2018 Speakers & Special Guests

HESTEC Special Guests

Dr. Derek Greenfield

Assistant Professor of Science Education

Dr. Greenfield

Dr. Derek Greenfield is a visionary speaker, consultant, and thought leader dedicated to inclusive excellence and positive change.

With his dynamic and interactive approach, creative ideas, track record of success, and sense of humor, Dr. Greenfield has become a highly requested presenter across the globe. His powerful keynotes and workshops on issues such as diversity and inclusion, motivation, team building, student development, innovative pedagogy, and hip-hop culture have been featured at a wide range of conferences, companies, and colleges, including McDonald's Corporation, NCAA, International Conference on Cultural Diversity, Hilton Hotels, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Texas-Austin, University of Michigan Athletics, National Black Student Leadership Development Conference, National Dropout Prevention Conference, Progress Energy, and the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. With his breadth of knowledge and experience, Dr. Greenfield has been a consultant for numerous organizations and appeared on dozens of media outlets from Hot 97 Radio to ESPN.

Prior to his full-time speaking career, Dr. Greenfield spent over 20 years as a dedicated and talented college professor and administrator. He most recently served in the chief diversity officer role at Alcorn State University in Lorman, MS. Under his leadership, Alcorn became the only HBCU and only school in Mississippi to receive the prestigious Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award twice from Insight Into Diversity magazine and was named the "leader" among HBCUs for diversity in a Huffington Post feature article.

As a testament to his commitment to student achievement, Dr. Greenfield has been included five times on the list of Who's Who Among America’s Teachers, received honors as faculty of the year in previous positions at Saint Augustine’s University and Shaw University, and was recognized as faculty member of the year by the Student Government Association during his first year at Alcorn. His course "Hip-Hop and American Society" has been spotlighted twice in Source magazine as representing the first college course in the nation exclusively devoted to exploring hip-hop culture. In addition to publishing a lengthy list of academic articles, Dr. Greenfield is the author of the widely acclaimed motivational book The Answer is in Your Hands and co-editor of the recently released academic book Exploring Issues of Diversity Within HBCUs. Before beginning his full-time career in academia, Dr. Greenfield spent seven years as an award-winning youth worker in inner-city Chicago.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Sociology from Northwestern University as well as two doctoral degrees - a PhD from the University of Washington and an EdD from Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa.

Dr. Greenfield's work has led him to receive numerous awards and citations, and he currently holds a prestigious position as a Kellogg Fellow. Reflecting his passion for supporting social justice initiatives, Dr. Greenfield serves on the Board of Directors for three non-profit organizations and continues to engage in youth development efforts in the townships of South Africa. He stands as a Co-Founder of the Higher Education Leadership Foundation, which endeavors to build leadership capacities among aspiring college administrators. Dr. Greenfield is also proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Dr. Kate Biberdorf "Kate the Chemist"

Associate Professor of Instruction

kate the chemist

At the University of Texas, Dr. Kate Biberdorf is breaking stereotypes and blowing stuff up—all in a good pair of heels. Through her theatrical and hands-on approach to teaching, Dr. Biberdorf is breaking down the image of the stereotypical scientist, while reaching students that might otherwise be intimidated by science. Students' emotional responses, rather than rote memorization of facts, is key to Biberdorf's dynamic approach to her program, as well as science in general. Her exciting and engaging program leaves audiences with a positive, memorable impression of science – all while diminishing the stigma around women in science.

Dr. Biberdorf is currently employed as both an Associate Professor of Instruction and the Director of Demonstrations and Outreach for The University of Texas at Austin. She serves as a general chemistry instructor and is particularly known for developing explosive demonstrations that excite undergraduate chemistry students. Outside of the classroom, she is often found at with her outreach program "Fun with Chemistry" and her live, explosive, science spectacular, "The Puking Pumpkin Tour."

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Biberdorf developed a love of experimenting at an early age. Her mother encouraged her interest in science and provided her very own bathroom where she could experiment to her hearts content. At 15, she decided to become a chemist while taking a class with an instructor whose enthusiasm and love for blowing things up proved contagious.

Dr. Biberdorf earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and German from the University of Michigan in May 2008. Shortly thereafter, she relocated to Austin, Texas to attend The University of Texas at Austin for graduate school. She graduated in May 2014 with a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry.

Looking back on her career, she points to obstacles facing many women in STEM fields today. Many of her peers in graduate school were dismissive upon first glance. She’s had to fight to be heard and taken seriously, even while pursuing her Ph.D. For Dr. Biberdorf, this stigma reflects the many hurdles women in the sciences have to deal with, and that she hopes to challenge. Just as she was mentored by her high school chemistry teacher, Biberdorf’s mission is to inspire a new generation of scientists whose contributions will be valued on merit, regardless of the sex or race of the scientist.

Dr. Biberdorf's mission of the Fun with Chemistry outreach program is to ignite, inspire, and motivate K-12 students to develop a love for learning and exploration in the sciences. She targets students that are intimidated by science and utilizes hands-on demonstrations to foster a determination to pursue a science-related degree at the collegiate level. These objectives are accomplished by the development of new compelling experiments to prove that chemistry is relevant, fun, and entertaining.

Dr. Biberdorf's repertoire of on stage experiments includes combustion, environmental science and ooey gooey. (Hint: There's slime involved) The shows often end with her yelling, "Do you like science?!" to an full auditorium, after which she dumps a vat of hot water into a bucket of liquid nitrogen, creating the epic "thunder cloud" that lingers in the room.

She is also a featured member of "Amy Poehler's Smart Girls." Founded by artist Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls organization is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves. Her ultimate dream is to headline an explosive science show in Vegas.

Veronica Gonzales

Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations Veronica Gonzales

Veronica Gonzales is a native of San Marcos, Texas. She learned firsthand the importance of education when she became the first in her family to go to college. She graduated cum laude from Southwest Texas State University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish. She later earned her Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas School of Law in 1991. Upon graduating from law school, she moved to the Rio Grande Valley and spent two decades building an acclaimed career as an attorney. Until, July, 2012, she was a name partner in the law firm of Kittleman, Thomas & Gonzales, L.L.P. and in 2008, she was recognized as one of 30 “Extraordinary Woman in Law” by Texas Lawyer. For several consecutive years, she was named a Super Lawyer by The Texas Super Lawyers.

In 2004, voters in the McAllen, Mission, Edinburg and Alton area elected Veronica Gonzales to serve as the first female representing District 41 in the Texas House of Representatives. She served four terms, two of which as Chairman of the Border & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, only one of 34 chairs out of 150 members. She also served in several leadership positions, including Secretary of the State Democratic Caucus, “Freshman of the Year” by the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, Secretary and Legal Counsel of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, a fellow in the Public Leadership Program of the Aspen-Rodel Fellowship and a Board of Director of the Texas Lyceum Association, a statewide leadership organization.

Healthcare issues are of great concern to Veronica and for three legislative sessions, she sat on the Public Health Committee, giving her a key decision-making role on issues affecting the public’s health, like disease prevention, medical licensing and access to care. Addressing the health care needs in South Texas led Gonzales to pass legislation to increase up to $165,000.00 the amount of loans forgiven for doctors who agree to practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas like the Rio Grande Valley. The measure earned her the "Legislative Champion Award" from The Texas Association of Community Health Centers and the "Patient Advocacy Award" from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians.

Veronica has received many accolades and awards over the years for her service including being named by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as one of eight "Ultimate Latinas" in the nation, recognizing her legislative achievements that benefit the business community. She was also recognized by the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) as a “Woman of Distinction”, received the “Voice of the People” award from the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, the “Community Advocacy Award” from the Women’s Business Summit, the “Champion for Equality Award” from the Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley, was the recipient of the “Award of Distinction” from Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas, was named a Distinguished Alumni by both the San Marcos High School Alumni Association and Texas State University and was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley’s Walk of Fame.

In July, 2012, Veronica took a retirement from the practice of law to assume the position of Vice President for University Advancement at the University of Texas-Pan American. In this role, Veronica oversaw fundraising, marketing, public affairs and alumni relations at a university that is one of the largest Hispanic serving institutions in the nation.

In November 2014, Veronica was named Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). In this new role, Veronica has overseen initiatives at the local, state and federal level, including signature programs of the university such as HESTEC (Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week), Science Bowl, Science Fair, FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Arts) and several others. Veronica serves as lead representation for UTRGV in the areas of developing, advancing and maintaining positive and productive relationships and partnerships with the external community and for engaging governmental officials, bodies, and agencies via positive and ongoing dialogues. Responsible for monitoring legislation and public policy, her extensive experience as former State Representative guides her confident approach to advise administrators of their potential impact on The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Most recently, Veronica also assumed oversight of several economic development offices of the university including the Small Business Development Center, the Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, the Data and Information Systems Center and the Veterans Business Outreach Center. She is active in her community and sits on numerous boards including Easter Seals of the RGV, Lone Star National Bank, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, the Advocacy Alliance Center for Texas, and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Veronica’s extensive background, experience and knowledge have allowed her to build strong relationships with leaders at all levels and set a platform for her to create a channel of communication with them about issues impacting higher education and the Hispanic community. Her belief that it is necessary for UTRGV to have a presence at the local, state and national levels is helping to accelerate the creation and growth of UTRGV’s School of Medicine. Veronica has always credited her success and the many opportunities she has received to education and it is her mission to play an integral part in making college education more affordable and attainable to students throughout the State of Texas.

Commander Jeffrey Michael Reynolds

Commanding Officer, NRD San Antonio

CDR Reynolds

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 fleet-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 and assumed command on August 4, 2017.

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.

Tina Aguirre

IT Manager Capital Projects Downstream and UnConventionals (effective November 1, 2018)

Tina Aguirre

It was very recently announced that Tina Aguirre has been appointed to the position of IT Manager Capital Projects Downstream and UnConventionals, with effect from November 1, 2018. Tina will continue to be based in Houston.

Tina is currently the ITSO 2.0 Programme and Transformation Manager in the Strategy & Planning Organization with ITSO. Key accountability is to help lead the transformation of our organization and be prepared for the future (which is already here). Shell has and will continue to have many technology disruptions and must be preparing for tomorrow, today! Tina is currently an EAB (Executive Advisory Board) member for SHEN (Shell Hispanic Employee Network) and she also served as the 2013 WAVE President (Women Adding Value Everywhere) Network which has over 2000 members across the US. Tina is also Shell’s Corporate Advisor for UnidosUS (previously NCLR (National Council of La Raza)).

Tina has been in the IT industry for over 30 years. Spent 27 years at ExxonMobil, 3 at BP and will complete 9 years at Shell later this year. Tina has held many IT jobs, both in programming and application support (eCommerce, EDI, Trading, Desktop support, etc). She has also managed Project Portfolio, IT audit, and compliance teams.

Received 2 undergraduates from University of Houston (Data Processing and Business-age 19 & Commerce-age 21) and a Master’s Degree from Houston Baptist University in Management and Computer Science – age 23.

Lead Leadership 2000 program for over 10 years. This program focuses on Jr. High and High School students to encourage them to stay in school, finish high school and go to college, or obtain a skill. She has a passion for getting involved in the community and giving back as can relate firsthand the challenges faced adjusting to a new country. She is also very active in the Shell employee community and have been leading different mentoring circles for several years.

Born in Mexico and came to the US as a teenager; married to a wonderful supporting husband (Larry) for over 30 years. Tina has 2 sons, Joshua already graduated from UofH and Jacob will also graduate from UofH in May 2017.

Greatest passion is to develop people to their full potential!

Zalma Vela

Toyota Motor North America, Inc.
Human Resources Analyst, College Programs Recruiter

Zalma Vela

Zalma a native from Edinburg, Texas and relocated to Dallas 15 years ago. She started her professional career working in the Human Resources field over 10 years. She began her career with Toyota Motor North America headquarters in 2016 when the company made their move to Plano, Texas as Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant, providing guidance to hiring managers concerning full-lifecycle recruitment, identifying positions, determining job specifications, developing sourcing strategies, assessing talent and recommending candidates for hire. She then joined the College Programs team in 2017 providing recruitment support for STEM and Business functions across North America. Zalma is responsible for the recruitment of various internship/Co-op and full-time trainee programs; helping with the development and implementation of college recruiting strategies in support of Toyota’s business objectives. She enjoys building relationships with universities and other college sourcing organizations.

Zalma obtained her Associates degree in Bilingual Education at Eastfield Community College, she then transitioned to University of North Texas to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Arts and Sciences minor in Business Management focus in Human Resources.

Zalma is passionate in helping students achieve their career goals. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two boys.

Julian Alvarez III

Commissioner Representing Labor
2016 - Present

Julian Alvarez

Julian Alvarez III is the Commissioner Representing Labor of the Texas Workforce Commission. Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed him to the three-member Commission on March 7, 2017. His Commission appointment expires February 1, 2023.

The Commissioner Representing Labor represents the interest of Texas workers with respect to TWC services and ensures that their concerns are considered in all Commission actions.

Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Alvarez served as president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership fostering relationships and coordinating programs to advance regional economic development and employment opportunities. He also served as a Texas regional director for the U.S. Senate and advised on legislative and policy issues related to South Texas. Prior to that, Alvarez served on the South Texas Drug Task Force as a state trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). After his service with DPS, Alvarez inspired stewardship and leadership as the director of college information for Texas State Technical College in Harlingen.

Commissioner Alvarez has served on the following boards:

Teach for America
Border Trade Alliance
I-69 Alliance
RGV Lead
Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization
Texas State Affordable Housing Advisory Committee
UT Pan American President’s Circle

Commissioner Alvarez earned a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from Texas A&I University in Kingsville. He also enjoys refereeing collegiate football in the Southland Conference.

Francisco Almaraz

Chief Executive Officer of Workforce Solutions

Francisco Almaraz

Francisco “Frank” Almaraz was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Workforce Solutions on August 2014. As CEO, Almaraz has planning, oversight and fiduciary responsibility of the organization that oversees workforce development services for Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy Counties in South Texas.

Mr. Almaraz is responsible for the overall management and compliance of the workforce programs specified by Local, State and Federal regulations, as well as coordinate the programs with the needs of the private and public sector. With over 25 years experience in financial accounting, auditing, and investigations, Mr. Almaraz brings his expertise to ensure that internal control systems are operating efficiently and effectively. Mr. Almaraz, together with the Board of Directors, strives to ensure that public dollars go directly to the development of the local workforce, in training, job seeker and business services. Workforce Solutions has recently been recognized as one of the highest performing workforce board’s in Texas, winning three of four performance awards at the 2013 Texas Workforce Commission Annual Conference.

A graduate of Pan American University (Edinburg, Texas) in 1977 with a Bachelor in Business Administration majoring in accounting, Mr. Almaraz began his career in accounting in McAllen, Texas. In 1984, Mr. Almaraz earned the designation of Certified Public Accountant. After working as internal audit manager for First City Bancorporation, Mr. Almaraz obtained his Certified Internal Auditor certification in 1989. Mr. Almaraz also served as an internal auditor for the Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Attorney General’s office where he was instrumental in establishing a monitoring system to monitor contractor performance, and evaluating internal control systems of large state agencies.

Mr. Almaraz is married to Marisa and enjoys being a proud parent of three children: Francisco III, Jennifer, and Kristy.

Linda Tovar

H-E-B Senior Manager

Linda Tovar

In her role as H-E-B Senior Manager, Public Affairs, Linda Tovar is responsible for providing leadership in the development and direction of H-E-B’s public affairs and community relations activities for the Border region. Additionally, as H-E-B’s community liaison, Linda oversees its philanthropic giving in communities throughout the region, as well as serving as a company spokesperson. A native of the Valley, Linda holds a B.B.A. from The University of Texas- Pan American. After joining H-E-B and graduating from the H-E-B School of Retail Leadership, Linda has served as Operations Leader for the Mission 3 store and McAllen 2. During her tenure as Operations Leader, Linda excelled at coaching store Partners (employees) in improving customer service. Additionally, Linda is a graduate of the H-E-B School of Retail Leadership.

Linda has a long history in community relations, as evidenced by her work with the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen prior to joining H-E-B. During her tenure at the Boys & Girls Club, she worked her way up the ranks from Program Coordinator to Director of Operations. When Linda started as Program Coordinator in 1997, her main responsibilities were assisting branch directors in program development and monitoring program progress, as well as assisting with special events. From there, Linda was promoted to Program/Unit Director in 1999. In this position, she managed overall daily operations, including staff training and community relations. In 2005, Linda had the opportunity to serve as Interim Executive Director, where her responsibilities included managing the strategic planning of the organization, as well as working with the Board of Directors to develop organizational goals and allocate resources. As Director of Operations, Linda was in charge of program development and implementation, supervision of assigned staff members, facilities and budget development.

As a result of her work with the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, Linda has strong relationships with area nonprofits, elected officials and community leaders. In addition, Linda has experience working with media and is fluent in both spoken and written Spanish communications. Today, Linda is a proud board member of Easter Seals Rio Grande Valley and VAMOS. Most recently, Linda was honored as one of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Woman of Distinction – Professional and also one of the final UTPA Pillar of Success recipients. UTPA’s most distinguished alumni, the Pillars of Success celebrates a select group of Broncs for their inspirational stories and outstanding achievements.

Taylor Winkel

Channel 5 News - Anchor

Taylor Winkel

Taylor Winkel is a reporter for Channel 5 News. She anchors Channel 5 News This Weekend.

Taylor was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. Growing up, she spent much of her time outdoors

Taylor interned and worked at KING-TV in Seattle during college. She learned to keep up with and cover an array of stories from breaking news to Seattle politics, as well as, the sights and sounds of protests and rallies throughout the city. She spent hours shadowing award winning journalists and storytellers while in college. After graduating from the University of Washington, she began her career in 2015 as an anchor, reporter and photographer for NBC Montana in Kalispell and Missoula, Montana.

After falling in love with the weather, landscape and authentic people of the Valley, Taylor joined the Channel 5 News team as a weekend anchor, with weekday reporting duties in April if 2017. So far Taylor has had the opportunity to cover stories in smaller towns across the Rio Grande Valley, as well as, look into the impacts national politics and natural disasters have in South Texas as a whole. Her favorite part of the job will always be meeting new people from different backgrounds every day and learning about their lives and stories.

When she's not covering the news, Taylor enjoys exploring new places, discovering new music, fitness and cooking.

Taylor's passion will always be telling stories about people who are impacted the most. She welcomes anyone to send her story ideas and enjoys hearing from viewers via Facebook and Twitter. She can be reached by email at twinkel@krgv.com.

Jolanie Martinez

KGBT-TV Anchor / Reporter

Jolanie Martinez

Jolanie Martinez covers Hidalgo County for CBS 4 News. She graduated from Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, Hawaii, and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Dr. Patricia M. Alvarez McHatton

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Student Success, and P-16 Integration

Patricia McHatton

Dr. Patricia M. Alvarez McHatton earned a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in special education and urban education. She has served as the Dean of the College of Education and P-16 Integration at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley since 2015. Dr. Alvarez McHatton has served in a variety of leadership positions including department chair and associate dean for teacher preparation. Dr. Alvarez McHatton was part of the Select Committee of HSI-Serving Deans and Educators convened by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to explore developing quality teacher preparation programs that serve the needs of Hispanic students. As dean, she has led multiple initiatives to enhance educator preparation programs within the college, expand the educator pipeline, and develop strong, collaborative partnerships with districts and community members. Her research interests focus on teacher preparation, diverse learners and families, and collaboration, especially between general education and special education.

Tim Smith

KRGV-TV CHANNEL 5 Chief Meteorologist

tim smith

Chief Meteorologist Tim Smith has been part of the CHANNEL 5 NEWS team for more than 30 years. A native of Batesville, Indiana and graduate of Indiana University, Tim worked at several radio stations in Indiana before heading for Texas in 1981. His first job at CHANNEL 5 NEWS was as Weekend Weathercaster working under the tutelage of the late Lee Lindsey. Tim quickly fell in love with the Valley's weather. Not just forecasting it, but enjoying it, like everyone else. He was promoted to Chief Forecaster in 1983, a position he's held since. Along the way, Tim has continued his meteorology education taking classes from Penn State University, Weatherscan School of Broadcast Meteorology, and Mississippi State University.

In August 2004, Tim completed Mississippi State's Broadcast Meteorology Program. He got straight A's and was one of only three students to accomplish that feat. That diploma changed Tim's title from Chief Forecaster to Chief Meteorologist. Tim has led CHANNEL 5 NEWS's weather coverage through hurricanes, tornadoes, freezes and even that rare Christmas 2004 snowstorm. "It was just an incredible blessing to see so many people getting to see snow for the very first time in their lives...and to have it happen on Christmas...what a miracle," Tim said, following the big event.

Tim has always been very active in the community. He visits with thousands of school children each year making presentations about weather. For more than 10 years, his "Kids You Should Know" feature highlighted special young people of our community. Tim is a regular on the civic organization speaking circuit. Of course, his Tim's Coats project has helped bring in more than 100,000 coats for the less fortunate of the Valley over the last 35 years. Along with Letty Garza and the Channel 5 Toy Drive, Tim delivers Christmas gifts to every child in every hospital in the Valley during the Christmas season.

Tim has served as member and Chairman of the Board of the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen. As Vice President of the Urban Science Initiative, he coordinates hands-on science activities for children all across the Valley. Tim is the co-founder of the National Tropical Weather Conference held each year on South Padre Island. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross, the Rio Grande Valley Emergency Management Coordinating Council, the Hidalgo County Fatherhood Initiative, the UTPA Nursing Advisory Council, and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

An Emmy Award winner, Tim was recently inducted into National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences - Lone Star Chapter Silver Circle. This is a very prestigious honor reserved for broadcasters who have dedicated at least 25 years to the industry and to their communities. Tim has also received the Silver Apple Award from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, the Texas Media Award from the National Association of Social Workers, and the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Texas - Pan American. Tim is a proud Rotarian and a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. He has received multiple first place awards from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters for his weathercasts.

Tim is an avid San Antonio Spurs fan and loves to watch his Indiana Hoosiers basketball team. He enjoys cycling and golfing. Tim and his wife Nora have three children, Justin, Maya and Taylor and two beautiful grandchildren.

You can become a fan of the KRGV Weather team on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You can also email Tim.

Michelle Vargas

KGBT-TV Channel 4, Anchor/Reporter

Michelle Vargas

Michelle Vargas joined the CBS 4 News team in August 2016.

Michelle graduated from Bear River High School in Grass Valley, California, and studied broadcasting at California State University Fullerton. She worked at Telemundo and ABC stations in Los Angeles before moving to the Rio Grande Valley.

Abril Preciado

KGBT-TV Channel 4, Anchor/Reporter

Abril Preciado

Abril Preciado was born and raised in Los Angeles.

Abril graduated from California State University Northridge with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

During college, Abril participated in the CBS News Fellowship program, which allowed her to cover the 2016 Democratic National Convention for CBS News Radio. She also worked for KVEA-TV in KCSN-FM in Los Angeles.

Abril is passionate about immigration and social justice issues.

Denisce Palacios

UTRGV Student Body President

Denisce Palacios

Denisce Palacios was raised in La Feria, Texas and attended St. Joseph Academy in Brownsville. She is a junior majoring in International Business and Political Science with a minor in Theatre Performance. She currently serves as Student Body President at UTRGV. Denisce has previously served in various student organizations, university committees, and University Productions. Denisce's goal is to continue serving her University and local community.

STEM + ME EXPO Presenters

Armando Arismendi

Vice President, Intellectual Property Partner Investments & Delivery
Yorktown Heights, NY
IBM Intellectual Property Group

Armando Arismendi

Armando Arismendi is responsible for creating and driving the development, execution and delivery of a new business model involving partnerships with external innovation companies involved with IoT, commerce, analytics and security. This partnership co-investment model enables IBM to deliver a broader set of product offerings with nimble flexibility in the management of costs and resources.

Armando Arismendi was previously in IBM Watson 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 also in IBM Research responsible for the development and delivery of custom supercomputers for the U.S. Government’s efforts in national security. He was 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 37 year IBM career has been spent primarily in Austin, Texas, and 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 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 give back to the Hispanic community. In 2005, Armando received The President’s Volunteer Service Award from President George W. Bush.

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

Samantha Silvas

Business Support Advisor
ExxonMobil Global Services Company

Samantha Silvas

Samantha is currently a Business Support Advisor for the Upstream Research Company in ExxonMobil’s Global Services Company. She provides general and strategic Information Technology advice to the Upstream Research Company Engineers and Geoscientists. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Texas Pan American. She joined ExxonMobil in 2009 as a Houston and Dallas Data Center Site Lead. She has held multiple positions in ExxonMobil’s Global Services Company concentrating on IT infrastructure.

Samantha has served in several capacities to further the advancement of fellow employees through mentoring and other networking and expanded learning activities.

She also finds time to serve her community. Samantha is a United Way Young Leader. She has been active in student outreach programs as a mentor, speaker or general volunteer since her early days at ExxonMobil and is a proud participant in Hispanic Engineering, Science & Technology Conference (HESTEC), Latina Day, as well as other outreach programs. She and her husband also enjoy helping the community by fostering homeless pets from the greater Houston area whenever possible. She is a mother to her 11-month daughter and enjoys family activities during her personal time.

Mark Argujio

Texas Instruments - T3 Regional Instructor and Implementation Specialist

Mark Argujio

I'm a Texas Instruments T3 Regional Instructor and Implementation Specialist. I taught secondary mathematics for 18 years before I became an Implementation Specialist in November of 2011. For the past 7 years, I have worked with middle school and high school teachers on implementing the use of TI technology in the classroom. I consider myself a "math geek" and "techie freak" and I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.

Mauricio A. Salinas

Raytheon - Senior Principal Mechanical Engineer

Mauricio Salinas

Mauricio A. Salinas received a BSME from UTRGV, an MSME from Stanford University, and a PhD from UT Arlington in the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department. Dr. Salinas is now a Senior Principal Mechanical Engineer with Honors at Raytheon's Space & Airborne Systems Division. He is also the Manager of the Mechanical Analysis Group. His recent work deals with the thermal management and aerodynamic design of electronics and optics on Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) such as the Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk. He is an expert in Computational Fluid Dynamics, has published over 22 technical papers, and has one US Patent pending. As an Adjunct Instructor, Dr. Salinas has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses at UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, and SMU. He is a Fellow of ASME and a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Texas.

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.

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 Botswana, Africa where he was Head of Science at Serowe Teacher Training College, a branch of The University of Botswana. He has also owned and run a chicken farm with his wife and they restore old homes. He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) with their older daughter a few years ago, having climbed The Matterhorn (Switzerland) when in college. 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 at the USDA Eastern Business Center in College Station, Texas alongside which has been created a USDA People’s Garden complete with Monarch Waystation (butterfly garden), pond and ‘pocket prairie’ where students are able to spend a day working on related science activities. He has taught for over thirty-five years on three continents in situations ranging from beneath a huge thorn tree on the edge of the Kalahari Desert (Botswana, Africa) to experimenting with weightlessness on NASA’s KC-135 (Houston, Texas).

His research interests are in hands-on/inquiry-based science teaching and in how most successfully to link science teachers with research scientists. 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 this allowed him to work with teachers in all fifty states and to teach in many of these including Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

He currently directs the USDA/HSINP Future Scientists Program that expanded nationwide to California and Arizona (2009-2010) and to Florida and Puerto Rico (2010-2014). The program has been adopted by schools in thirty other states and by two schools in England, bringing Life and Agricultural Science into classrooms grades K-12. The program was the recipient of the USDA Administrator’s Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity Award 2007. It is now administered as a nationwide program through the USDA/Hispanic Serving Institutions National Program (HSINP). It is also recognized as an Exemplary Science Program (ESP) by the National Association of Science Teachers (NSTA). Dr Wilson accepted two awards in 2014 on behalf of the program: The 2014 International SETAC/Menzie Environmental Education Award and the 2014 Outstanding Accomplishment in STEM Education Support Award as a member of the USDA/Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Mid-south Area Team awarded by the Federal Laboratories Consortium (FLC) Southeast Region.

Claudia Martinez

International Museum of Art & Science - Director of Education


Claudia Martinez is an avid museum-goer with a passion for education. She graduated with a BA in Art from the University of Southern Illinois – Carbondale in 2015, and is currently the Director of Education at the International Museum of Art & Science in McAllen, TX.

Roni Cortez

International Museum of Art & Science - Director of Education Assistant


Roni Cortez graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2016. She has exhibited at Hinovations Art Gallery, Upper Valley Art League, STC Technology Library, UTRGV Visual Arts Gallery, and has shown her works at local venues. Her focus is painting and drawing. She currently works at the International Museum of Art & Science as the Director of Education Assistant, where she teaches art classes and gives gallery tours to visitors of all ages.

Lisa Moreno

International Museum of Art & Science

Lisa Moreno

Lisa Moreno, a RGV native, graduated from Texas State University with a BS in Food and Nutrition Science in 2013. She is a Texas Master Naturalist and stained glass artist. She has shown in local venues. She spends her spare time volunteering with a Venturing BSA Crew and at local nature centers. She currently works at the International Museum of Art & Science as an Educator, where she engages with daily visitors about water conservation and the importance of wildlife.

Jesus Garza

International Museum of Art & Science - Science Education Coordinator

Jesus Garza

Jesus Garza, a RGV native, studied at University of Pan American. He taught astronomy for seven years as a Teacher Assistant in the Department of Physics and Geology. He currently works at the International Museum of Art & Science as the Science Education Coordinator, where he creates science content and engages with visitors about science education.

Celso Medrano

International Museum of Art & Science

Celso Medrano

Celso Medrano graduated with a BA in Art from the University of Houston in 2017. He has exhibited at Hinovations Art Gallery. He has a focus in painting and drawing. He currently works at the International Museum of Art & Science as an Educator, where he creates art and science lessons and coordinates the museum’s Operation Imagination camp programs. He enjoys interacting with daily visitors.

Abby Teveni

Youth Code Jam - Youth Program Lead


Abby is a recent graduate of St. Mary's University with a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering. She currently works as Youth Program Lead for Youth Code Jam. She helps plan and facilitate activities focused on computer science and computational thinking for youth. Abby is a member of National Center for Women in Technology, Technolochicas, and San Antonio's Digital Inclusion Alliance.

Sarah Horvath

Youth Code Jam - Curriculum Coordinator


Sarah recently joined the Youth Code Jam team as the Curriculum Coordinator. A former classroom teacher, she brings a variety of exciting learning experiences with her from across the country, as well as South Korea. Sarah is a University of Wisconsin-Madison alumna and earned her Master's degree in Elementary Education from Brown University. She has a passion for discovery, problem solving, and creating.