Monday, September 13, 2021
  Around Campus, Science & Technology

By News and Internal Communications

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV has been awarded a five-year, $3 million grant for research focused on enhancing the success of undergraduate Hispanic students in STEM disciplines.

The National Science Foundation awarded the funding to a team of UTRGV researchers for a project called “HSI Institutional Transformation Project: Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Through Family-Centered Pedagogy,” which seeks to assess and implement a novel  Family-Centered Theory of Change Model.

Dr. Parwinder Grewal, executive vice president for Research, Graduate Studies and New Program Development, is principal investigator of the project.

“This grant will provide resources for investigators to identify and dismantle deficit thinking systems, policies and practices and one-size-fits-all pedagogies that continue to marginalize Latinx students from STEM fields in the United States,” he said. 



The Institutional Transformation Project program will focus both on faculty development and students transitioning to college, Grewal said.

“Our existing Community-Engaged Scholarship & Learning, CESL1101 seminar course will be revised into an introductory Mexican American Studies course for STEM students, as they make their transition from high school to college,” he said. “This CESL course will address diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) through the multidimensional intersectionality framework for multiple social identities, domains of power and historicity.”

UTRGV researchers said they plan to use the project in a variety of ways that will help boost student interest and persistence in STEM fields.

“We are so excited to receive this prestigious award from the NSF, as it will help us move UTRGV toward a truly Hispanic/Latinx "Serving" Institution,” said Dr. Maritza De La Trinidad, Mexican American Studies associate professor and co-principal investigator.

“The grant will introduce new pedagogies and frameworks to teaching introductory STEM courses, such as Family-Centered pedagogies and culturally relevant / responsive teaching centered on students' culture, language and heritage.”

The project features an interdisciplinary collaboration between more UTRGV faculty from the STEM fields and Mexican American Studies, and a local non-profit organization called Ave Frontera which will serve as a medium of engagement with students, faculty, and administrators in critical conversations where family leaders can participate in UTRGV’s transformation process to help determine what is in the best interest of Latinx students.

 The project is designed to create educational opportunities and environments with an impact on more than 1500 students during the course of the five-year grant period.

“The goal is to help STEM faculty learn how to build trusting relationships with their students,” said Dr. Juan Salinas, CEO of Ave Frontera.

“AVE Frontera will train faculty on how to build student, family and teacher engagement within their STEM courses, and we will collaborate with the grant-lead team to investigate the effectiveness of the family-centered and culturally relevant pedagogical model,” Salinas said.




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.