FY 2018-2019

  • September 2018: Mr. Gustavo Dietrich

    Dr. Gustavo Dietrich

    Name: Mr. Gustavo Dietrich

    Department: Computer Science

    College: College of Engineering & Computer Science

     

     

    Currently, I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science. I have worked in the department for nineteen years teaching mostly freshmen and sophomore courses due to my caring approach toward students. My evaluations of teaching effectiveness have being consistently high (in general, above 93% of “excellent/good”). I am always looking for new and better ways to deliver my classes to benefit my students. In 2013 I received the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA) in the Contingent Faculty Category.

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    Teaching has been my passion since I was a college student and that is why I dedicate all my efforts to teaching and to the activities that help recruit and retain students. My two favorite movies are “To Sir, with love” and “Dead Poets Society” because they show my ideal type of teacher: a compassionate one who cares not only about the students’ learning of the specific subject matter of the course but also about those aspects that will make the students better human beings. I always tell my students “when I see you, I see my children.” I strongly believe that the more educated a society can get, the better the decisions it will make and thus teaching is my way to contribute to my community.

     

    What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I tell them that I am the one responsible for the teaching but they are the only ones responsible for their learning. I try to convince them that they are here to learn how to learn new stuff, to learn how to solve problems and the tools of the trade that they will use throughout their professional lives once they graduate. I can use the best pedagogical methods, the most advance technological tools, the best examples, etc., to teach the subject matter but in the end it is exclusively their responsibility to learn it. If they don't do their part (e.g., read the textbook, practice with the tools taught, try to develop their critical thinking skills, work on their problem solving skills), there is nothing that I can do that will make them learn.

     

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

    I try to create a nice environment in my classes so students feel more motivated to learn. My explanations are clear and detailed with lots of analogies. Sometimes I tell them some of my real life experiences to break the ice and give them an example. I also use humor in class to make learning more entertaining. In order to develop their sense of responsibility, I try to establish rules as clear as possible and give them many tools that can be used to succeed. Those tools range from a grade calculator that I have created in Excel (allows them to know what their current grade is at any moment of the semester) to pretty detailed rubrics and handouts with the problem description (ensures they know exactly what they need to do to succeed).

    Fairness is also very important for me and to ensure it, I have developed an Excel spreadsheet that I use for grading assignments according to the specified rubric. This tool allows me to see the whole class grades as I grade each student. It gives me a good reference since I can see the points I have taken to previous students for the same mistake and also see how the class is doing overall. Finally, I call roll every time we meet so I can get to know them better. Once I can identify them, I start using their names when we interact. I want them to know that they are not considered “a student” but “Maria” or “David,” a person who is treated with utmost respect and care. I believe this gives them a greater feeling of belonging to the class, thus increasing their self-esteem and creating a greater sense of responsibility toward the class.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    I try to establish a relationship between the students and I based on mutual respect. I show my respect for them by coming to my lectures with well-prepared examples, analogies, advice, and anything else that can be useful to them for learning the material. I tell them that the best way for them to show respect for me is by getting an A as proof that they have learned the subject matter. Throughout my years here, I have seen course evaluations in which the students have accepted that it was their fault not to do well in class and that really touched me.

    I also use techniques learned in Challenge Based Instruction and Collaborative Learning workshops to keep my lectures well organized and make the students work in groups (when appropriate). To develop or increase my students' self-esteem, I encourage them to participate asking or answering questions and I thank them, using their names, when they contribute to the class. My lectures are pretty intense to keep them engaged like a video game or a catastrophe movie does (they can relax only at the end J) by making them to participate as much as possible.

     

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

    1.Trust your students and be honest with them; when I make a mistake, I accept it and apologize (I try to lead by example) and that makes them trust me.

    1. Respect your students, listen to them; there are many things that I have learned from their feedback or informal conversations with me.
    2. Be fair. Put yourself in their shoes and try to remember what you did when you were a student whenever you have to make a decision that will affect (positively or negatively) them.
    3. Be compassionate. Sometimes I praise them and sometimes I scold them (always explaining what and why is wrong). When they ask me for leniency or to give them another opportunity, I always take some time to think what I should do. In general, I love to help them but there are moments when it is best for them to learn that they will not always get what they want. I always try to base my decision in principles of justice but also in possible outcomes. Since a high percentage of our students are first college generation, sometimes I need to be a little easier on them to encourage them to complete their degree. Each student is a different world and that is how I deal with them.
    4. Don't forget to thank them at the end of the semester for giving you the beautiful possibility to be part of their development which is in the end what we are here for. Isn't it?
  • October 2018: Dr. Timothy Huber

    Dr Timothy Huber

    Name: Dr. Timothy Huber

    Department: Mathematical & Statistical Sciences

    College: College of Sciences

     

    Dr. Timothy Huber began serving as Director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences in 2017. Prior to this, he served as Mathematics Graduate Program Director from 2015 to 2017.

     

    Why is teaching important to you? 

    My role as a teacher is to build students' confidence in their ability to compete and create meaningful ideas. Each student is an expert needing only the tools and opportunities to distinguish themselves. I have the best students in the world. Their success drives my work.

     

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning? 

    I learned from individuals who made their professional work accessible to me through careful and patient explanation. I imitate their example in my own work.

     

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

    As a student, I sat through many lectures. Many these lectures were excellent. However, even an excellent lecture was not sufficient preparation for me to really understand challenging material. After all, one does not become an expert musician by attending concerts given by professional musicians. Without active involvement and generous positive summative assessment, one learns very little. This is what I have in mind when I design activities that elicit discussion and collaboration between students. Knowledge is discovered, not revealed.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning? 

    The best way to teach is to allow learners to gain experience in the subject. My motivation for using the active-learning pedagogical approaches in courses is rooted in my experiences as a student in courses that used the Moore-Method or other active learning techniques. In such courses, students are given a minimum of definitions and axioms and are required to independently piece together a set of more complex results depending on fixed theorems and definitions and other ``ground rules''. I believe these techniques simultaneously challenge students and build confidence in their skills.

     

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

    Experiment with teaching techniques in your classroom to find the best ways to engage learners. Think about challenges you faced as a student. Use these challenges to improve the experience for your own students. Have high standards for yourself and for students. Provide a level of individual support that goes beyond students’ expectations.

  • November 2018: Dr. Linda Belau

    Dr. Linda Belau

    Name: Dr. Linda Belau

    Department: Literatures & Cultural Studies

    College: College of Liberal Arts

     

     

    I am Professor of English and Film Studies in the Department of Literatures and Cultural Studies.  I am also the Director of the Film Studies Program, which includes the Film Studies minor here at UTRGV.  I have been awarded the UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, the University-wide Excellence in Online Teaching Award, and the Provost’s Award for the Advancement of Study Abroad Programs at UTPA.

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    As a first-generation college student, formal education changed both my life and its potential trajectory dramatically.  I will be forever grateful for the excellent education I have received, and I will always remember the amazing professors I worked with at all levels of my education.  Because of this, it important to me to be able to give back to the academic community as a teacher and to work with students who are also in a position to change their lives dramatically with the support of a strong education that gives them the confidence, knowledge, and skills they can use to make a difference in their own lives as well as in the lives of others.

     

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    Teaching and learning are symbiotic activities that reinforce and support each other.  I believe that there is no teaching without learning.  Teaching and learning are also the best ways to engage with the world and to change it for the better.

     

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

    My courses are all supported by a fundamental philosophy, which includes a student-centered environment at its center, that every student can excel in his or her learning.  I work to support all my students and to maintain clear and concise communication so that they know what to expect from my class and so that they can produce their best work.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning? 

    Online teaching combined with traditional forms of delivery.  I believe that the flexibility of online platforms can be combined seamlessly with a more traditional approach to learning, and that this combination serves students well.  It makes them responsible for their learning, but, at the same time, it does not expect them to teach the class to themselves.  It allows for a full commitment to teaching while, at the same time, offering flexibility and support for students who need it.

     

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

    Make an effort to take advantage of the many support networks that abound at UTRGV.

  • December 2018: Dr. Stephanie Alvarez

    dr. _stephanie_alvarez

    Name: Dr. Stephanie Alvarez

    Program: Mexican American Studies

    School: Interdisciplinary Program and Community Engagement

     

     

    UTRGV Center for Teaching Excellence - December Spotlight Video

     

    Stephanie Alvarez, PhD, is currently Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies and Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies. In 2015, she was named the U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for Teaching and C.A.S.E. Alvarez is the only faculty member in the UT System to have ever received the prestigious award. She also received the American Association for Hispanics in Higher Education Outstanding Latina/o Faculty Award in 2012 and in 2009 was among the first ever faculty be named a UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award recipient

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    Teaching is my passion and at UTRGV there is no other place I would rather be than in a classroom. Teaching is important to me because I believe that each student here at UTRGV should have the opportunity to better understand and intellectualize who they are, their families are, their community is and how their learning is applicable in real life. I am in the unique position to participate in that learning process and have seen first-hand how this can be transformative for students. This is also why I am so committed to teaching because these students also then have the ability to then go on and transform our society in a positive way. It is because of these powerful opportunities that I am not only committed to teaching, but retention, graduation and increasing the presence of Chicanxs and Latinxs in Graduate school.

     

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I believe that students and professors should be seen as intellectual equals. The difference is most often one of formal education in the field. However, students bring with them an amazing amount of knowledge and assets that we as educators just need to facilitate them tapping into.  Once that happens students can truly take off in ways that can be transformative.

     

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

    I aim to foster an environment in which all of us engage in lively and challenging dialogue and create an environment in which self-empowerment is possible and lead one another to critically conceive of justice and equality. This means not worrying about simply memorizing information but more importantly engaging in discussions that lead students to critique information, the professor, each other and society.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning? 

    My two favorite teaching strategies are the use of testimonio and community engagement. Through the use of testimonio students gain a better understanding of themselves within a framework of social justice and often are able to translate that into meaningful learning with purpose. In addition to testimonio, community engagement is also a teaching strategy that allows students to see how learning is meaningful and applicable to their real lives and also truly understand their community, its needs and how they fit in as someone with a degree in that community that will allow them to apply culturally appropriate solutions to complex social problems in a variety of ways.

     

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

    My advice to new UTRGV faculty is conocer a sus estudiantes, la comunidad y la historia del Valle. Getting to know who your students are is critical for success in the classroom. However, you truly cannot understand their needs without having an understanding of the community in which we work and the history of the Valley. The history of the Valley is one that demonstrates great challenges for the Mexican American community resulting in many societal inequities. However, the history is also one of great resilience and that resilience is one of the reasons that the students at UTRGV the best I have ever worked with. Lastly, I would also say be a compassionate educator and remember to think back and ask yourself “where was I at this stage of my college career.” I usually find that our students are way ahead of where I was in my college journey at the same age or college year.

  • March 2019: Dr. Muhammad Bhatti

    Dr. Muhammad Bhatti

     Name: Dr. Muhammad Bhatti

     Department: Physics and Astronomy

     College: College of Sciences

     

     

    Muhammad Bhatti, PhD, is currently Professor of Physics in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Dr. Bhatti received numerous awards, among them are UT Chancellor’s Teaching in Excellence Award, University Teaching Excellence Award, Research Excellence award, and Teaching in Technology award.  In 2010, Dr. Bhatti was recipient of the prestigious UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. He also received Teaching/research grants over a period of ten years and was the founder and Director of the “Teacher Training Center” established in the department. Dr.  Bhatti also developed 6 graduate courses and several undergraduate courses for online and face-to-face teaching. He also developed a new Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies program formally known as MSIS in physics and graduated many students from this program.

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    I am enamored with chasing my teaching profession. There is no doubt that while I am teaching, I feel more relaxed explaining the intriguing laws of physics which govern the entire universe.  Teaching is important because teaching provides learners an opportunity to remove misconceptions and it clears the path for my students to become open-minded thinkers. UTRGV provides an excellent multicultural environment where I enabled numerous students in real life and positively impacted the greater community of this region. I have long before realized that enabling students will create new knowledge and spur new industries as well as a highly knowledgeable community. Those are some reasons why I am very much committed to teaching and rewards are potentially enormous.  Teaching lets me pursue a path of making impact on the society and I feel fulfilled.  

     

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I believe that teaching and learning are the basic rights for all humans. These rights should be readily available to our students. Instructors are privileged to teach and guide students to reach their fullest potentials. We should promote teaching and learning at all levels including community, schools, colleges, and universities.  Human knowledge is transferred into modern society when perfect equality and justice for learners is provided. All stakeholders must pursue such dreams. Such type of teaching and learning will produce highly qualified and knowledgeable students.

     

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

    I try to create a friendly and interactive environment in my classroom in which students can question both the instructor and peers. Typically, I engage students in the self-guided inquiry-based learning. Once students discover themselves the facts, there is never a need for memorizing information. With this type of environment, students want to engage in open dialogue and discussion.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning? 

    My teaching strategy hinges on stimulating inquiry-based learning. I convince my students that we are living in a rapidly changing world, therefore, expanding and deepening our base of knowledge is a worthwhile endeavor. The inquiry approach helps students gain new knowledge. To see the gains in their knowledge, these are most rewarding moments of my career. With this strategy, students can remove their misconceptions from their minds and clearly transport new knowledge learned to their peers and greater community. Finally, they connect with the conceptual topics provided in the books.  As the students discover and learn themselves through inquiry-based learning, they no longer need a guide.

     

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

    My advice to new UTRGV faculty is to become enamored with chasing your passion.  Teaching passion is not about making money; it is about feeling fulfilled. When you give without expecting anything in return, listen to your students with open heart, and are generous with your time, you will feel full. We are a part of larger diverse community, a larger world that needs our unique gifts. True fulfillment comes when you pursue meaning and create more impact on other people and the world.  I would also like to add to become compassionate and a generous educator.

  • April 2019: Dr. Dagoberto Eli Ramirez

    Dr. Dagoberto Eli Ramirez

     Name: Dr. Dagoberto Eli Ramirez 

     College: University College

     

     

    I am currently a UTRGV Lecturer II, and have been primarily teaching UNIV 1301 Learning Framework (a transition from high school to college course for first-year scholars focused on learning about learning) for 5 years. Additionally, I have also taught MASC 2301 Introduction to Mexican American Studies, EDBE 3323 Development of Bilingualism, LDST 2335 Leadership for Community Engagement, and COUN 6301 Introduction to Research in Counseling. I am slated to teach COUN 6304 Human Growth and Development in the Summer II 2019 semester. In my service to my department, college, and the UTRGV institution, I have presented strategies for academic success to students during lunch-hour sessions, met with parents of incoming freshman and first-year students during family orientation sessions, shared effective teaching strategies and activities with faculty colleagues via our CTE and multiple other venues, and have served on numerous committees including the UTRGV Awards Committee. Although as a full-time Lecturer II faculty member I am not required to conduct research, I am currently involved in two IRB-approved research projects, one on helping immigrant women living in a local housing authority surface their poignant, important literacies, and the other on the role that early childhood and adolescent experiences influence the development of leadership skills and styles of current and former Mexican American superintendents on the US-Mexico border in deep south Texas. Other accomplishments include: being invited to give keynote addresses at both the UTRGV Bilingual Education Student Association (BESO) fall 2017 ceremony and the Los Fresnos High School ELEVA (English Learners, Educated Voices for Advancement) fall 2017 Posada; getting accepted to present at the Texas Association of Bilingual Education (TABE) state-wide conference, the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) national conference, and the First Year Experience national conference; and, receiving the UT System’s Regents Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA) for 2018.

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    Teaching is important to me because it gives me a platform from which to help young emerging scholars become the best scholars they can be. As I tell my students, no one does it alone, as we all stand on the shoulders of others that went before us; as such, I want to be those shoulders to my scholars, offering them both the gentle, encouragement push and the embracing support system they will need as they learn to navigate the university systems in place here at UTRGV. As their teacher of record, I seek to primarily facilitate my scholars’ learning process, while also acknowledging that they too teach each other in and out of our class. It is important to me that my students see all humans they encounter and have access to (including teachers, advisors, classmates, librarians, staff members at all offices on campus, our groundskeepers, administration, custodians, cooks, bus drivers, police officers, etc.) as holders of key knowledge that could, might help them in some teaching and learning relationship to be potentially used in some academic setting. Teaching in an experience-based hands-on approach and environment where students are encouraged to access experiential strategies and activities, is an important aspect of my teaching commitment, as well. I develop and deploy learning experiences that take my students and me beyond the four walls of our classroom. We take campus field trips where we can access and reflect on those learning sites and places (including the Escandon statue at the northeast corner of campus, the facilities and available tools at the campus library, our organic vegetable gardens, etc.) where we allow these settings to speak to us as we connect our course work and student learning outcomes to those places. Most important to me is the fact that helping young minds determine for themselves what they now want to passionately pursue as a direction, path, and career is a kernel portion of my teaching profession, and I welcome that responsibility and charge.

     

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    My beliefs towards teaching and learning are based on the foundational belief that the process is not a one-way street from teacher to learner. I see teaching and learning as a back-and-forth ongoing relationship-building dialog between the teacher and the student, as both switch roles constantly, always facilitating the learning for the student and the learning for the teacher, as well. This mutual, symbiotic relationship between teacher and learner is at its best when both participants (teacher and student) view themselves as equal partners, with the minor differentiating point that one works with due diligence to earn a grade and the other facilitates the process and posts the earned grade. Additionally, I firmly believe that learning is a construction of newfound and newly created knowledge and is not a mere reception of previously developed knowledge that is out there already in existence to be captured, packaged, and dumped into the learner’s learning receptacle (brain) to then be found, engaged, and consumed by the learner. Because learning is creation, both the teacher and the student must be willing and able co-creators of that experience and knowledge that can lead both parties to wisdom. Teaching and learning is, therefore, not a stagnant event for single individuals, but rather, an exciting and dynamic process that has the potential to create and bring communities of teacher-learners and learner-teachers together.

     

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

    I create a positive, needs-fulfilling safe space in my classroom where students can experience the challenges of learning to learn in a nurturing environment that pushes them to thrive in the scholarly rigor required at this post-secondary level, while being supported in their inevitable moments of pitfalls and slips. I often ask my learners, “So, do you believe that you are most likely to learn more from your successes or from your failures?” Of course, there is no black-and-white either-or answer, as each situation is unique, and one surely can learn from successes and failures. The reason I ask my learners the question is to try to help them dispel for themselves the engrained myth that so often my students arrive with at my UNIV 1301 Learning Framework (or any of the other courses I have taught) classroom – that a student can only become an increasingly better scholar by only experiencing success after success, and that failure and setbacks are wrong and bad for any student. Thus, allowing students to stall, falter, and, yes, maybe even not succeed (or fail) at some things can be the beginning of finding a better, new, different trajectory that will possibly next lead to success, and I seek to make my classroom that place of experimentation, imagination, and attempts at being new again. I tell my students that as a teacher, each interaction I have with my young, emerging scholars as they build upon successes and failures gives me a chance to learn from them, thus, a chance to be new again, even at my age of 62, and I often thank them for that.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    Structured cooperative learning is my anchor teaching strategy that fosters in-depth student learning, as well as relationship-building opportunities for my students. I share with my scholars that here in our classroom, as in life, we will have the opportunity to first learn things together (in a respectful, collaborative, interdependent setting, that can also result in collegial, productive fun, as well) and then perform those things independently for individual accountability at a subsequent time and place. Properly structured cooperative learning helps break the false narrative that the world of academia (and, subsequently, the workplace itself) is a purely competitive dog-eat-dog place where one can only advance successfully at the expense of others failing miserably, and thus one ought to hide one’s talents from others, lest they risk losing some perceived edge they must keep in the dark from their peers. Cooperative learning has the potential to teach that the world is, in fact, a collaborative, cooperative life laboratory where all participants can both teach each other and learn from each other as they navigate the worlds of academia and work. Yes, there are competitive struggles one must go through, especially in entering the arena – getting accepted into school and securing jobs – but once in the arena, the worlds are much more collaborative than competitive. Teaching students this phenomena, and teaching them the skills of collegial cooperation, helps them harness not only the material of any course I teach, but also the mindset and attitude of working together in many teams for many purposes.

     

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

    One first piece of advice I would share with new UTRGV faculty members is that viewing and embracing all students they meet as asset-bearing young, emerging scholars, as opposed to deficiency-laden vessels of entitlement and mediocrity, is the beginning of a successful teaching and learning relationship they can develop immediately. I have found that all students bring positive assets to the teaching and learning equation, and sometimes it is just a matter of conducting due diligence and looking closely in order to help uncover those key constructive properties that at times lay hidden, just below the obvious surface. A second piece of advice I’d offer is to never be afraid to ask others, if you’re not sure of something, anything. There is always at least one someone that has the information, data, and experience he/she is more than willing to share. Just look around and ask. And a third piece of advice I would give to a new UTRGV faculty member is to only stick around here at UTRGV while and if it is something you wake up every morning and truly look forward to in an excited, smiling, and happy mood. Teaching at the university level can be such a positive, rewarding, and fulfilling endeavor, and it has great potential for making a tremendous difference in many lives about to embark on new directions and exciting careers. The key to all this advice here is to be ever-mindful of yourself and in the present moment. UTRGV is a world-class institution of higher education because it has attracted and fostered many focused, mindful, caring students and faculty, and it will continue to be a world leader if new faculty members follow this proven approach.

     

  • May 2019: Ms. Erika Perez

    Erika Perez

     Name: Ms. Erika Perez

     College: University College

     

     

    I am a Lecturer within the Learning Framework Program, I teach the UNIV 1301 course, a course dedicated to help first year students learn about the psychology of learning and its application to their own university experience and to their chosen major/profession.  As a former Fellow for Community Engaged Scholarship for the Center for Teaching Excellence, I find value in connecting UNIV 1301 students with experiential learning opportunities and equipping Faculty in developing community engaged projects within their discipline that will impact student success. 

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    In order to grow and understand the world and ourselves we have to invest in learning.  I believe that through teaching I can help transform the lives of students by impacting their educational development, guiding them to acquire skills that will advance their goals and by championing their lives purpose. All students need someone in their life who believes in them, and as a teacher it is important to me to challenge, support and inspire students to think of themselves as holders of knowledge and as individuals who can be of influence in this world.

     

    What are your beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    When I think of teaching and learning, I think of thinking and doing. All students should have the opportunity to learn, apply and engage with others as they learn. I see learning as an individual and as community experience, each student has something to contribute and all students hold knowledge that can be shared and learned by others. This belief makes teaching and learning a collective experience, everyone is responsible for teaching and learning to occur.

     

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

    I enjoy creating an environment that is transparent and empowering for students. There is no hidden agenda, all students are aware of my teaching strategies, weekly activities, deadlines, expectations and outcomes for the course. If students are provided clarity and direction they will better perform, it is part of sharing your “why” to students, “Why do you enjoy teaching the course? Why is the course important? Why are the projects or assignments relevant? Why is the course valuable to their college and future experiences?” Providing clarity at the beginning of the semester and at an ongoing basis will empower students to care for the knowledge provided and for their success in the course.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    Cooperative Learning would be among my favorite teaching strategies because it helps foster responsibility and accountability for learning by each student. Cooperative Learning encourages students to stay motivated, build relationships, and work together to achieve a goal. I have personally experienced how this strategy helps students build rapport with one another, creates trust and generates an environment that is comfortable and welcoming to all.

     

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

    Make an effort to know your students and the community in which you serve. When you know your students and have a genuine interest in their success, students will 1. Notice and respond to your interest with care, 2. Will see you as a person of influence in their lives and 3. Will be more likely to be committed to learning and applying what they learn in and outside of the classroom. The Faculty to student relationship matters and contributes to their over college success. 

  • June 2019: Dr. Mario Gil

    Dr. Mario Gil

     Name: Dr. Mario Gil 

     Department: Psychological Science

     College: College of Liberal Arts

     

     

    I am currently as assistant professor in the department of Psychological Science, with a joint appointment in the School of Medicine department of Neurosciences. I am a behavioral neuroscientist by training. I primarily teach undergraduate-level courses, including physiological psychology (PSYC 3353) and animal behavior (PSYC 3383), that I currently teach. And I have taught general psychology (PSYC 2301) and research methods in psychology (PSYC 3325) courses. I also have experience teaching and designing course content for the medical school’s Mind Brain and Behavior module for second-year medical students.

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    I’ve been fortunate throughout my academic career in that I have received mentorship and support from outstanding neuroscientists who have made significant contributions to our understanding of how the brain regulates behavior. Teaching, for me, is an opportunity to inspire, as well as share and pass on this information to the next generation of leaders – my students!

     

    What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    When I first started teaching, I did not do a good job of engaging my students. That is, I used to just deliver (predictable) lectures in class; and students were expected to read the textbook and complete multiple-choice exams throughout the semester. I essentially created an environment in which my students were passive consumers of information. Over the years, as I have gained experience as an educator, I now firmly believe that teaching and learning activities should empower students and encourage them to be active learners. I view myself as a mentor to my students, and one of my major goals is to facilitate the learning process, so that students can develop the skills and foundational knowledge that they will need to succeed in their future endeavors. 

     

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

    I use a number of teaching strategies to stimulate student participation, which is necessary for creating an active learning environment. With the help and support of the Center for Online Learning and Teaching Technology (COLTT), I’ve created two hybrid courses. The hybrid course model allows me to use both online and face-to-face activities in a way that facilitates active learning. I now post videos of my lectures on BlackBoard (Bb), and students submit assignments and complete assessments via Bb as well; most students appreciate this, as it gives them more flexibility and control of their learning activities. A major benefit of delivering content and resources online (via Bb) is that it allows me to use valuable in-class time for creative activities that are designed to engage students. I start all of my classes with a 10- to 15-minute (group) quiz. Each quiz comprises four to five challenge questions, and groups are required to discuss the topics at hand and submit their answers via a special app on their mobile devices. After all groups submit their answers, I review their answers, acknowledge the groups that have done exceptionally well, and moderate an active in-class discussion. I also deliver microlectures when appropriate, invite guest speakers to simulate student interest, and have students work on group projects (during class time). Collectively, these strategies, when effectively implemented, help ensure that each student is actively involved in the learning process. 

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    Students in my courses are required to work on a major group project throughout the semester. These projects require students to work as a team to accomplish a series of assignment objectives and the final goal of delivering a group presentation to me and their peers. I act as a mentor, guide, and resource, and I enjoy using group activities and interactions as a strategy to foster student learning. I also use these group projects as an opportunity to help students develop research skills. That is, a major goal of these activities is to help students conduct their own research, as well as analyze and interpret the data that they collect. It is extremely rewarding to watch my students apply the scientific method to address issues that are relevant to psychology and mental health.

     

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

    As a learning facilitator and mentor to my students, I often remind them to acknowledge that they are not perfect, that learning challenging concepts requires hard work and effort, and that improving one’s performance depends on patience and experience. This, I believe, also applies to the process of becoming an effective educator. I encourage new UTRGV faculty members to take advantage of the resources provided to all faculty members. I participated in the Hybrid Academy, a special program sponsored by COLTT that provides support and training for faculty members who are interested in learning how to develop hybrid courses. I’ve also participated in informational sessions about the different education technology platforms, like Bb and Canvas, with the goal of learning how to use various software program features to facilitate the students’ interactions with course content and learning assessment tools. The Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) offers workshops, presentations, and trainings on various topics related to improving student learning outcomes. Take advantage of these opportunities. I have benefited tremendously from participating in these CTE sessions, and I encourage others to do the same. The Office of Student Academic Success has a great service learning program. As part of my students’ group projects, our team (i.e., my students and I) establishes a partnership with a community partner and we conduct research and other project activities that benefits our partner. This is an example of service learning. For faculty members who are interested in using service learning in their courses, I suggest that you reach out the Office of Student Academic Success and request assistance in identifying potential community partners. Finally, I highly encourage new faculty members to seek advice, guidance, and mentorship from their more experienced (and successful) colleagues. I am very appreciative of the advice and support I’ve received from my colleagues over the years. We’re part of a greater community of educators and scientists, and it’s critical that we work together and learn from each other, so that we can educate and empower our students. 

     

     

  • July 2019: Sylvia Robles

    Sylvia Robles

    Name: Sylvia Robles

    Department: Intl Business & Entrepreneurship 

    College: College of Business & Entrepreneurship

    I’m a visionary entrepreneur and lecturer who assist small businesses and students to craft their entrepreneurial dreams. In 2002, I discovered my true passion in the education field, and in 2007,  I designed and implemented a triple helix model called “Adopta una Empresa”  linking the University, Startups, and Government, and developed more than 80 startups, registered more than 47 trademarks, 4 patents, 3 utility models, etc. In Fall 2015, I started to assist RGV startups with the UTRGV students’ intervention, and have supported more than 250 managers and 55 startups to build their business plans based in the Business Model Canvas. In fall 2017, I launched the “Adopt a Startup at UTRGV program” in partnership with the Women’s Business Center of Cameron County and Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center. Also, my students have placed either first, second and/or third during the last three UTRGV Rafael Munguia Annual Business Plan Competitions. I was appointed as the faculty advisor of the CEO Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization Chapter Brownsville that was successfully launched on October 2016, and in 2017 and 2019 I was nominated as the Faculty Advisor of the Year, and recently the CEO President was awarded as the “Student Leader of the Year”. On April 2017, 2018 and 2019, I have encouraged my students to participate at the Engaged Scholar Symposium by presenting a poster showing how UTRGV students actively impact the economy and the business community by adopting startups or creating their own ventures, or by assisting local managers to solve a current management problem (traditional and online management courses). During 2018-2019, I’ve been acting as the Women Faculty Network (WFN) member at large representing Brownsville. During 2017 and 2018, I acted as the WFN Achievement & Advancement Committee’s secretary, and have assisted to launch the First and Second WFN Newsletter editions to promote UTRGV women faculty achievements. During 2018, I was elected as the Faculty Fellow for the Spring 2018 Faculty Learning Community on Community Engaged Scholarship in Brownsville, and I was re-appointed to facilitate the Summer 2018 FLC on CES cohort. Also, I was awarded as the Faculty Member of the Month (March 2018) by the Engaged Scholarship and Learning at UTRGV. Last year, I was awarded by the SBA Small Business Administration as the 2018 Small Business Woman Champion. This Spring, I was nominated for the 2018-19 UTRGV Faculty Excellence Award in Community Engaged Scholarship. Finally, I participate as a volunteer facilitating the Business Planning module at the Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp around RGV to assist business women, and as speaker in local and international forums like the Governor's Small Business Conference, Women in Entrepreneurship Week, Kauffman Fast-Track, Foro Empresarial, CEO National Conference, etc. 

     

    Why is teaching important to you?

    I have realized through the more than 15 years in the education field that teaching is my true passion. Through teaching I can inspire and motivate students to discover their potential, creativity, values, lights, and shadows. My mission is to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability, community engagement, and new venture creation by EMPOWERING my students and promoting entrepreneurial spirit, collaborative research projects, teamwork, communication, leadership, decision making, critical thinking, etc. My objective is to take my students out of their comfort zone, and even sometimes to push them to their limits just so they may discover the treasure of sharing their knowledge with the community. I empower students so they may empower and inspire others.

     

    What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning?

    I believe in making possible for students to finish the semester with the sense of accomplishment not only in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of personal growth. I believe that my job is “done” if my students complete my course possessing an inner treasure nobody will take away from them.  Moreover, I’m satisfied when I see how confident they become with the ability to replicate what they have learned and improve as they continue their professional path. I try to always encourage them to “be the manager” or “be the entrepreneur” by implementing community engaged scholarship activities, interdisciplinary collaboration with other UTRGV colleges, agencies, organizations, etc. When students have the freedom to choose the company they want to adopt or the manager they want to assist, I allow them to mature and propose new ways to solve things. I’m very pleased when I read their reflections thanking for the opportunity to create, to think on their own, to propose alternative solutions to solve a problem, to research, to discover, to grow, and have a grasp of what it means to be a manager or an entrepreneur through hands on and real experiences.

     

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

    Since the very first day, I try to build trust by believing in my students’ greatness and uniqueness. Also, I make an effort to do my own research, and get to know my students before classes start. I show them “all” they can accomplish through the semester by stablishing clear objectives, clarifying expectations, and making commitments. Students appreciate a clear course’s organization from beginning to end. I make myself accessible specially when teaching online, and create a welcoming atmosphere. I try to be honest by letting them know that I don’t know everything, but I’m there to motivate them and look for answers together as their coach, facilitator, and co-learner. Although, sometimes it’s hard, I try to build a sense of belongingness. Most of the time, our students do not have the opportunity to be themselves, to express, to share, to laugh, etc. I encourage them to have fun while they work really hard. Finally, if I’m teaching entrepreneurship courses I treat my students as entrepreneurs and set the scenario to simulate the business environment so they can speak, dress, interact as other entrepreneurs. Suddenly, they start acting as one to then become the entrepreneur of their own lives.

     

    What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

    My favorite teaching strategy is the Project-Based Learning (PBL) and of course I always try to incorporate a CES project. Through this strategy, I make learning relevant to my students by establishing connections when designing “out of the building” activities and by addressing real world issues. This model gives me the opportunity to build relationships with students by acting as their coach, facilitator, and co-learner. Consequently, I empower my students when they conduct research, explore, prove their hypothesis, make their own conclusions, synthetize their learning, share their discoveries, present their outcomes in a weekly basis, write a business plan or a management report, interact with people, work in teams, develop a sense of ownership, and definitely create magic. Students learn to share their knowledge and experiences with the community and truly impact others. At the end of the semester, when the teams compete against each other, each team tries its best as this may give the adopted entrepreneur the opportunity to continue growing through the prize of the incubation process for the winner. The satisfaction to assist a real startup and witness its growth and success supports developing a lifelong commitment to civic engagement. Finally, through this strategy, I’m able to prepare students for engagement, promote ongoing reflection and/or critical analysis as I intentionally integrate community-based needs and academic learning objectives to address societal needs with reciprocal benefits for community partners, campus partners, and students.

     

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

    Get to know your students, and let your students know you care about them. Do your homework by knowing your customer’s profile, so you can build a strong relationship with your students even through online courses. Try to participate in key trainings and courses offered by our institution, do your research, join a club, organization, etc., learn about our mission and vision statements and determine how you can be a change agent in this evolving process, try to network, be positive about your mission in UTRGV, share your knowledge with other colleagues, try to incorporate a service learning or CES in your courses, motivate others, make learning relevant, incorporate active involvement for all students, along with high expectations, give good feedback, promote reflection, be patient, and most important enjoy the journey.