Tuesday, September 1, 2020
  Faculty Focus

By News and Internal Communications

By Paul Chouy

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Eight faculty members were recently honored for their accomplishments during the annual UTRGV Faculty Excellence Awards.

The awards recognize the work of UTRGV faculty in the areas of teaching, online teaching, research, service, student mentoring, community-engaged scholarship, and sustainability education.

Each faculty winner receives a plaque and a $5,000 monetary award.

Recipients of the 2020 UTRGV Faculty Excellence Awards include:  

  • Teaching (Tenure and Tenure-Track): Jacqueline B. Koonce, assistant professor, Department of Bilingual and Literacy Studies, College of Education and P-16 Integration.
  • Teaching (Non-Tenure Track): Hyun-Chul Lee, lecturer III, Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Sciences. 
  • Online Teaching: Mary King, lecturer II, Department of Criminal Justice, College of Liberal Arts. 
  • Research-Scholarship – Creative Work: Roy K. Chen, professor, School of Rehabilitation Services and Counseling, College of Health Professions. 
  • Service: Carmen Garcia-Caceres, lecturer III, Department of Teaching and Learning, College of Education and P-16 Integration. 
  • Student Mentoring: Megan Keniryassociate professor, Department of Biology, College of Sciences. 
  • Community Engaged Scholarship: Constantine Tarawneh, professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science. 
  • Sustainability Education: Christopher Gabler, assistant professor, School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences, College of Sciences. 

This year, the UTRGV Department Excellence Award in Faculty Mentoring went to the Department of Writing and Language Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. This award recognizes the department for demonstrating excellence in mentoring its faculty above and beyond the general expectations, particularly for women, minorities and junior faculty.

The awards were sponsored by the UTRGV Office of Faculty Success and Diversity, along with Academic Affairs, Student Success, and P-16 Integration; Health Affairs; Research, Graduate Studies and New Program Development; Governmental and Community Relations; and Institutional Advancement.


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.