Educator Day Session Presenters

Nicole Saenz

Education Specialist
Region One ESC GEAR UP Partnership

Nicole Saenz Portrait

Nicole Saenz is a former ELA teacher who is now working with the Region One ESC GEAR UP: Ready, Set, College! Partnership and focused on making a difference in the lives of students across the region. She acquired her Bachelors and Masters degrees in English (Literature) from the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, TX. Nicole began teaching in the fall of 2007 at her alma mater, Weslaco High School, and over the years taught everything from regular education, to Pre-AP, AP, and Dual Enrollment English courses. She was honored to be selected as the District Secondary Teacher of the Year for 2010-2011, and then made the transition to Region One in the spring of 2012. As an Education Specialist, Nicole is leading the implementation of MyRegionOne.org, which is being used by 20,000 students across the region.

Raegan Wall

Trailblazer Facilitator
Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering

Raegan Wall Portrait

Raegan Wall has over 20 years of experience as an educator in technology. His background includes teaching computer science, CTE instructor, working as a network administrator and serving as a district technology director. He is currently a Trailblazer Facilitator for the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering, delivering hands-on science experiences to students throughout the state of Texas.

Charles Zeissel

Math Teacher
Santa Rosa High School
HESTEC 2015 Teacher of the Year

Charles Zeissel Portrait

This is Mr. Zeissel’s 40th year in education. Mr. Zeissel started as an elementary / pre-school physical education aide and went on to teach 4 more years at the elementary level. Mr. Zeissel was a Critical Skills teacher (a federal program) for 3 of those years, and he taught 1 year as a 6th grade teacher at a Christian school. This was before the middle school concept came into being. He next taught 13 years in the 8th grade, and then moved onto the high school. This is now his 22nd year of teaching at the high school level, and he has taught Geometry, Algebra 1 and 2 (regular and Pre-AP), and Calculus 1. Mr. Zeissel have also had the opportunity to be an athletic coach and teach refresher math to post high school graduates in an LVN nursing program.

He began rapping as an 8th grade teacher in hopes of getting EQ (Extra Quality) appraisal points so as to move up the Career Ladder for extra pay. When he moved to the high school level, he branched out and began singing parody math songs. He likes to have fun with this. Hopefully, the students also have fun and maybe learn some math along the way.

He could not have done any of this without the influence of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life. To Him be all the honor, praise, and glory.

Bertha T. Venegas

State Outreach Specialist - Texas
United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service

Bertha T. Venegas Portrait

Bertha T. Venegas serves as State Outreach Specialist for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas. In her position, she serves as NRCS Liaison coordinating outreach efforts with organizations that work closely with socially disadvantaged and limited resources farmers and ranchers with program information and planning and application of conservation work. She is in charge of managing the state outreach operations and coordinates with colleges and universities for the recruitment of new employees.

In her 27 years of service with the federal government, she has also served as Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Coordinator assisting rural communities in central and south Texas providing leadership in resource management and sustainability to local, state and federal entities, community based organizations, nonprofits and individuals. She served in various positions including Soil Conservationist and District Conservationist in Eagle Pass, San Antonio, Hondo, Boerne and Johnson City providing financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers.

She served as Acting National Hispanic Emphasis Program Manager and serves as an Instructor for the National Employee Development Center (NEDC). Mrs. Venegas was honored by the Chief of NRCS with the National Civil Rights Award and has received numerous awards and recognitions with the agency. She was presented with the Outstanding Coordinator Award by the Southwestern States RC&D Association. She served as President of the National Organization of Professional Hispanic NRCS Employees and was honored with both the Leadership and Visionary Awards.

Bertha, a native Texan, was born and raised in Eagle Pass. She attended Southwest Texas State University (Texas State University) in San Marcos where she received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.

Mrs. Venegas is married and has two teenagers. In her spare time, she likes to work on her family ranch managing native wildlife. She enjoys spending time were her family, hunting and fishing.

Craig Wilson, Ph.D.

Director, USDA Future Scientist Program, USDA Eastern Business Center, Senior Research Associate, Center for Mathematics and Science Education (CMSE) College of Science, Texas A&M University

Craig Wilson, Ph.D. Portrait

Dr. Wilson was born in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland but grew up in England and attended Oxford University. He met his Texan wife in Iceland and they had their three children in The Kalahari Desert in Botswana, Africa where he was working.

He now works within the College of Science in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education (CMSE) at Texas A&M University where he obtained his Ph.D. in Science Education, Curriculum and Instruction.

He has an office in the USDA Building in College Station, alongside which has been created a USDA People’s Garden complete with Monarch Waystation (butterfly garden), pond and ‘Texas pocket prairie’ where students are able to spend a day working on science activities. You are welcome to visit anytime. It is open to the public.

He has taught for forty years on three continents in situations ranging from beneath a huge thorn tree on the edge of the Kalahari Desert to experimenting with weightlessness on NASA’s KC-135.

He coordinated a NASA funded program-the National Space Biomedical Research Institute-Teacher Academy Project (NSBRI TAP) looking at the impact of long duration space flight on the human body and has flown on NASA’s Vomit Comet.

He has worked with teachers in all fifty states and has taught in 36 states, including Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

He currently directs the USDA Future Scientists Program.
The program received:
1) The USDA Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity Award 2007
2) The International SETAC/Menzie Environmental Education Award in 2014
3) The Outstanding Accomplishment in STEM Education Support Award from the Federal Laboratories Consortium (FLC) Southeast Region, also in 2014
The program is recognized as an Exemplary Science Program (ESP) by the National Association of Science Teachers (NSTA).

Student Leadership Day Session Presenters

Joe Castillo

Education Specialist
Region One GEAR UP

Joe Castillo Portrait

Joe Castillo is an GEAR UP Education Specialist for the Region One GEAR UP: Ready, Set, College Partnership Grant. He has been in education for 25 years. For 15 years, he has been involved with the GEAR UP program, first as a campus facilitator and then as a special projects coordinator for UTPA GEAR UP and now as an GEAR UP education specialist for Region One ESC Ready, Set, College! Partnership. Currently, he serves to promote counselor training, college entrance exams training, and implements a comprehensive student leadership and retention program designed to empower students. His education beliefs stem from his many years of working with students from elementary to college age. He believes that all students will learn when provided sufficient time, quality instruction, and multiple opportunities.

Raegan Wall

Trailblazer Facilitator
Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering

Raegan Wall Portrait 2

Raegan Wall has over 20 years of experience as an educator in technology. His background includes teaching computer science, CTE instructor, working as a network administrator and serving as a district technology director. He is currently a Trailblazer Facilitator for the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering, delivering hands-on science experiences to students throughout the state of Texas.

Erick Juarez Campos

Procter & Gamble: Consumer Insights & Products Researcher for Hand Dish North America & Latin America

Erick Juarez Campos Portrait

Graduated from UT – PanAmerican (UTRGV) 2013: Biology BS & 3 minors in Chemistry, English Literature, and Spanish Literature

Graduated from Nikki Rowe High School 2009

Have been living in Cincinnati Ohio for 3 years, lived 8yrs in McAllen Texas and born and raised in Mexico

Married for little over a year to UTPA Alumni

Current role responsibilities entail:

  • Fully understanding
    • hand dish consumer behaviors
    • market trends
    • competitive landscape
    • scientific translation of consumer needs and product benefits to design new products or improve current ones
    • Connecting with counterparts from around the world to reapply global insights

Passion areas responsibilities entail:

  • Recruiting Science Leader for P&G at UTRGV and come every fall to look for potential talent
  • Co-leading the Generation Y employees organization for my site in Cincinnati to improve the generational culture
  • Co-leading the New Hires Organization for my site to mentor new employees and help them expand their network

Previous experience at P&G:

  • Front End Innovation Product Designer/Formulator in Global Liquid Detergent Business
    • Worked with China, Brazil, North America, Western Europe and Middle East Africa regions designing forthcoming products under Tide and Ariel brands

As UTPA student:

  • Interned at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati OH - junior year of college (summer 2012)
    • Product Design/Formulation for Liquid Detergent North America Hotel Business
    • Offered full time position after internship
  • UTPA Student Union Manager – Work Study

Jose G. Carreno Sr.

Process Control Systems Specialist
ExxonMobil Baytown Chemical Plant -Baytown, Texas 77522

Electronic Engineering Degree from DeVry Institute of Technology in 1974. A 36 year ExxonMobil employee with current job assignment being Complex Security & Controls Coordinator for 17 Process Control Centers where equipment needs to be accessed with security standards related to user accounts, password protection, log in and log out procedures, software licensing, physical security, and regular risk assessment stewardship. Past President of ExxonMobil's Houston GOAL (Global Organization for The Advancement of Latinos) Network), Mentor and Promoter of STEM Field Education, and Junior Acvhievement Consultant for past 27 years in the Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District in Baytown, Texas.

Laura A. Escamilla, MPA

Executive Director
Stars Scholarship Fund

Laura A. Escamilla, MPA Portrait

Laura Escamilla serves as Executive Director of Stars Scholarship fund where she works collaboratively with a statewide board of directors, staff, higher education institutions, businesses and nonprofit serving the region to build a more visible, influential and resilient organization. Laura ensures Stars Scholarship Fund’s effectiveness by providing strategic, operational, and ethical leadership that is consistent with the mission, values, policies and contractual obligations of the organization.

Laura has worked with Stars Scholarship Fund for ten years. Prior to serving as Executive Director in 2012, Laura served as Public Relations Coordinator for Stars Scholarship Fund. Before joining Stars Scholarship Fund, Laura worked for Security First Credit Union as Marketing Coordinator for the non-profit organization. In addition to the twelve years of non-profit experience, Laura has 5 years of experience in advertising and customer relations working for both the Austin American Statesman and The McAllen Monitor.

With fifteen years of experience in business and nonprofit fields, Laura possesses a solid background in budget development, management, planning and analysis and business leadership. Laura earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA) and a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Texas – Pan American.

Commander Jeffrey Michael Reynolds

Executive Officer, NRD San Antonio

Commander Jeffrey Michael Reynolds Portrait

A native of Raleigh, N.C., CDR Reynolds holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Appalachian State University in North Carolina and a Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. CDR Reynolds was commissioned through Officer’s Candidate School at NAS Pensacola, Fla in April of 1999 and earned his wings of gold as a Naval Aviator in June 2001.

After completion of initial training as an E-2C Hawkeye Aviator with the “Greyhawks” of VAW-120 CDR Reynolds reported to the “Seahawks” of VAW-126 home ported at NS Norfolk, VA for his first operational flying tour served as the Line Division, Pilot Training and Personnel Officers completing two deployments with Carrier Air Wing THREE (CVW-3) on board USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-75) in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

In October 2005, CDR Reynolds returned to VAW-120 as a Fleet Replacement Squadron Carrier Qualification Instructor. In addition to his flight instructor duties he fulfilled the roles of Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) Officer, Commander Naval Air Forces NATOPS Fleet Evaluator and the NATOPS Model Manager responsible for training students, other instructors and enforcing flee-wide procedural standardization.

In April, 2008 CDR Reynolds reported to Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW-9) as the Air Wing Staff Officer detached to the “Golden Hawks” of VAW-112 in Point Mugu, CA serving as the Air Warfare Officer and Air Wing N-6, completing a WESTPAC deployment on board USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN-73). At the conclusion of his Staff tour in February of 2010 he was assigned permanently to the “Golden Hawks” of VAW-112 as a squadron department head. During his tour with VAW-112 he served as the Safety, Administrative, Operations and Maintenance Officers and completed two deployments with CVW-9 in support of Operations NEW DAWN and ENDURING FREEDOM.

In November of 2012 CDR Reynolds reported to the US Naval WAR College, Newport Rhode Island where he completed his Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) requirements and earned his Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies with a concentration in Asia/Pacific Studies.

Reporting to the Joint Staff in December of 2013, CDR Reynolds served as the Special Technical Operations Chief, Deputy Director for Global Operations, Operations Directorate, Joint Staff where he was directly responsible to the Director for Operations (J-3) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for oversight and coordination of worldwide Special Technical Operations. He assumed the position of Executive Officer of Navy Recruiting District San Antonio in March 2016.

CDR Reynolds has accumulated more than 2,500 flight hours and 500 carrier arrested landings. His personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Strike Flight Air Medal (Sixth Award), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (Third Award), Joint Service Achievement Medal (Second Award), the Naval Achievement Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and numerous campaign and unit awards.

Master Chief Eric Mayes

Command Master Chief, NRD San Antonio

Master Chief Eric Mayes Portrait

CMDCM (SW/IDW/EXW/FMF) Eric LaWayne Mayes was born October 4, 1969 in Birmingham, AL and graduated from Jess Lanier High School in Bessemer, Alabama in 1988. CMDCM Mayes reported for active duty in the United States Navy on January 26, 1989 and, after completing basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois, attended Hospital Corpsman “A” School. His follow-up training was Field Medical Service School in September of 1989. In October of 1989, he reported for duty National Naval Medical Center; duties included working on seventh West (an internal medicine ward), recovery room, and Surgery Clinic.

While still stationed at NNMC, he deployed to Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 1991. While stationed there he also attended Operating Technician Room. In 1992, he then transferred to 2nd Medical Battalion, Headquarters and Battalion, where he reported and worked at French Creek Clinic for 3 years as Clinic’s Treatment Room Assistant Leading Petty Officer, charged with 2nd Medical Battalions and Dental Battalion sick-call and minor surgical procedures. He advanced to Second Class Petty Officer while he was there. In 1995, he transferred and reported to the Pensacola, Florida in July for duty as an Operating Room Technician. While assigned to Naval Hospital Pensacola, Operating Room, he served as Leading Chief Petty Officer for over 40 active duty and reserve enlisted personnel.

CMDCM Mayes after a successful tour at Pensacola, Florida attended Independent Duty Corpsman in October 1997; the “C” School was for one year and while there was advanced to Petty Officer First Class in October 1998. He then transferred to Sigonella, Italy Naval Hospital where he worked at Naval Air Station (NAS II) Clinic, as Independent Corpsman and Assistance Leading Petty Officer of 30 Active Duty Sailors. His duties was far and between and one of his duties was as a SPRINT team member, where he was given an opportunity to assist the US Cole personnel after the ship was hit.

After, serving at the US Naval Hospital for 3 years, he transferred to US Naval Hospital Lemoore in December 2001. While stationed there he was advanced to Chief Hospital Corpsman in 2002. While stationed there he served as Command Career Counselor for 300 Active Duty personnel and Senior Independent Duty Corpsman for the Naval Air Stationed for 2000 Active Duty Sailors.

Transferring early, CMDCM Mayes PCS’d to a PRECOMM unit called Mobile Security Squadron SEVEN, in Guam. This opportunity assumed was rewarding and a challenging job as Leading Chief Petty Officer and Medical Officer (Independent Duty). During this time he received & qualified for the Expeditionary Warfare pin. In October 2008, he then transferred to Naval Operational Medical Institute Detachment Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute… While at NEMTI he was the Acting SEA and Senior Instructor/MTS Coordinator. He deployed to Afghanistan for several months with 2MEB. After 3 years there he transferred to the USS Blue Ridge as the Department Leading Chief Petty Officer/IDC.

While stationed on the USS Blue Ridge, he qualified as Enlisted Surface Warfare and Enlisted Informational Dominance Warfare pin; in addition, he was selected as Master Chief and selected to the US Navy Command Master Chief Program.

In June 2015, CMDCM Mayes reported to NRD San Antonio, Texas, as the Command Master Chief. He is married and has two sons.

CMDCM Mayes awards earned are the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with three gold star, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with four gold star, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal with four bronze stars, Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with bronze star, Sea Service Ribbon with four bronze stars, Overseas Service Ribbon with four bronze star, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), and Sharpshooter Ribbons for Rifle and Pistol. He is qualified as Enlisted Surface Warfare; Enlisted Fleet Marine Force; Enlisted Informational Dominance and Expeditionary Warfare pin.

CMDCM Mayes is 2012 graduate of the Senior Enlisted Academy. He earned a Bachelor Degree in Health Care Management from Touro University of California (TUI) in 2008 and completed his Master Degree Program with TUI in September 2010.

Armando Arismendi

Vice President, Watson Cloud Technology & Support T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY IBM Watson Group

Armando Arismendi Portrait

Armando Arismendi is responsible for the implementation of Watson’s worldwide cloud infrastructure and providing world class solution delivery and support. Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities use language processing and machine learning to enable people to interact more naturally to extend and magnify human expertise and cognition.

Armando was previously in IBM Research responsible for the development and delivery of custom supercomputers for the U.S. Government’s efforts in national security. He has also been the Research Division CIO responsible for the worldwide Research infrastructure as well as infrastructure research and innovation in the areas of Cloud Computing and worldwide collaboration.

Armando’s 36 year IBM career has been spent primarily in Austin, Texas, and in New York. Armando has received overseas assignments in Madrid, Spain, and Sydney, Australia, and he has traveled worldwide for IBM. Armando’s 2000 Olympics efforts in Madrid and Sydney earned him an IBM Global Services Excellence Award. In 2005, Armando’s efforts with Telefonica Moviles España earned him an IBM Exceptional Advocate Award.

In 2014, Armando received the Chairman’s Award at the Hispanic Engineers National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) in New Orleans, LA, for contributions to his profession and giveback to the Hispanic community. In 2005, Armando received The President’s Volunteer Service Award from President George W. Bush.

Outside of work, Armando serves on the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley Foundation Board of Trustees, and he visits south Texas regularly to speak to high school and middle school students on the value of a career in STEM. Armando’s motivation for his involvement and giveback to the community is driven by his value of education and how it is fundamental to one’s future success.

Armando is very happily married to Tracy Renee, a midwesterner (from Wisconsin) and teacher who is fluent in Japanese, and enjoys watching his stepson, Ike, play high school varsity hockey. He has 3 dogs, a British Cocker Spaniel (Honey), a King Charles Spaniel / Poodle mix (Chuy) and a Pit Bull / American Bull Dog mix rescue dog (Cupid).

Armando has run many marathons, including the NYC Marathon, and trail ultramarathons. He was a national class triathlete as well a masters swimmer and a competitive cyclist in the 1990s. In 2004, Armando completed an Ironman triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Armando was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in August, 1957. He joined IBM in 1980 after receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1979 and 1980, respectively.

Dr. Matthew Garcia

Senior Science & Technology Policy Fellow
Jobs Strategy Council
Department of Energy
Office of Secretary

Dr. Matthew Garcia Portrait

Dr. Matthew Garcia is a Rio Grande Valley native, and received his undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Texas Pan American. Following UTPA he received a PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Kentucky, and after completing his postdoctoral work, he participated in the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship for two years, at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), where he is now currently an Oak Ridge Institute of Science (ORISE) Senior Science and Technology Policy Fellow for the DOE’s Jobs Strategy Council in the Office of the Secretary. There he is involved in the strategic planning, and analysis as it relates to energy education, energy workforce, innovation and economic development policy specifically, but in general to national and international assessment and analysis of science, technology and education policies in support of the DOE and Administrations initiatives in innovation, education and workforce training.

Melinda Higgins

Established Scientist/Science and Technology Policy Fellow
Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy

Melinda Higgins Portrait

As an Established Scientist/Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy, Melinda works in support of the Minorities in Energy Initiative, with special emphasis on programs that focus on Women in STEM and STEM Education. She works across the office as a STEM education subject matter expert to advise internal offices such as Minority Business and Development, Civil Rights and Diversity and Inclusion. Melinda also works across the complex with our National Laboratories, International Affairs, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Indian Energy Policy and Programs to advance access to STEM education for all underserved communities.

Prior to her appointment, Melinda was a STEM educator for 22 years at The Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, TN, an all-girls independent school. She taught chemistry, biology and engineering and served as the Science Department Chairperson for 10 years. Melinda also conducted Engineering research at Vanderbilt University for 7 summers and wrote, published and implemented curriculum based on her research. During her teaching tenure, she was chosen as a 201 3-2014 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at NASA Office of Education, working at both Goddard Space Flight Center and Headquarters. Melinda worked on various projects at NASA, from interagency collaborations and experiential learning opportunities to leading a preliminary feasibility analysis focusing on a model for professional development for educators at NASA Centers. She also had the opportunity to work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as an Education Program Specialist, writing activity challenge curriculum to augment inventor cards and facilitating professional development opportunities for educators in Intellectual Property/STEM arenas. Melinda received her M.Ed. in Science Education from Vanderbilt University and a B.S in Chemistry from Spring Hill College.

Kimberly Gonzales

Digital Content Engineer
Texas Instruments

Kimberly Gonzales Portrait

Kimberly Gonzales is a Digital Content Engineer at Texas Instruments. In her current role, she manages the development of educational content for various platforms and facilitates the updating of content based on software changes. She is also the Community Involvement Chair for Texas Instrument’s Hispanic Employee Initiative. Kimberly currently volunteers on the Latinas in STEM Foundation’s Board of Directors as the Director of Marketing and PR. In this role, she is responsible for curating content for all social media platforms, creating marketing campaigns and maintaining the Latinas in STEM website.

Kimberly graduated as valedictorian from W.T. White High School in Dallas ISD. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received a Diversity Mentoring Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a Master of Art degree in Learning Technologies.

Kimberly was born and raised in Dallas, Texas by parents who emigrated from Mexico. She is eldest of three sisters, all who studied engineering. Kimberly enjoys speaking to students about engineering and loves to encourage others to pursue STEM careers.

CPT Elissa R. Robinson

Assistant Professor of Military Science

CPT Elissa R. Robinso Portrait

Captain Elissa R. Robinson is a native of Dallas, TX. She was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Ordnance Corps in 2007 through Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

CPT Robinson’s assignments include: Maintenance Control Officer, Echo Forward Support Company; Maintenance Platoon Leader, Echo Forward Support Company; Executive Officer, Echo Forward Support Company; Supply and Management Officer, 27th Brigade Support Battalion; Support Operations Munitions Materiel Management Officer, 501st Sustainment Brigade; Company Commander, 157th Quartermaster Field Services Company. She currently serves as the Assistant Professor of Military Science for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. CPT Robinson deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 08-10 and Operation New Dawn.

CPT Robinson’s military education includes the Ordnance Basic Officer Leader Course, Aberdeen, MD, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, Fort Lee, VA, and the Military History Instructor Course, Fort Leavenworth, KS. CPT Robinson holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Texas Woman’s University and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration at the University of Louisville.

Her awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal (with three Campaign Stars), the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Overseas Ribbon (with Numeral 3).

Bianca Juarez

Quality Engineering
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Bianca Juarez Portrait

Bianca Juarez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. After graduating high school, she attended San Antonio College where she received an Associate Degree in Engineering and Liberal Arts. While at San Antonio College she became actively involved in STEM and developed a local SWE chapter. She continued her education at The University of Texas at San Antonio, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. She was also actively involved with the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists.

She went on to complete a Master of Science degree in Advanced Manufacturing and Enterprise Engineering. While in graduate school, she completed a co-op in Quality Assurance at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in San Antonio.

Upon the completion of a successful co-op term, Bianca was offered a role as a Quality Engineering Specialist. As a Quality Engineering Specialist, she is responsible for the quality of the vehicle. She utilizes her problem-solving skills to develop countermeasures to eliminate defects and reoccurrence of issues.

She is the youngest of two siblings, and a first-generation college graduate.

Carlos Núñez

Quality Assurance
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Carlos Nunez Portrait

Carlos A. Núñez was born in Pachuca, Hidalgo Mexico. He moved to McAllen, Texas at age eight along with his parents and younger siblings. He graduated from Nikki Rowe High School in the top 5 percent, and attended the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. While in college, he was a member of the UTPA and URTGV SAE Baja Racing Club, and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. In 2014, Carlos completed two Co-ops with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, in San Antonio Texas and worked there for one summer as a contractor.

Four months after graduating, Carlos received an offer to work as a Quality Assurance Specialist in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas in San Antonio. As a Quality Assurance Specialist, he is responsible for implementing an improved Quality Management System and monitor customer warranty and satisfaction.

Carlos is the oldest of four and a first generation graduate.

Gabrielle (Gaby) Jeanblanc

Assembly Co-op
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Gabrielle (Gaby) Jeanblanc Portrait

Gabrielle Jeanblanc was born in Paris, France on April 5, 1993. She was raised with an international mindset having lived in various countries such as Japan, USA, Canada and Belgium. She completed her high school studies in France and has continued on there with her higher education studies. Gabrielle entered ESPCI Paris, the Top 3 most prestigious public engineering school in France, after taking France’s national exam. Recently, she graduated with a Masters in Science and Technology. Gabrielle plans on obtaining a second Masters in Manufacturing Systems, in Montreal, Canada, starting January 2017.

As a student at ESPCI Paris, Gabrielle dedicated herself to several organizations. She was involved in multiple sporting associations being the Treasurer for all sporting activities at ESPCI. She also took on other forms of leadership being the President of the sailing club where she would organize regattas, and being the Captain of the badminton team. Gabrielle also had the honor of being involved in a humanitarian project in Benin (Africa), known as “Fair Trade Tofu”, in which the goal was to help the local women cooperative improve their tofu production process. As the head of communications, she presented their humanitarian project to the corporate offices of multinational French companies, leading them to win 2 different grants totaling $10,000.

Gabrielle is currently completing her 2nd co-op in the Assembly department of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas plant. She has dedicated herself to improving and promoting Safety, Productivity and Quality on the line and among her peers. She has won a Safety Kaizen award for designing a new mechanical system aimed at relieving the ergonomic burden maintenance workers would have from lifting the calibration jig for Tacoma alignment.

She is the youngest of three siblings, and the only engineer in her family.

Mitzi Montemayor-Hernandez

Human Resources Specialist
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc

Mitzi Montemayor-Hernandez Portrait

Mitzi is a Human Resources Specialist specializing in Exempt Team Member Relations, Investigations and On-Site Suppliers at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. (TMMTX), located in San Antonio, Texas. In her role, Mitzi ensures policy consistency and Team Member Morale.

Over the years Mitzi has had responsibilities for Company Communications, editing the Company Handbook, coordinating events such as the Company Picnic, Pulse Survey and Fiesta, in addition to recruiting, interviewing, headcount allocation and onboarding for the Coop Program.

Mitzi joined Toyota in April 2011 as a full time employee in the Human Resources department. In 2008, she was recruited by Toyota staffing during the Career Expo at The University of Texas Pan-American while she was an undergraduate in the College of Business. She served two terms at Toyota where she coordinated the MS150, a two-day bike ride from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, to benefit people with multiple sclerosis. After her two terms at Toyota, Mitzi spent a Summer in Washington DC as a student at Georgetown University and an intern at Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind.

Mitzi was born and raised in Edinburg, Texas and attended Edinburg North High School. She later attended The University of Texas Pan-American. During that time period she was an active member on campus, involved in student organizations such as the Delta Zeta Sorority, Leadership Academy, Greek Council, National Hispanic Professional Organization, HESTEC and participated in the Leadershape program.

Mitzi is married to Jose Hernandez Jr and together are raising two Labs. In her spare time, she enjoys good wine, reading mystery novels, yoga and the company of her family, and friends and never says no to dip and dots.

Salomon Luna

Assembly Toyota Motor North American Co-op
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Salomon Luna Portrait

Salomon Luna was born in Brownsville, Texas and is the youngest of three boys. He graduated from the Business Education Technology Academy (BETA) in Edinburg, Texas in June 2015 and is also an International Baccalaureate Diploma Recipient. As a student in BETA, Salomon was always involved in extracurricular activities. He would give free guitar lessons to both students and teachers as a way of sharing music to his community. Additionally, he was the captain of the varsity basketball team during his senior year, and was the treasurer of FTK (For the Kids: non-profit organization that brings awareness to pediatric cancer).

Salomon decided to follow in his brothers’ footsteps to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He immediately became a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at UTRGV during his first year. In his first semester, he attended the National SHPE Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Through this conference, Salomon was able to receive an offer from Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing of America (TEMA) to work in Production Engineering under Plant Planning in Erlanger, Kentucky.

As a result of his work and dedication, Salomon was given a second co-op term in TEMA Assembly in San Antonio, Texas for the Fall of 2016. His current aspirations are to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and go to UT Law School to ultimately work in Patent Law.

Stephanie Melchor

Communications Specialist
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Stephanie Melchor Portrait

Stephanie Melchor was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas of the Rio Grande Valley. After graduating from Homer Hanna High School, she attended the University of Texas- Pan American in Edinburg, TX., where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication. As a student, she was Co-Editor-in-Chief of the university’s student magazine and president of the university’s competitive advertising team.

Aside from extra-curricular, she completed four internships during her college career. This included working for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, in San Antonio Texas, and a summer spent in Washington D.C., interning for a government initiative that sustains school gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and small-scale agriculture projects in rural and urban areas with the mission of growing healthy food, people and communities.

After graduating, she moved to San Antonio permanently as a Communications Specialist for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas. As Communications Specialist, she is responsible for writing, editing, and delivering all company-wide communication material while ensuring all communication plans reflect and stay consistent with the company’s vision to more than 3000 employees. Stephanie is currently working towards courses to gain entrance in to graduate school to further her education in business.

She is the oldest of two siblings, and a first-generation college graduate.

Sara Tupponce

Paint Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Sara Tupponce Portrait

Sara Tupponce was born in Mexico and raised in San Antonio, TX. She has three siblings and is the second youngest. After graduating from Luis D. Brandeis High School as her class salutatorian, she decided to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. There, she joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and was elected as the organizations’ External Vice President. Sara also joined the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and is a part of the Baylor BAJA team. This team designs and builds one seat off-road vehicles, and competes against other universities to see which team has the best design and can best complete obstacle courses on rough terrain. She was also able to do research with Dr. Van Treuren to develop and optimize small-scale urban wind turbines.

Sara applied for and was accepted as a co-op with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas in San Antonio in the fall of 2016. She is working in Production Engineering in the Paint department.

Sara hopes to graduate from Baylor in December 2018.

Trisha Maldonado

Human Resources Development Specialist
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Trisha Maldonado Portrait

Trisha Maldonado was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She graduated from Valley View High School as Top 10% in her class. She received an Associate’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from South Texas College at the time she was in high school. After completing both her high school and Associate’s Degree, she attended the University of Texas-Pan American, legacy institution of the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, in Edinburg, TX, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minor in Human Resources on May 2016. As a student, Trisha was actively involved in several organizations. She was Treasurer of Psi Chi Honor Society, Director of Corporate Relations of the Society for Human Resource Management, and member of the Psychology Club, Sociology Club, and Operation Smile. Meanwhile going to school for her degree, she worked part-time on campus as an I.T. Support Specialist, Human Resources Representative, and News Reporter for the Student Publication, The Rider. Aside from extra-curricular activities, working part-time and being a full-time student, Trisha also conducted undergraduate research at the South Texas Contextual Behavioral Science Lab with several other lab members under the supervision of Dr. Maureen Flynn to examine the psychometrics of the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II, a psychological flexibility measure, in Hispanic college students.

Trisha also completed three co-op terms with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas in San Antonio, TX on 2015. Her co-op terms were in the Human Resources Department rotating in Investigations, Staffing, and Team Member Relations.

Trisha accepted a full-time job offer where she co-op’ed at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, after graduating with her Bachelor’s degree. She is currently a Human Resource Development Specialist where her responsibilities include Performance Management, Talent Management, Career Development Planning, Diversity and Inclusion, and the Co-op Program.

She is the oldest of three siblings, and a first-generation college graduate.

Latina Day Session Presenters

Armando Arismendi

Vice President, Watson Cloud Technology & Support T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY IBM Watson Group

Armando Arismendi Portrait 2

Armando Arismendi is responsible for the implementation of Watson’s worldwide cloud infrastructure and providing world class solution delivery and support. Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities use language processing and machine learning to enable people to interact more naturally to extend and magnify human expertise and cognition.

Armando was previously in IBM Research responsible for the development and delivery of custom supercomputers for the U.S. Government’s efforts in national security. He has also been the Research Division CIO responsible for the worldwide Research infrastructure as well as infrastructure research and innovation in the areas of Cloud Computing and worldwide collaboration.

Armando’s 36 year IBM career has been spent primarily in Austin, Texas, and in New York. Armando has received overseas assignments in Madrid, Spain, and Sydney, Australia, and he has traveled worldwide for IBM. Armando’s 2000 Olympics efforts in Madrid and Sydney earned him an IBM Global Services Excellence Award. In 2005, Armando’s efforts with Telefonica Moviles España earned him an IBM Exceptional Advocate Award.

In 2014, Armando received the Chairman’s Award at the Hispanic Engineers National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) in New Orleans, LA, for contributions to his profession and giveback to the Hispanic community. In 2005, Armando received The President’s Volunteer Service Award from President George W. Bush.

Outside of work, Armando serves on the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley Foundation Board of Trustees, and he visits south Texas regularly to speak to high school and middle school students on the value of a career in STEM. Armando’s motivation for his involvement and giveback to the community is driven by his value of education and how it is fundamental to one’s future success.

Armando is very happily married to Tracy Renee, a midwesterner (from Wisconsin) and teacher who is fluent in Japanese, and enjoys watching his stepson, Ike, play high school varsity hockey. He has 3 dogs, a British Cocker Spaniel (Honey), a King Charles Spaniel / Poodle mix (Chuy) and a Pit Bull / American Bull Dog mix rescue dog (Cupid).

Armando has run many marathons, including the NYC Marathon, and trail ultramarathons. He was a national class triathlete as well a masters swimmer and a competitive cyclist in the 1990s. In 2004, Armando completed an Ironman triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Armando was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in August, 1957. He joined IBM in 1980 after receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1979 and 1980, respectively.

Maria Garza

Staff Software Engineer
IBM Systems Group
Systems Software Development

Maria Garza Portrait

Maria Garza is currently working at the IBM site in Austin, Texas. She is a technical professional who participates in the design, test and development of software products that allow for the virtualization of IBM Power systems. Her primary focus is on Live Partition Mobility (LPM) which is highly regarded by Power System customers because it provides the ability to move a running partition with its OS and applications from one physical server to another without disrupting the operation of that partition. Maria has a M.S. in Computer Science, a B.S. in Computer Science with Emphasis on Engineering and a Minor in Mathematics from the University of Texas Pan-American. She developed many skills and gained experience by completing four summer internships at the IBM Austin site: two as a graduate student and two as an undergrad. On her spare time she enjoys organizing events to boost morale and promote volunteerism, watching a movie and spending time with her 3 kids.

Rocio Y. Garza

Microprocessor Hardware Developer
IBM Systems Group
Power Systems Characterization

Rocio Y. Garza Portrait

Rocio Y. Garza has an M.S in Electrical Engineering with a thesis focusing on GaN Thin Films Grown by RF Magnetron Sputtering for Fabrication of AlGaN/GaN HEMT Biosensors, and a B.S in Electrical Engineering. She is currently working for IBM doing microprocessor hardware development for the Power Systems line.

While attending UTRGV she obtained 4 different internships and co-ops, including Procter & Gamble and Toyota. These work experiences gave her exposure to working environments and helped decide where she wanted to work. During her free time she likes to watch movies and play basketball.

Patricia S. Metcalf

Technical Manager ExxonMobil

Patricia S. Metcalf Portrait

Background

  • Born in Laredo, Texas to Frank and Reina Sarabia
  • Of Mexican / Spanish descent, Pat is first person in her family to receive an engineering degree

Education

  • BS Civil Engineering University of Texas 1985
  • MBA Rice University 2003

Career

  • Joined Exxon Company USA in 1985
  • First 15 years of career were in Fuels Marketing
    • First assignment was as Construction and Maintenance Engineer. Pat set a construction record of 14 days for building a retail store when the national average time was 60 days.
    • Other roles in Fuels included: Environmental Engineering, Territory Manager, Distribution Analyst, and Jet Fuel Pricing Lead.
  • In January 2000, Pat moved to Gas & Power Marketing
    • Her first role was as a transportation negotiator and then moved through various assignments including Business Analyst, Advisor to Asia Pacific and Power Vice President, and Commercial Advisor for all commercial negotiators worldwide.
    • Pat began supporting ExxonMobil’s Public Affairs group by speaking to middle school girls at HESTEC.
    • She initiated the development of GOAL, the Global Organization for the Advancement of Latinos Houston Chapter in 2006, served as the organization’s first chapter President and is on the Advisory Board.
  • In February 2007, Pat moved to ExxonMobil Development Company
    • She has worked as a Construction Supervisor, Business Manager for Russian and Canadian Projects, as an Area Manager, and currently as Technical Manager on Alaska LNG.

Commander Karen F. Muntean

Commanding Officer, NRD San Antonio

Commander Karen F. Muntean Portrait

Commander Karen F. Muntean was born in Calhoun, Tenn., and enlisted in the Navy in 1988. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from Lee University and a Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of Tennessee.

CDR Muntean graduated from Navy Basic Training in Orlando, Fla. and Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Ill. She served at Mayport Medical Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. and graduated from Fleet Hospital Corpsman School, Camp Pendleton, Calif. in 1990. She went on to serve with 3rd Force Service Support Group in Okinawa, Japan, during which time she was detailed to Joint Exercise Team Spirit in Pohang, Korea. After completing her Active Duty commitment in 1992, CDR Muntean joined the Reserve Component and supported Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, NC.

Upon graduating from Navy Supply Corps School, Athens, Ga. in 1997, CDR Muntean was commissioned as Ensign through the Direct Commissioning Program. She subsequently served as the Supply Department Head for Norfolk Naval Shipyard Detachment 308 and Detachment Officer-in-Charge for Navy Cargo Handling Battalion TWELVE. In 2006, Muntean mobilized to Kuwait Naval Base as Training Officer for Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She served as Senior Supply Officer for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion TWO FOUR in Huntsville, Ala. and in 2007 she mobilized to Navy Personnel Command, Millington, Tenn. as an Individual Augmentee Placement Officer. CDR Muntean assumed command of Navy Operational Support Center Green Bay, Wis. in 2009 following her transition to Full Time Support in the Human Resources Community.

In 2011, CDR Muntean joined the staff of Chief of Navy Personnel in Washington, D.C. where she served as Fleet Requirements Officer and the Executive Assistant for Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education. She assumed the position of Executive Officer of Navy Recruiting District San Antonio in July 2014 and assumed command on March 11, 2016. CDR Muntean’s decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (with one gold star), the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (with two gold stars), the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with three gold stars) and she is qualified as a Seabee Combat Warfare Officer.

Lieutenant Kristina M. Allen

Civil Engineer Corps, United States Navy
NAVFAC Washington

Lieutenant Kristina M. Allen Portrait

Lieutenant Allen is a native of Peoria, Illinois and received her Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering in December 2000 and Masters of Science in Environmental Engineering in December 2001, both from Missouri University of Science and Technology.

After three years of working as an environmental engineer with civilian companies and three years of law school she commissioned through Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island in September 2008.

Her first duty station was with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR from October 2008 – November 2010 serving as Headquarters Company Platoon Commander, Charlie Company Platoon Commander, Headquarters Company Commander, and Materials Liaison Officer. She deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait and FOB Deh Dadi II, Afghanistan where NMCB FOUR was awarded the Army Meritorious Unit Commendation and Pacific Fleet Best of Type “Battle E” award.

From December 2010 – January 2013, LT Allen served as the Facility Manager for U.S. Naval Hospital Rota, Spain completing a variety of projects and supervising a staff of both Americans and Spanish local nationals. While at the hospital she also served as Command Legal Officer advising Hospital leadership on a variety of personnel, legal, and ethical issues.

In January 2013, she reported to FEAD Quantico as a Construction Manager overseeing $114M in projects including the construction of the $88M Senator John Warner Center for Advanced Military Studies and Brigadier General Simmons Research Center at Marine Corps University.

In November 2015, she reported to NAVFAC Washington as the FSC IPT Lead overseeing regional facility service contracts covering seven Public Works Departments.

She reported to NAVFAC Atlantic as the South Accessions Officer in July 2016 where she is responsible for accessions efforts in 14 states and Puerto Rico covering nine recruiting districts.

Lieutenant Allen is qualified as a Seabee Combat Warfare Officer, Acquisition Level II certified, an Engineer in Training in the State of Missouri, and a member of the Society of Women Engineers. Her personal decorations include the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.

BUSINESS STUDENTS IN ACTION

ENACTUS AT UTRGV

The mission of Enactus at UTRGV is “To connect entrepreneurial students with business leaders to further develop the skills and knowledge of our team members, so that through our efforts, we give our community an opportunity to grow and improve its quality of life”. Enactus at UTRGV is one of more than 1,700 university chapters worldwide, and it was started at UTRGV in October of 2015 with 22 active students from the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship. It has earned the title of Regional Champions and Rookie of the Year after competing nationally at the Enactus USA National Expo.

In this session, you will learn more about Enactus and how it is currently working on projects that focus on the economic and professional development of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students and their families at the Proyecto Desarrollo Humano Community in Peñitas, Texas.

Pilar Gonzalez

Owner, DipIt

Pilar Gonzalez Portrait

The business is owned and operated by Ms. Pilar Gonzalez, a food connoisseur, with a vast amount of knowledge in food preparation and marketing. Ms. Gonzalez is an Emmy award winner with a successful career in the radio and television (ABC, Univision and Telemundo at national level) industry. She began her career as the Promotions Director for Radio Unica, the largest Spanish station in the United States. Later on, she was promoted to General Manager. In this position, she created several marketing campaigns that were used at national level. In the area of television, Ms. Gonzalez was a producer for a talk show in Telemundo at National level (El Show de Sevcec). Furthermore, she also worked for Univision Network in Miami, Florida (Despierta America). When she relocated to the Valley she held the position of the news Director for Telemundo in McAllen.

When Ms. Gonzalez decided to retire from the media, she followed her cooking passion and decided to open a restaurant. She owned two restaurants, one in San Antonio, and one in Mission, Texas, both restaurants were very successful. While operating the restaurant in Mission, Texas, Ms. Gonzalez started manufacturing the dips and it was such a success that she decided to focus on the production of the dips.

Ms. Gonzalez is a is two times recipient of the Ruby Red Ventures,a Mission Economic Development Corporation and the Mission City Council Initiative, www.rubyredventures.com, a small business fund that aims to nurture entrepreneurial spirit and promote the creation of innovative business in the City of Mission. Ms. Gonzalez was also awarded a second place winner in H-E-B's Primo Picks: Quest for Texas Best Award . www.HEBprimopick.com. The Quest for Texas Best competition is a project of H-E-B Primo Picks, a 2-year old statewide program. H-E-B Primo Picks invites customers to enjoy products that are unique, delicious and possibly new to their palates. Primo Picks selections represent the best of what is in stores. Gonzalez also won the consideration for coveted space on H-E-B shelves in 2015.

Karen Lozano, Ph.D.

Julia Beecherl Endowed Professor in mechanical engineering The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Karen Lozano, Ph.D. Portrait

Karen Lozano, Ph.D., a Julia Beecherl Endowed Professor in mechanical engineering at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, recently was named the Engineer of the Year by Great Minds in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). She is only the third woman to garner this distinction in 27 years. The last woman named Engineer of the Year was Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic astronaut in space and current director of the Johnson Space Center. Lozano, founder and director of the Nanotechnology Center of Excellence at UTRGV, will be one of 25 award recipients recognized at the 27th HENAAC STEM Career Conference, Oct. 14-18 in Pasadena, Calif. Engineer of the Year and Scientist of the Year are the top two awards of all those nominated for recognition at the annual conference.

A top researcher in the field of nanotechnology, Lozano and a fellow mechanical engineering faculty member invented a more efficient way to produce nanofibers through Forcespinning®. That invention led to the creation in 2009 of then-University of Texas-Pan American's first startup company, FibeRio Technology Corporation, where Lozano serves as chief technology officer.

A developer of more than 20 patents and patent applications, Lozano was featured in the 2012 Partnership for a New American Economy’s report, “Patent Pending: How Immigrants are Reinventing the American Economy,” which highlights the value foreign-born graduates bring to the U.S. economy.

In 2013, Lozano, a native of Mexico, was invited, along with eight other high-achieving Hispanics, by President Barack Obama to appear on a panel discussion on immigration.

In August 2015, she received a $3 million, five-year Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) award from the National Science Foundation. PREM awards couple the expertise of NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) – in this award, the University of Minnesota – with UTRGV, a minority-serving institution, to involve students in preeminent materials research. The grant, which began Sept. 1, is a renewal of a $2.7 million PREM award she received in 2009, which provided many Valley students a chance to work with faculty on the development of polymeric and nanoparticle-based materials and devices.

The University of Texas Board of Regents recognized Lozano’s expertise at engaging students through her research by awarding her a 2013 University of Texas System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award, considered one of the highest awards in the nation to recognize teaching excellence in higher education.

Increasing external funding is one of the goals of the Nanotechnology Center of Excellence she heads. The center also aims to increase the number of refereed reviewed publications, faculty retention and the number of undergraduate students entering graduate school and entering the workforce in emerging technologies.

Lozano, a first-generation college student, earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University. She is the first Mexican to receive a doctorate from Rice in science and the fifth woman to receive a doctorate from Rice's mechanical engineering and material sciences department. She was the first woman hired in UTPA's Engineering Department when she became a faculty member in 2000. As a person who surpassed many barriers and stereotypes herself in pursuing an engineering career, Lozano is intent on promoting education and hard work, as well as serving as a role model.

Dr. Matthew Garcia

Senior Science & Technology Policy Fellow
Jobs Strategy Council
Department of Energy
Office of Secretary

Dr. Matthew Garcia Portrait 2

Dr. Matthew Garcia is a Rio Grande Valley native, and received his undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Texas Pan American. Following UTPA he received a PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Kentucky, and after completing his postdoctoral work, he participated in the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship for two years, at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), where he is now currently an Oak Ridge Institute of Science (ORISE) Senior Science and Technology Policy Fellow for the DOE’s Jobs Strategy Council in the Office of the Secretary. There he is involved in the strategic planning, and analysis as it relates to energy education, energy workforce, innovation and economic development policy specifically, but in general to national and international assessment and analysis of science, technology and education policies in support of the DOE and Administrations initiatives in innovation, education and workforce training.

Melinda Higgins

Established Scientist/Science and Technology Policy Fellow
Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy

Melinda Higgins Portrait 2

As an Established Scientist/Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy, Melinda works in support of the Minorities in Energy Initiative, with special emphasis on programs that focus on Women in STEM and STEM Education. She works across the office as a STEM education subject matter expert to advise internal offices such as Minority Business and Development, Civil Rights and Diversity and Inclusion. Melinda also works across the complex with our National Laboratories, International Affairs, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Indian Energy Policy and Programs to advance access to STEM education for all underserved communities.

Prior to her appointment, Melinda was a STEM educator for 22 years at The Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, TN, an all-girls independent school. She taught chemistry, biology and engineering and served as the Science Department Chairperson for 10 years. Melinda also conducted Engineering research at Vanderbilt University for 7 summers and wrote, published and implemented curriculum based on her research. During her teaching tenure, she was chosen as a 201 3-2014 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at NASA Office of Education, working at both Goddard Space Flight Center and Headquarters. Melinda worked on various projects at NASA, from interagency collaborations and experiential learning opportunities to leading a preliminary feasibility analysis focusing on a model for professional development for educators at NASA Centers. She also had the opportunity to work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as an Education Program Specialist, writing activity challenge curriculum to augment inventor cards and facilitating professional development opportunities for educators in Intellectual Property/STEM arenas. Melinda received her M.Ed. in Science Education from Vanderbilt University and a B.S in Chemistry from Spring Hill College.

Kimberly Gonzales

Digital Content Engineer
Texas Instruments

Kimberly Gonzales Portrait2

Kimberly Gonzales is a Digital Content Engineer at Texas Instruments. In her current role, she manages the development of educational content for various platforms and facilitates the updating of content based on software changes. She is also the Community Involvement Chair for Texas Instrument’s Hispanic Employee Initiative. Kimberly currently volunteers on the Latinas in STEM Foundation’s Board of Directors as the Director of Marketing and PR. In this role, she is responsible for curating content for all social media platforms, creating marketing campaigns and maintaining the Latinas in STEM website.

Kimberly graduated as valedictorian from W.T. White High School in Dallas ISD. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received a Diversity Mentoring Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a Master of Art degree in Learning Technologies.

Kimberly was born and raised in Dallas, Texas by parents who emigrated from Mexico. She is eldest of three sisters, all who studied engineering. Kimberly enjoys speaking to students about engineering and loves to encourage others to pursue STEM careers.

Bianca Juarez,

Quality Engineering
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Bianca Juarez Portrait 2

Bianca Juarez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. After graduating high school, she attended San Antonio College where she received an Associate Degree in Engineering and Liberal Arts. While at San Antonio College she became actively involved in STEM and developed a local SWE chapter. She continued her education at The University of Texas at San Antonio, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. She was also actively involved with the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists.

She went on to complete a Master of Science degree in Advanced Manufacturing and Enterprise Engineering. While in graduate school, she completed a co-op in Quality Assurance at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in San Antonio.

Upon the completion of a successful co-op term, Bianca was offered a role as a Quality Engineering Specialist. As a Quality Engineering Specialist, she is responsible for the quality of the vehicle. She utilizes her problem-solving skills to develop countermeasures to eliminate defects and reoccurrence of issues.

She is the youngest of two siblings, and a first-generation college graduate.

Carlos Núñez

Quality Assurance
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Carlos Nuñnz Portrait 2

Carlos A. Núñez was born in Pachuca, Hidalgo Mexico. He moved to McAllen, Texas at age eight along with his parents and younger siblings. He graduated from Nikki Rowe High School in the top 5 percent, and attended the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. While in college, he was a member of the UTPA and URTGV SAE Baja Racing Club, and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. In 2014, Carlos completed two Co-ops with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, in San Antonio Texas and worked there for one summer as a contractor.

Four months after graduating, Carlos received an offer to work as a Quality Assurance Specialist in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas in San Antonio. As a Quality Assurance Specialist, he is responsible for implementing an improved Quality Management System and monitor customer warranty and satisfaction.

Carlos is the oldest of four and a first generation graduate.

Gabrielle (Gaby) Jeanblanc

Assembly Co-op
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Gabrielle (Gaby) Jeanblanc Portrait 2

Gabrielle Jeanblanc was born in Paris, France on April 5, 1993. She was raised with an international mindset having lived in various countries such as Japan, USA, Canada and Belgium. She completed her high school studies in France and has continued on there with her higher education studies. Gabrielle entered ESPCI Paris, the Top 3 most prestigious public engineering school in France, after taking France’s national exam. Recently, she graduated with a Masters in Science and Technology. Gabrielle plans on obtaining a second Masters in Manufacturing Systems, in Montreal, Canada, starting January 2017.

As a student at ESPCI Paris, Gabrielle dedicated herself to several organizations. She was involved in multiple sporting associations being the Treasurer for all sporting activities at ESPCI. She also took on other forms of leadership being the President of the sailing club where she would organize regattas, and being the Captain of the badminton team. Gabrielle also had the honor of being involved in a humanitarian project in Benin (Africa), known as “Fair Trade Tofu”, in which the goal was to help the local women cooperative improve their tofu production process. As the head of communications, she presented their humanitarian project to the corporate offices of multinational French companies, leading them to win 2 different grants totaling $10,000.

Gabrielle is currently completing her 2nd co-op in the Assembly department of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas plant. She has dedicated herself to improving and promoting Safety, Productivity and Quality on the line and among her peers. She has won a Safety Kaizen award for designing a new mechanical system aimed at relieving the ergonomic burden maintenance workers would have from lifting the calibration jig for Tacoma alignment.

She is the youngest of three siblings, and the only engineer in her family.

Mitzi Montemayor-Hernandez

Human Resources Specialist
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc

Mitzi Montemayor-Hernandez Portrait 2

Mitzi is a Human Resources Specialist specializing in Exempt Team Member Relations, Investigations and On-Site Suppliers at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. (TMMTX), located in San Antonio, Texas. In her role, Mitzi ensures policy consistency and Team Member Morale.

Over the years Mitzi has had responsibilities for Company Communications, editing the Company Handbook, coordinating events such as the Company Picnic, Pulse Survey and Fiesta, in addition to recruiting, interviewing, headcount allocation and onboarding for the Coop Program.

Mitzi joined Toyota in April 2011 as a full time employee in the Human Resources department. In 2008, she was recruited by Toyota staffing during the Career Expo at The University of Texas Pan-American while she was an undergraduate in the College of Business. She served two terms at Toyota where she coordinated the MS150, a two-day bike ride from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, to benefit people with multiple sclerosis. After her two terms at Toyota, Mitzi spent a Summer in Washington DC as a student at Georgetown University and an intern at Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind.

Mitzi was born and raised in Edinburg, Texas and attended Edinburg North High School. She later attended The University of Texas Pan-American. During that time period she was an active member on campus, involved in student organizations such as the Delta Zeta Sorority, Leadership Academy, Greek Council, National Hispanic Professional Organization, HESTEC and participated in the Leadershape program.

Mitzi is married to Jose Hernandez Jr and together are raising two Labs. In her spare time, she enjoys good wine, reading mystery novels, yoga and the company of her family, and friends and never says no to dip and dots.

Salomon Luna,

Assembly Toyota Motor North American Co-op
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Salomon Luna Portrait 2

Salomon Luna was born in Brownsville, Texas and is the youngest of three boys. He graduated from the Business Education Technology Academy (BETA) in Edinburg, Texas in June 2015 and is also an International Baccalaureate Diploma Recipient. As a student in BETA, Salomon was always involved in extracurricular activities. He would give free guitar lessons to both students and teachers as a way of sharing music to his community. Additionally, he was the captain of the varsity basketball team during his senior year, and was the treasurer of FTK (For the Kids: non-profit organization that brings awareness to pediatric cancer).

Salomon decided to follow in his brothers’ footsteps to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He immediately became a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at UTRGV during his first year. In his first semester, he attended the National SHPE Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Through this conference, Salomon was able to receive an offer from Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing of America (TEMA) to work in Production Engineering under Plant Planning in Erlanger, Kentucky.

As a result of his work and dedication, Salomon was given a second co-op term in TEMA Assembly in San Antonio, Texas for the Fall of 2016. His current aspirations are to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and go to UT Law School to ultimately work in Patent Law.

Stephanie Melchor

Communications Specialist
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Stephanie Melchor Portrait 2

Stephanie Melchor was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas of the Rio Grande Valley. After graduating from Homer Hanna High School, she attended the University of Texas- Pan American in Edinburg, TX., where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication. As a student, she was Co-Editor-in-Chief of the university’s student magazine and president of the university’s competitive advertising team.

Aside from extra-curricular, she completed four internships during her college career. This included working for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, in San Antonio Texas, and a summer spent in Washington D.C., interning for a government initiative that sustains school gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and small-scale agriculture projects in rural and urban areas with the mission of growing healthy food, people and communities.

After graduating, she moved to San Antonio permanently as a Communications Specialist for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas. As Communications Specialist, she is responsible for writing, editing, and delivering all company-wide communication material while ensuring all communication plans reflect and stay consistent with the company’s vision to more than 3000 employees. Stephanie is currently working towards courses to gain entrance in to graduate school to further her education in business.

She is the oldest of two siblings, and a first-generation college graduate.

Sara Tupponce

Paint Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Sara Tupponce Portrait 2

Sara Tupponce was born in Mexico and raised in San Antonio, TX. She has three siblings and is the second youngest. After graduating from Luis D. Brandeis High School as her class salutatorian, she decided to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. There, she joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and was elected as the organizations’ External Vice President. Sara also joined the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and is a part of the Baylor BAJA team. This team designs and builds one seat off-road vehicles, and competes against other universities to see which team has the best design and can best complete obstacle courses on rough terrain. She was also able to do research with Dr. Van Treuren to develop and optimize small-scale urban wind turbines.

Sara applied for and was accepted as a co-op with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas in San Antonio in the fall of 2016. She is working in Production Engineering in the Paint department.

Sara hopes to graduate from Baylor in December 2018.

Trisha Maldonado

Human Resources Development Specialist
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Trisha Maldonado Portrait 2

Trisha Maldonado was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She graduated from Valley View High School as Top 10% in her class. She received an Associate’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from South Texas College at the time she was in high school. After completing both her high school and Associate’s Degree, she attended the University of Texas-Pan American, legacy institution of the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, in Edinburg, TX, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minor in Human Resources on May 2016. As a student, Trisha was actively involved in several organizations. She was Treasurer of Psi Chi Honor Society, Director of Corporate Relations of the Society for Human Resource Management, and member of the Psychology Club, Sociology Club, and Operation Smile. Meanwhile going to school for her degree, she worked part-time on campus as an I.T. Support Specialist, Human Resources Representative, and News Reporter for the Student Publication, The Rider. Aside from extra-curricular activities, working part-time and being a full-time student, Trisha also conducted undergraduate research at the South Texas Contextual Behavioral Science Lab with several other lab members under the supervision of Dr. Maureen Flynn to examine the psychometrics of the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II, a psychological flexibility measure, in Hispanic college students.

Trisha also completed three co-op terms with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas in San Antonio, TX on 2015. Her co-op terms were in the Human Resources Department rotating in Investigations, Staffing, and Team Member Relations.

Trisha accepted a full-time job offer where she co-op’ed at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, after graduating with her Bachelor’s degree. She is currently a Human Resource Development Specialist where her responsibilities include Performance Management, Talent Management, Career Development Planning, Diversity and Inclusion, and the Co-op Program.

She is the oldest of three siblings, and a first-generation college graduate.

Lisa Delafuente Atkinson

Application Design Lead, Engineering Applications, Upstream Technical Applications

Lisa was raised in TX (San Antonio, Dallas, Austin) and joined ExxonMobil in 2008. She is a graduate of the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin with a BS in Electrical Engineering. She currently works for ExxonMobil’s Global Services Company in Upstream Technical Applications as an Application Design Lead, providing guidance on architecture and software for the upstream.

Lisa participates in recruiting young engineers and computers scientists from the University of Texas at Austin. She is married and has one dog. She also enjoys reading, watching football and playing piano during her personal time.

Adriana Contreras

Application Developer ExxonMobil

Adriana Contreras is an Application Developer in ExxonMobil’s Upstream IT Technical Application Division. A native of El Paso, she graduated in 2013 with her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Texas at El Paso. She completed three internships, with AHPCRC Summer Institute for Undergraduates at Stanford, the Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, and for ExxonMobil in Houston. After a great summer with ExxonMobil, she was given full-time offer and returned to Houston in January 2014.

Adriana is currently working to provide software solutions to our engineers, specifically in the areas of drilling and facilities, through C#/.NET. On the side, she is also an avid web developer, coding up websites for her team and safety initiatives. She leads a team of developers to create websites for campus events, including ones related to the United Way. She is also an active member of the oneEMIT service committee, GOAL, and WIN.

In her personal time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, spoiling her dog, and volunteering.