News and Events

UTRGV students share disaster preparedness research findings with area officials: Disaster Studies at UTRGV

There are almost 180,000 people in the Rio Grande Valley living with a disability, and most are not prepared to deal with a disaster like a hurricane. Recent findings like those from students in a disaster studies course at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley showed a disturbing trend of unwillingness among area residents to abandon their homes in favor of personal safety. Please read more at: UTRGV Newsroom.

UTRGV panel focuses on disaster preparedness for people with disabilities: A Forum on Disaster Preparedness

With hurricane season in full swing, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley hosted a panel in May to discuss disaster preparedness for individuals with disabilities and the importance of taking a proactive approach. Lease read more at: The Monitor.

UTRGV students share disaster preparedness findings with local officials: Cultivating A Culture of Preparedness and Promoting Partnership

“We are a lot of times tasked with the response, the mitigation and the recovery of things,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time to do that research. So, when we partner up with the university to bring that data to us, it’s going to make our response a lot better.” Please watch the video clip at: UTRGV YouTube Video.

Dr. Kyne was awarded an Outstanding Poster Award (Dr. Tom Phelan Award) by FEMA on June 5, 2019: Outstanding Award by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Dr. Kyne was awarded an Outstanding Poster Award (Dr. Tom Phelan Award) by FEMA at the 21st Annual Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium on June 5, 2019.  Dr. Kyne presented his research findings in a poster format; Service-Learning to Promote Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Unity for Building Disaster Resiliency. More information at: FEMA Award.

Dr. Kyne Receving Award FEMA award certificate

NEXUS-Spring 2019: Research Studies in Disaster Studies MA Program

Dr. Dean Kyne and his graduate students in SOCI 6331 Disaster and Society class which was offered in Fall 2018 in the Disaster Studies MA Program shared their service-learning experience and research outcomes in the NEXUS-Spring 2019 on April 2, 2019. More information at: NEXUS.

Students in SOCI 3348 Disaster and Society Class presented their study’s findings at the Engaged Scholarship & Learning 2019 on April 17, 2019: Service-Learning in Disaster Studies MA Program

Dr. Dean Kyne and his students in SOCI 3348 Disaster and Society presented their study’s findings in the Engaged Scholar Symposium 2019 at UTRGV held on April 17, 2019. During this semester, the students were guided by Dr. Kyne to conduct a research study on disaster preparedness of individuals with a disability and their health conditions in the Rio Grande Valley as part of a service-learning component. The students in four groups presented their findings in four posters. More information at: Dr. Kyne.

Students’ Presentation at the Transforming through Engagement Symposium: Service Learning in Disaster Studies MA Program

Graduate students in SOCI 6331 Disaster and Society class which was offered in Fall 2018 in the Disaster Studies MA Program shared The students in two groups presented two research topics in poster formats, namely Understanding Social Capital and Disaster Preparedness, and A Study of Perceived Risk and Disaster Preparedness in Rio Grande Valley. More information at: Dr. Kyne.

Dr. Dean Kyne presented Nuclear Power Emergency in the United States of America: Challenges Associated with Standard Operation Procedure and Emergency Evacuation at the International Symposium on Communicating Nuclear Emergencies to the Public, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2018 in Vienna, Austria on October 2, 2018: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Dr. Dean Kyne presented Nuclear Power Emergency in the United States of America: Challenges Associated with Standard Operation Procedure and Emergency Evacuation at the International Symposium on Communicating Nuclear Emergencies to the Public, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2018 in Vienna, Austria on October 2, 2018. This study examines if the public could be informed during and after the nuclear power plant emergencies in a timely manner to evacuate. The study stimulates a nuclear power plant core meltdown accident in order to estimate the time required to complete the tasks designated in the standard operation procedure. The study finds that one of the most challenges with nuclear power plant emergencies is to inform the public in a timely manner. Recommendations are provided to effectively manage the nuclear power emergencies in US. More information at: Events and Dr. Kyne.

Sociology faculty, Dr. Jose Villarreal speaks about the Defending Migrant Families and Human Rights Conference held on April 3, 2019.

Dr. Jose Villarreal from the UTRGV Sociology department is featured for our Spotlight of the Month to discuss "Defending Migrant Families and Human Rights" a conference that will be held with panelists including La Union del Pueblo Entero - LUPE, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley's Sister Norma Seni Pimentel, and the South Texas Human Rights Center.

Dr. Jose Villarreal was interviewed by UTRGV-TV: UTRGV TV Video

The Monitor Newspaper: UTRGV researchers focus on Valley's ability to recover from natural disasters.

By: Danya Perez-Hernandez on June 24, 2018

Story includes information about Drs. Kyne, Lomeli, Wladyka, Sepielak, and Temby's research: The Monitor Link

Channel 4: Hidalgo County Emergency Management prepared for storms

By: Jolanie Martinez on June 12,2018

Video and full story about Dr. Dean Kyne's work:


UTRGV Faculty Research on RGV Hurricane Resiliency


For more information:

2017 UTRGV Faculty Excellence Awards honor Dr. Dean Kyne for his book, Nuclear Power Plant Emergencies in the United States

For more information:  UTRGV News

Government Science and Technology Geoinformatics North America interview with Dr. Dean Kyne and Dr. William Donner

Both professors discussed the multiple tornadoes in East Texas on April 29, 2017, which killed 10 individuals and injured 50 more. 

For more information: Tornado Touch Down in East Texas 

CALL FOR PAPERS: International Journal of Disaster Response and Emergency Management (IJDREM)

The Editors-in-Chief of IJDREM invite authors to submit manuscripts for consideration in this scholarly journal. IJDREM is interested in all aspects of disaster and emergency studies highlighting various issues, problems, new ideas, and concepts from all researchers, academics and practitioners around the world. All manuscripts must be submitted through the E-Editorial Discovery™ online submission manager:

For more information:

UTRGV Honors Community Partners at Awards Ceremony. 

The City of Edinburg Solid Waste Management was one of the community partners awarded for their work with Dr. Dean Kyne in creating a service-learning project on April 20, 2017. Students in Dr. Kyne's course learned about issues the management officials faced and provided researched sustainable solutions. To learn more about this exciting contribution, review Jennifer L. Berghom's story below.

UTRGV Honors Community Partners at Awards Ceremony link

Emeritus Professor, Dr. Chad Richardson's Revised Edition of Batos, Bolillos, Pochos, and Pelados: Class and Culture on the South Texas Border will be available in July 2017Richardson's Book Cover: Batos, Bolillos, Pochos, and Pelados

Now thoroughly revised and updated, this classic account of life on the Texas-Mexico Border reveals how the borderlands have been transformed by NAFTA, population growth and immigration crisis, and increased drug violence. New developments since 2000, include undocumented immigration, the drug wars, race relations, growing social inequality, and the socioeconomic gap between Latinos and the rest of the American society-issues of vital and continuing national importance.  Lastly, the contributions of over 400 students from sociology classes will be credited in the book. The book will be published by the University of Texas Press. 

Nuclear Power Plant Emergencies in the United States, Dr. Dean Kyne´s new book will be available in 2017

Nuclear Power Plant Emergencies in the United States book cover

Dr. Dean Kyne, Assistant Professor of Environmental Sociology,  presents detailed insight in his new book about the nuclear power induced disaster management process, highlights statistical associations and estimations of radiation doses, and provides details to the problems and priorities of nuclear power induced disaster management. 

For more information:

Dr. Billy J. Ulibarri assists Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) with “Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones” research in Eastern Africa

Different locations in Africa

In association with Nobel Prize winning non-governmental organization (NGO) Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and Georgetown University, Dr. Billy Ulibarri spent two weeks in Eastern Africa studying the use of forensic evidence in cases of mass rape. PHR uses medicine and scientific research to document and raise public awareness to mass atrocities, war crimes, and serious human rights violation around the world. They are most active in conflict and post-conflict zones such as Syria and East African countries.  Dr. Ulibarri was an evaluation consultant for their “Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones” which is a program to develop and strengthen local communities’ capacity to convict sexual assault perpetrators by training first responders on forensic evidence collection. This program operates in Eastern Africa, namely Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kenya, where mass rape has regularly occurred during times of conflict.  PHR trains physicians and other medical personnel, law enforcement, legal professionals to collect, store, and preserve forensic sexual assault evidence so that it can be admitted into court. 

Dr. Ulibarri helped assess the impact of the trainings and to identify local challenges in collecting and admitting forensic evidence.  The research team traveled to regions in DRC, namely Bukavu and Goma and communities in Kenya, namely Kisumu, Nairobi, Nakuru, Naivasha, and Eldoret.  Over the two weeks, the research team conducted over 40 interviews across 7 research sites. Preliminary findings suggest a significant improvement in law enforcement’s ability to expertly collect forensic evidence, coinciding with improved examination techniques among emergency medical professionals.

More information:

Disaster Studies Program's Dr. Donner interviewed by our local Channel 4 news journalist, Michelle Vargas, on providing the RGV with a plan for natural disasters

UTRGV research program aims to generate disaster plan for impoverished areas 

16th conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM)

On July 13th, 2016 Dr. Dawid Wladyka participated in the 16th conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) "Rethinking Forced Migration and Displacement: Theory, Policy, and Praxis" that took place at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan (Poland). He presented a paper titled "Mapping Forced Migrations from Central America and the Trafficking in Persons along Mexico's Eastern Migration Routes". This paper was co-authored by Guadalupe Correa-CabreraMaria Fernanda Machuca and Dawid Wladyka, and it is related to the on-going research grant funded through the United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons Office (J/TIP).

Sociology welcomes four new faculty members this fall

Four new faculty members will join us this fall at the rank of Assistant Professor. Jennifer Tabler receives her PhD this summer from the University of Utah. She specializes in the sociology of health and health services. Much of her recent work focuses on eating disorders. Rachel Schmitz comes to us from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she receives her PhD in May 2016. Her areas of research and teaching expertise include gender, sexuality, qualitative methods and family. Amie Bostic receives a PhD in sociology this year from Duke University. Her research interests include poverty, social policy, gender, and family. Finally, Laryssa Mykyta received a PhD in sociology and demography from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. Since that time, she has worked as a statistician and demographer in the U.S. Census Bureau's Poverty Statistics Branch. Her work focuses on poverty and family/household arrangements.

Dr. William Donner is recipient of grant to study colonias' responses to flood risk

Associate Professor William Donner was given a two-year AXA Award of 250,000 euros to study the social and environmental vulnerabilities of south Texas colonias and the level of flood risk and preparedness in these communities. The title of his project is "An Environmental and Socioeconomic Evaluation of Hydrological Risks in Lower South Texas." The AXA Research Fund is an international scientific philanthropy initiative that supports research to understand and better prevent risks. To learn more about Dr. Donner's grant and to watch a video, visit the AXA website.

Sociology partnership with A-PRIME TIME program at UTRGV

The Sociology program is proud to partner with the A-PRIME TIME (APT) program at UTRGV to offer aspiring medical professionals introductory sociology courses with a focus on the social components of health. As of 2015, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) includes sociological content in its new “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” section. Students who meet all APT requirements receive conditional acceptance into participating medical schools (UTRGV, UT Medical School in Galveston, and UT Medical School in Houston).

Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin Hannes visits Disasters and Society class

Mr. Kevin Hannes, Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO), visited Dr. Kyne’s Disasters and Society course on April 12, 2016. As part of the course, Dr. Kyne brings in environmental officials and experts to introduce students to their lived experiences and knowledge in the field. As an FCO, Kevin serves as the representative of the President of the United States and the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during major disasters and emergency declarations. His responsibilities include the executive coordination of federal, state and local assets and resources required to support the state governors and emergency managers. Since his appointment he has been designated as the FCO for Presidential Major Disaster Declarations in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Office of Student Success and Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) formalize Concurrent Enrollment Partnership


May 6th marks the formalization of the Concurrent Enrollment Partnership agreement between BISD and UTRGV. Leading up to this formalization, the Sociology & Anthropology Department has helped throughout the 2015-2016 academic year’s pilot program. Valley Native, Dr. Arlett Lomeli, taught Introduction to Sociology courses online during both semesters and was instrumental in shaping this course offering for dual enrolled students. Among the program’s accomplishments has been the creation of a strong system of collaboration and transparent communication between Dr. Lomeli, UTRGV tutors, and the BISD teaching team made up of Ms. C. Caddel, Mr. J. Jimenez, and Ms. J. Schuster. Together they have provided support to students taking the course at their respective early college high schools: Hanna, Pace, and Rivera. The experience working with students in these courses has added significant value to the overall program’s lessons learned and will continue to help shape programmatic planning for dual enrollment at UTRGV. Students visited the UTRGV Brownsville campus on April 27th to present their final projects to their peers. Dr. Lomeli will welcome a new cohort of students from all six BISD high schools to the course this Fall.