an opportunity to further educate myself but more importantly as an opportunity to share the many blessings I have received.

    What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I believe that students learn more from active learning experiences and I try to provide as many as possible within my lectures.

    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

    I teach through traditional lectures (classroom), through research projects, through advising and mentoring, and through community outreach. In the classroom, to stimulate student’s interests and to get their attention, I often incorporate practical examples; students can then see the benefit of learning the material. For the final project, I always assign a project that will foster creativity, students need to use the material taught in the class to invent a product or process or change the design. This project brings the best out of them, they need to be creative, use their imagination, and certainly use the acquired knowledge. For example in the Polymer Processing class, they need to come up with an application that is currently not made out of plastic and evaluate the possibility and requirements to make it out of plastics.

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    Create an environment to maximize innovation, instill in my students an inner drive for success.

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    Engage with students, understand where they are, establish effective communication venues. Show interest in the class and in their learning process. Show them why is important to learn your subject.

  • February 2018: Dr. Marvin Lovett

    Dr. Marvin Lovett

    Name: Dr. Marvin Lovett

    Department: Marketing

    College: College of Business & Entrepreneurship

     

    Dr. Marvin Lovett teaches in the Marketing Department on the Brownsville campus, as well as online. He is currently a Professor, but had the pleasure of serving UTRGV, as well as UT-B/TSC, in a number of other positions over the last thirty years including School of Business Academic Resource Coordinator, Small Business Institute Director, and Management Development Program Director. He has been honored as the recipient of a number of awards, including the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, the Chancellor’s Council Teaching Award, and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award.

    Why is teaching important to you?

    Teaching is important because our students are important. Although we enjoy a large number of older students in our classes, many of our students are still quite young. We catch them in our classes as they begin to enter into adulthood. Many still live at home and therefore are “very precious cargo.” I appreciate the importance of my role in contributing toward their higher education.

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I think every teacher has his or her own approach based on what works. For me, I’m a rather traditional professor who largely lectures to ensure mastery of the textbook content. I like to remind the students that Ivy League universities don’t have special textbooks, that in general, we all use the same textbooks. Therefore, if my students learn my textbook’s content, they can be assured that they will share the same body of knowledge as any other student anywhere. I work hard to proactively "add value" to the textbook content. A primary role is that of a “professional explainer.” I have the responsibility to explain and demonstrate the course content in the most effective and relevant ways possible. The most effective and relevant way may change from time to time, as other variables change, such as course content updates, class sizes, class lengths, student make-up, etc. Regardless, my role’s true reason for existence is to impart upon our students new knowledge they will need for future success.

    What type of learning environment do you create in your classroom?

    My classroom management style is based on a goal to maintain the “student first” philosophy. I create a friendly learning environment based on mutual respect. I try to provide a fast moving persuasive lecture, but always welcome and ask for input or questions from the students. I would never tell jokes in class, but I do interject humor throughout my lecture to keep the learning environment positive and enjoyable. It involves incorporating interesting and clever examples of what we teach in order to bring the student and the subject "to life.” The provision of an interesting lecture or classroom activity consistently leads to effective participation of the students as they discuss topics and often provide further examples of various aspects of topics covered. I also work hard to enhance the course with examples from my own in-field experiences, further readings, and research findings.

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    I utilize a “guided lecture” process based on the Summarization Note-taking Technique developed at Cornell University. Students are asked to bring posted lecture outlines designed for in-class note-taking. Beyond the classroom, however, I attempt to maximize the student’s educational experience with discipline-related interaction such as field experiences, internships, cooperative education, and service learning projects. For all courses I’ve taught over the last eight years, each has included Service Learning Projects requiring the students to interview local business owners/managers and create an actual marketing promotion. At the beginning of every semester, each student must update his or her resume. At the end of the semester, students add their Service Learning Project work to their resume.

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    As mentioned, faculty members enjoy the freedom to develop their own unique ways to teach. If new faculty are just coming out of their Doctorate program, they may be able to model their teaching based on highly skilled professors from whom they recently learned. Regardless, one big requirement is what we refer to as “prepping” or preparing for our classes, which is essential for all faculty. This is especially applicable for the new faculty member.

  • March 2018: Dr. Aje-Ori Agbese

    Dr. Aje-Ori Agbese

    Name: Dr. Aje-Ori Agbese

    Department: Communication

    College: College of Liberal Arts

     

    I am an associate professor in the department of communication. I am also the department’s graduate coordinator. I teach communication studies and mass communication courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. My research interests are quite fluid, but they mostly pertain to Nigerian media, women, media history, and journalism. I have received at least 4 teaching awards in my career, including the 2012 ROTA, the 2011 Provost Award for International Studies (includes teaching), the 2014 College of Excellence award for teaching, and a best teacher award from Royal Roads University in Canada.

    Why is teaching important to you?

    It’s funny that teaching was never in my career goals. At first, teaching was a responsibility I had as a graduate teaching assistant. But after my first semester, I realized I liked it. I enjoyed it. Teaching is a passion for me because it is an opportunity to share my love for a subject with students and hope the passion catches on.

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I see teaching and education as a whole as a two-way street. I believe that like life, you get from teaching and learning what you put into them. If we want excellent students, we must be excellent teachers. Just as a teacher knows when a student is not making an effort, students know when teachers are doing the same. As a teacher, I want my students to see the benefits of anything they do during their time with me, not just for the semester, but the future. In addition, my classroom is not a depository of knowledge. It is a place to challenge your mindset and acquire some skills for tomorrow (even today). It is a place to actively take responsibility for your learning. Invariably, teaching is also learning. I am always learning and I leave myself open to learning from my students.

    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

    Hmmm… I strive to create a fun and yet serious environment where the teacher and the learner take responsibility for their part in the journey. I strive for an environment that encourages students to actively learn (using daily events (and there are a ton in the news everyday), social issues, their strengths and challenges) what they want and what the profession says they must know. Another thing I try to do is create a cooperative and caring environment where students have a “twin” and know they can come to me for anything.

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    I don’t have a particular favorite because my students vary, as do my courses. What works one semester may not work another semester. One strategy I love that works in all my classes is shock value. I use information that shatters what they have known all their lives. For instance, what time is midnight? 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching? 

    Enjoy it. More importantly, do not focus on the few bumps in the road. Rather, enjoy the good things and stay positive. Hunt the good stuff. I would also advise new faculty to find what works for them, what best showcases their talents, and use it. In addition, don’t simply pass through the university. Let the university pass through you. Get involved. You may learn something more about the students you have and not the students you want.

  • April 2018: Dr. Daniel Hunter-Holly

    Dr. Daniel Hunter-Holly

    Name: Dr. Daniel Hunter-Holly

    Department: Music

    College: College of Fine Arts

     

    I am currently an Associate Professor in the School of Music where I primarily teach voice lessons and a class on movement and improvisation. I also teach courses on art song literature and vocal pedagogy (teaching students how to teach people to sing). I am very involved in the opera productions in Brownsville where I have helped to design and co-direct many of the productions over the past six years, as well as coordinate the annual school-outreach production of “Hansel & Gretel.” I am particularly proud of the accomplishments of the opera program, which has been recognized by three national awards, most recently receiving 1st place from the National Opera Association for the Spring 2017 production of "Orpheus in the Underworld". This semester, I am working with the opera program on our project, “Transformations: Sing Your Story,” which received grant funding from the Provost’s Office as part of the UTRGV Transforming Our World Strategic Plan.

                   UTRGV photo by David Pike

    Why is teaching important to you?

    On a personal level, teaching is important because it allows me to connect with others and to participate in the process of guiding students to become their best selves. More globally, I think there is an imperative need to create equitable opportunities for people to improve their lives through education, not only in the sense of preparing for the workforce, but from the personal enrichment that comes from increasing one's understanding of the world. The internet and other technologies have truly shifted the way we can all access information; teaching is important when it guides students to transform that information into the higher order thinking skills that allow for innovative research, new artwork, creative performance, etc. 

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I believe that teaching and learning are symbiotic activities, hence the aphorism that the best way to learn is to teach. I think it is counter-productive to try and isolate teachers/teaching from learners/learning; we all have an equal responsibility to engage in the process and to see things from both points of view. This is why Service Learning and Active Learning exercises are often so successful: they constantly recast the roles of teacher and learner.

    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

    One idea that I constantly return to is that “good assessment is more atmosphere than instrument” (Booth, 2009). What I love about this is the reminder that we must work just as hard to nurture an environment for learning as we do in creating assignments, rubrics, and exams. Telling students to take risks, be creative, etc. is problematic when the outcome is necessarily translated into a score or grade; this is particularly true in subjective fields, such as music, where grades often define the student’s self-worth as an artist. To begin, there must always be an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in the classroom; without this, students will never allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to gain from any learning and assessment activities. That being said, I also want my classroom to be challenging and actively critical; I never want my students to feel satisfied by me telling them the answer, rather, I want them to work to find their own answer, and if it’s different than mine, or other students’, to be able to discuss the merits of each.

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    I know how much I have learned from teaching, therefore, I try to provide opportunities for my students to think as teachers. All of my voice lessons are taught with student peer partners who take notes and contribute throughout the lessons. I think this has been hugely successful in helping students see things from new perspectives and gain confidence in expressing their point of view. I also require my voice students to complete weekly journals and end-of-semester reflections to encourage them to take responsibility for their education through self-assessment
    of learning objectives. Another (accidental) teaching strategy is the ComplimenTrees board I have in my studio. I tried to cover up an ugly white board by making some butcher paper trees; I then thought it would be fun to have the students create leaves by writing short compliments for each other. While I didn’t originally intend for this to be a teaching tool, I have been so impressed by my students’ development in writing meaningful, growth-mindset oriented notes to their peers.
                  Complimen Tree

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    Two things: First, I think the most important advice for all teachers is to acknowledge that being an expert in your field does not make you an expert in teaching that material to the students of today. There is often a self-protective attitude we all foster to combat any doubt and judgment of our peers, students, administration, and ourselves. But the students change, and the material changes, and the research on the latest trend in learning methods changes. Seek out mentorship. Listen to advice. Go observe teaching in other programs within the university and at other institutions.

    Second, I think it is essential to develop your own definition of "success" for the students in your program or field, and to find a balance between the realities of the institution, the goals of the students, and your own standard of excellence. There is constant pressure from the students, administration, legislature, etc. to view success within the narrow time frame of the students' collegiate careers. It is up to the teaching faculty to see beyond retention and graduation rates and to create curricula and course materials that will transform students into the teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, artists, and leaders of our future.

  • July 2018: Dr. Irma Jones

    Dr. Irma Jones

    Name: Dr. Irma Jones

    Department: Teaching & Learning

    College: College of Education & P-16 Integration

     

    I am currently a professor in the Teaching and Learning Department of the College of Education and P-16 Integration and have been teaching at the University for 42 years.  I currently teach both undergraduate courses in the Technology Education and Corporate Training program as well as doctoral courses in the Curriculum and Instruction EdD program.  Having held many different teaching and administrative positions over the years, my enthusiasm for teaching and working in the education field has not diminished.  In 2011, I was honored to receive the UT Board of Regents Outstanding Teaching Award for UTRGV and strive each semester to prepare and improve each course that I teach.

     
    Why is teaching important to you? 

    Teaching is important to me because a teacher may have significant influence in changing students’ lives.  There are times when students just need someone who listens to them when they are experiencing difficulties.  Other times, connecting with a teacher that takes the time to explain overall and specific concepts could make students feel like they can definitely accomplish any goals they set out to accomplish in life and encourages students to follow their dreams.  I want to be that motivator for my students.  However, teaching is also important to me as a learner.  There are always gems of knowledge expressed and methods of accomplishing responsibilities that students share that reminds me that I am still a learner and as such should be open to knowledge and skills others may provide.  

     
    What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning? 

    I believe that all students have the capacity and potential to learn; it is how a teacher connects to a student and provides information that will make a difference in learning. Students have different learning styles and I try to teach to the learning style a student exhibits.  I also believe that information should be learned using chunking strategies where information is divided into manageable parts that can be taught incrementally until the entire concept is introduced. And lastly, I believe reflection should always be included at the end of the course.  How and what a student reflects about a particular learning experience helps us to improve our teaching. 


    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom? 

    I teach all my courses online and so when I prepare a course for online delivery, I try to ensure that instructions are detailed so that students have as little confusion as possible.  I also provide examples of what each assignment should look like, provide a grading rubric for the assignment that allows students to understand what their work should include to receive the maximum points allowed and provide templates for ease of use by the students.  It is my desire that students feel comfortable in asking questions and relaxed at receiving instructor feedback on their work so that what they learn stays with them.  I try to have a relaxed environment in my courses so that students are not afraid of asking questions.  


    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning? 

    I like to use chunking as a teaching strategy in all my lessons.  By dividing information into smaller parts that leads to the teaching of the whole idea and allowing students to complete one entire cycle before making an assignment for independent completion of a similar lesson.  By doing this, students are introduced to a concept step-by-step, complete the entire concept cycle, and receive feedback on each step of the process before attempting to replicate the assignment using creativity and technology to enhance their learning.  Allowing the student to develop their solutions using creativity and technology instead of just step-by-step routine provides students the opportunity to increase their incorporation of tools around them as they work to solve the problem.  

     
    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching? 

    The advice I have for new UTRGV faculty members is that, as faculty, they have a vast amount of resources available to them when they arrive at our university.  The most immediate resources are colleagues that teach in your department and college or school.  If you are assigned a faculty mentor, make it a point of scheduling time weekly with them to ask the myriad of questions that may arise about your teaching responsibilities.  There are also many opportunities to attend short university workshops and be a part of groups that will facilitate your teaching, writing and assimilation into the university.  Don’t be shy and ask questions!

  • August 2018: Dr. Alyssa Cavazos

    Dr. Alyssa Cavazos

    Name: Dr. Alyssa Cavazos

    Department: Writing & Language Studies

    College: College of Liberal Arts

     

     

    I am an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies in the Department of Writing and Language Studies. As one of the recipients of the 2017 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and the 2017 UTRGV Excellence Award in Teaching recipient, I am committed to continue growing as an educator and scholar to build linguistically-inclusive pedagogies that can lead to students’ academic success across academic disciplines in postsecondary education. I have directed, as principal investigator, three internal research grants that aim to investigate and build linguistically-inclusive pedagogical practices, research approaches, and spaces in academic and community contexts, respectively. I am incredibly proud and grateful to have the opportunity to work with colegas dedicados who share similar pedagogical and research interests. As recipients of one of the 2017-2018 Transforming Our World Strategic Plan awarded proposals, my colleagues and I designed and implemented a translingual pedagogy faculty learning community (FLC), and we are currently in the process of examining the impact of the FLC on faculty members’ and students’ teaching and learning, respectively.

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    Mi responsabilidad como educadora es primordial. I do research, engage in service, and apply for grants to improve my teaching for the educational benefit of students. As educators and scholars, we must be conscious of how we link our teaching, research, and service. We are models of effective teaching for our students. Como madre de una hermosa e inteligente niña de casi tres años, Alyxia, I see my students as my daughter’s potential future teachers, so I want to teach in a way that will one day positively impact my little girl and future generations. As educators, we are in a unique position to create change—the type of change that challenges dominant, hegemonic structures in the educational system and in society. I want to help create the type of change that leads toward inclusivity and equity in learning for all, so we can all learn from each other as we create a more just community of teaching and learning. 

     

    What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    La enseñanza y el aprendizaje consiste de reflexión constante de parte de la maestra y los estudiantes. As we engage in constant reflection with our students, we should ask ourselves, “how can I revise this assignment or reading list or activity to increase student engagement and respond to the linguistic and cultural diversity of our communities?” Teaching entails a willingness to reflect on and share with students our experiences and pedagogical reasoning for why we teach the way we teach. How can I explain the educational benefits of collaborative and community-engaged projects? What can I share about my personal experiences learning English as a second language that may impact how we understand writing and languaging concepts? What can I share about how I develop research questions and conduct research that may serve as an example as students engage in scholarly inquiries? De igual manera, el aprendizaje consiste de invitar a los estudiantes a reflexionar con nosotros sobre lo que están aprendiendo y en particular, como estamos enseñando. ¿Cómo es que las lecturas, proyectos en grupo, o conversaciones colaborativas influyen su manera de pensar, de hacer preguntas y hasta de escribir?  Most importantly, teaching and learning entails fair and just pedagogical approaches and assessments that ensure all students, regardless of language background or any other marker of perceived difference, have the opportunity to use all of their language resources to achieve success.

     

    What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

    Deseo crear un ambiente de aprendizaje centrado en las experiencias, conocimientos, y perspectivas de cada uno de los estudiantes. To quote one of my favorite scholars, bell hooks: “to educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn.” For this reason, my pedagogy is always rhetorical and centered on my students’ lived experiences as writers, language learners, and collaborators. Because knowledge and meaning exist in all languages, I create a linguistically inclusive learning environment in all my writing courses centered on students’ linguistic agency, collaborative and experiential learning, and rhetorical creations. My students are ethnographers, scholars, rhetoricians, critical thinkers, and educators. I constantly ask myself how can my assignments and readings respond to the linguistic strengths of our students and the diversity of our region? How do students’ diverse experiences with writing and language influence how we analyze course readings, develop new theories, or design unique projects that not only align to student learning outcomes but also make a difference in our communities? ¿Si el estudiante tiene conocimientos de otros lenguajes que les proporcione compresión y desarrollo de nuevos conocimientos, porque no crear oportunidades en nuestra enseñanza para que así los estudiantes aprovechen estos recursos con propósito?

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    Unas de mis estrategias de enseñanza favoritas para promover el aprendizaje es la reflexión y colaboración. I use reflective and collaborative teaching strategies in all my courses to different degrees and levels of success. I would like to share the impact of reflection and collaboration in my WRLS 2301: Multilingual Writing course—a course focused on exploring and enacting linguistically-diverse writing in a variety of academic and community contexts. Throughout the semester, students work en equipos colaborativos primarios y secundarios to reflect on writing and languaging experiences, conduct original research, and create meaningful documents for a community organization. The purpose of the primary team is to brainstorm ideas and create projects, and the purpose of the secondary team is to conduct research in different areas that will impact the work they create when they return to their primary team. Students consistently reflect on and exchange ideas between both collaborative groups, which influences the type of research they conduct and the original work they design. I guide collaborative activities through a series of preguntas reflexivas y metalingüísticas where students reflect on and analyze not only their language and inquiry processes as they create specific documents, but also the language choices they make as they engage in collaborative conversations with both of their teams and community partners. These collaborative and reflective strategies regularly have a profound impact on student learning and success in the course, especially as students become reciprocal collaborators with their teams and community partners, synthesize other perspectives (peers, research, community) to create new knowledge, and grapple with political, educational, and social factors that influence our language choices in a variety of situations.  

     

    What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

    Primero que nada, siempre podemos crecer y mejorar nuestra manera de enseñar. We can always design better assignments, activities, and collaborative projects that will lead to student success. For this reason, we should engage in conversations about teaching with our colegas. If we think we have a favorite or best teaching strategy, as I share above, it is highly likely there is a colleague who is doing it more effectively or with a different approach, leading to optimal student learning, success, and engagement. Second, I value reflection, and I believe that engaging in constant reflection about our teaching practices leads to meaningful teaching and learning experiences. When we see ourselves as learners with students on an equal basis, we become active participants in the teaching and learning processes, which provides us with new perspectives on how to revise our teaching practices. Finally, our students possess valuable and complex ideas, languages, theories, and lived experiences that impact how we learn and teach. If we want to create opportunities for all of our students to succeed as future professionals, we should integrate opportunities where they can not only use their many strengths as resources but also showcase their abilities in different ways. Let’s be open and receptive to different meanings, languages, conocimientos y perspectivas so that we can travel in the journey of teaching and learning en colaboración con nuestros estudiantes.