Wednesday, July 8, 2020

By Victoria Brito

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Monica Yates, academic adviser for UTeach at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Staff Award by the UTeach STEM Educators Association (USEA.)

Traditionally, this award is announced in May at the UTeach STEM Educators Conference, but due to the pandemic, the conference is postponed until July and will be virtual.

“Things are so different in our world today, and I would have loved to hug and thank my coworkers in the UTeach program,” Yates said. “This award is also their award. I couldn’t have done it without their support.”

Yates, who knew she had been nominated, said receiving the national recognition still came as a surprise. What is most exciting, she said, is that it showcases the work she does each day for students in the UTeach program.

“It is beyond awesome to have received this honor,” she said. “It makes me feel like my work is appreciated by my colleagues and by UTeach. This personally validates to me that my work does matter.”

Yates has been with the university for 14 years, working as an academic adviser with UTRGV legacy institution UT Pan American, focusing on advising undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students. She made the move to UTeach in 2013, during the transition to UTRGV.

Yates was nominated by Omar Elizondo, Elizabeth Goldberg and Tim Sears, UTRGV UTeach master teachers. Upon her nomination, Yates was asked to submit a letter to the UTeach organization to catalog her contributions in the program.

“Monica Yates is highly professional and deeply caring in her advising to a large volume of students,” said Dr. Chris Smith, UTRGV UTeach co-director and program manager for the College of Sciences. “She always has the benefit and success of our students at the forefront of her mind, and she relentlessly goes the extra mile for them. She is absolutely deserving of the USEA award.”


UTeach began at UT Austin in 1997 as an innovative way to recruit undergraduate STEM majors and prepare them to become teachers. UTeach is now nationwide with 44 university programs in 23 states and the District of Columbia.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.