Dean's Update - University of Houston
Skip to main content

Dean's Update

Students at Spring 2019 graduation

June 11, 2019

Message from the Dean 

I’m pleased to share that ELPS Associate Chair April Peters-Hawkins will serve as acting chair while Cathy Horn is away on her ACE Fellowship. Peters-Hawkins joined the College in August 2016 after working for the University of Georgia and serving as a high school principal in Baltimore. She is a past president of the University Council for Educational Administration.

I also want to thank ELPS Associate Professor Kristi Santi for her leadership of the FEC over the last year and welcome Associate Professor Jacquie Hawkins as chair.

Last week I had an opportunity to attend a breakfast, hosted by the UH Board of Visitors, to celebrate the Third Ward Schools Initiative. Talking with the school principals and staff and our ACES Institute team reinforced the importance of our theme for the next year – partnerships. I encourage you all to think about how we can continue to forge greater connections with the community that involve our students and research. Please feel free to reach out with any suggestions or opportunities.


Editor’s note: Dean’s Update will not publish in July.


  • Independence Day (UH closed) – Thursday, July 4.
  • Farewell Celebration for Jon Schwartz – Tuesday, June 25. 2-3:30 p.m. KIVA. RSVP to
  • Faculty & Staff Breakfast – Friday, Aug. 16. 9 a.m. Rockwell Pavilion.
  • First Lecture – Friday, Aug. 16. 11 a.m. Cullen Performance Hall.

Note: The UH holiday schedule for 2019-20 has been posted.


Curriculum & Instruction


  • In case you missed it, enjoy this video featuring the first two graduates of our Teach Forward Houston program. They graduated in May and will teach in Houston ISD in the fall as we welcome a new cohort of fellows.  

Educational Leadership & Policy Studies


  • Provost and Senior Vice President Paula Myrick Short recently was quoted in The New York Times about UHin4 and other efforts to improve the graduation rate at UH.
  • Join us in welcoming Yonelly Gutierrez as the new ELPS program manager. She graduated in May with an M.Ed. in higher education and was a graduate assistant in the office previously.

Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences


  • Associate Professor Milena Keller-Margulis has received a $1.39 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences with Professor Jorge Gonzalez as co-investigator. Their project involves developing an improved tool for assessing the writing skills of elementary school students, using a curriculum-based measurement approach and automated scoring.
  • Health Program Director Kayce Solari Williams led her second successful learning abroad trip for students to the Dominican Republic this summer.



  • We hope you’ve had time to review the new templates for flyers, PowerPoint presentations and letterhead. You can access the templates and related Design Guide on the COE intranet under “Office of Communications.”
  • NOTE: New letterhead for PHLS will be uploaded soon with revised logos that include a comma after “Health.” The revised style for the department name is now the Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences.



Lauren Topek

Lauren Topek, who earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the College in 2012, returned in September 2018 to serve as our certification officer and director of accreditation and accountability. She has a bachelor’s from New York University and a master’s from Harvard University and has worked in education for two decades. Learn more:

Q: What are some day-to-day challenges you face?

A: I don’t think I have any challenges. Everyone here at the College of Education has been so welcoming and supportive.

Q: You’re pretty active on Twitter. How is social media an effective tool in education?

A: Being able to promote and celebrate all the successes that are happening. In addition, there’s so much the education world can offer through social media – whether it’s articles, video clips or links to actual professors across the world. It makes becoming or being an educator much more connected.

Q: How do you spend your spare time?

A: If I have it, spare time is family time. My husband and I believe it is very important that our kids have that quality time with us. With how busy everyone gets, we don’t want to lose those moments.

Read the full Q&A.

Lauren Topek

Academic advisor Geneva Marquina has always been interested in helping professions. After working as a middle school teacher, she earned a master’s in counseling from the College in 2014. Now, the Mississippi native advises our teaching majors. Learn more:

Q: What are some common student concerns?

A: It ranges from which classes to pick out, juggling work and school, and interpersonal issues. It always leads to the question if they’ll graduate on time. I stress to them that their time is their time. They don’t have to measure it necessarily within society’s standard of being “on time.”

Q: How would you compare the life in Mississippi to here in Houston?

A: The experiences in diversity and culture are vastly different. Growing up in my hometown, I didn’t see many students like myself. I am Asian American and seeing other people like me was really important.

Q: Favorite pastimes?

A: I love reading. I just finished reading “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng and “Educated” by Tara Westover.

Read the full Q&A.


Miao Li

PHLS Associate Professor Nikki Coleman discussed her article published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture in January.

Title: “The Relation of Black-Oriented Reality Television Consumption and Perceived Realism to the Endorsement of Stereotypes of Black Women”

Co-authors: Akilah A. Reynolds and Autena Torbati

Q: What was the main question you were trying to answer?

A: Part of the bigger picture we were trying to answer is, do black women behave stereotypically because they’re being socialized by media to think this is how black women are? Are there other ways black women can be portrayed in the media? To what extent are those impacts having a negative effect on our community?

Q: What were your most significant, interesting or surprising findings?

A: The most significant finding was the opposite of our hypothesis. The women in this sample did not strongly endorse these negative stereotypes even when they had been consuming black-oriented reality television. Our outcomes told a better story than the predicted one that assumes if you consume a lot of negative television, then you will have negative stereotypes.

Q: What policy or future implications do you see?

A: In the future, I see better media being produced. It may not be reality TV because drama, sex and conflict sells reality TV. In scripted television, we are seeing more complicated and realistic portrayals of black women in the past couple of years and I think that is a good place for us to be moving toward.

Read the full Q&A.

Dean’s Update typically publishes on the second Tuesday of each month.

Prior newsletters are archived on the College website.

This is an official message sent by the University of Houston. To verify the validity of this message, email