College Roundup - University of Houston
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College Roundup A selection of faculty, staff, student and alumni happenings

December 2023

Two-time UH graduate Deirdre Riordan has been named principal at Cage Elementary in the Houston Independent School District. Riordan previously worked as an assistant principal at HISD’s Piney Point Elementary. She earned an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction – learning, design and technology in 2016 and an Ed.D. in professional leadership – K-12 in 2022.  

November 2023

Asma Mohd, who earned an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction – learning, design and technology in 2023 and a B.S. in teaching and learning in 2020, has been named the 2023-24 Teacher of the Year at Mission Bend Glen Elementary in Fort Bend ISD. Mohd teaches fifth grade math and science at the school. 

Alum Emily Messa, who serves as UH’s senior associate vice president for administration, earned the 2023 Robert F. Newton Award for Distinguished Service from the National Association of College Auxiliary Services. This prestigious award from the professional association representing the non-academic segment of higher education recognizes a person’s extraordinary service to the organization and the profession. Messa earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology and individual differences in 2015 and an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2012. 

Health Professor Norma Olvera received the Revolution Award from the Association for the Recognition of Hidden Talent (A.R.T.E.) for her work promoting a healthy lifestyle among the Hispanic community. Olvera, who directs the BOUNCE — Behavior Opportunities Uniting Nutrition, Coaching & Exercise — program, was honored at a ceremony hosted by the Mexican Consulate in Houston.

October 2023

Doctoral alum Grace Lee earned first place in the Texas Association for Bilingual Education’s 2023 dissertation award competition. Her research focused on student-teachers’ beliefs about language use in the classroom and their confidence in working with emergent bilingual students. Lee, who earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction — bilingual/ESL education in 2023, now works as a postdoctoral fellow in UH’s Child Language Ability Lab in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. 

Distinguished Professor Alberto J. Rodriguez has been invited to be part of the core planning group of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Collaborative for Advancing Science Teaching and Learning in K-12. The goals for the initiative include implementing science standards across states and districts and developing a communication and engagement strategy for advancing K-12 science and engineering education. Rodriguez will attend a planning meeting in Washington, D.C. in November.

Hope Rigby-Wills, a lecturer in the special populations program and a doctoral alum, has been selected for the Council for Learning Disabilities Leadership Institute. The program is designed for graduate students and early career faculty to develop career, grant writing and teaching skills. Rigby-Wills earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – special populations in 2023.

Steven Wei, who earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – health science education in 2021, received the Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology Lifetime Achievement Award during the annual symposium in August. Wei is currently a manager of advanced practice providers in the Department of Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Bernadette Castillo, a clinical assistant professor in the curriculum and instruction – teaching/teacher education program, will become program chair of the American Educational Research Association’s Latina/o/x Research Issues special interest group for the 2024-25 academic year. She’s currently serving as program chair-elect of the group, which connects researchers and practitioners focused on issues of importance to the Latinx community in the United States.

Blake Allan, an associate professor in the counseling psychology doctoral program, has been elected to fellow status in the American Psychological Association’s Society of Counseling Psychology (Division 17). His research focuses on quality of work, including issues such as underemployment, precarious work, decent work and working poverty. The College has five other APA fellows:

  • Consuelo Arbona, professor of counseling psychology
  • Julie Dunsmore, professor of human development and family sciences
  • Robert McPherson, professor of counseling psychology and former dean
  • Roberta Nutt, former clinical professor of counseling psychology
  • Nathan Grant Smith, professor of counseling psychology program

September 2023

Stephanie Pérez-Gill, program director for the Advancing Community Engagement and Service Institute, received a 2023-24 scholarship from the UH Staff Council. She was honored at the Staff Council Awards and Scholarship Ceremony in July. Perez-Gill is also a doctoral student in the higher education program.

August 2023

Kelly Lee, who earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology in 2016 and an M.Ed. in counseling in 2013, will serve as president-elect for the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs. Lee is currently a clinical associate professor and training director for the counseling psychology program at the Texas A&M University School of Education and Human Development. Her official term as president-elect will begin in August.

July 2023

Three-time UH graduate Michael Ahlf, an assistant manager in the College’s technology department, won a first-place research award from the Association for Educational Communications and Technology’s Division of Distance Learning. Specifically, he received the division’s Graduate Student Research ‘Mixed Methods’ Based Award for the capstone paper of his doctoral dissertation titled “A Systematic Review of Research on Moderators in Asynchronous Online Discussions.” Sara McNeil, an associate professor and director of the College’s learning, design and technology program, was the second author on the paper. Ahlf earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction in 2022, an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction in 2014 and a B.S. in electrical engineering from UH in 2002.