Dean\'s Update – 8/10/2021 – Awards Edition
08/16/2021, 03:15:01 PM
View web version

Aug. 10, 2021


I know the continued uncertainty around the pandemic has added stress to this typically busy but exciting time of year. Please read President Khator’s email from this afternoon. Faculty, thank you for your patience as we await guidance on the first two weeks of classes. Staff, I can’t thank you enough for your ongoing dedication and professionalism. I hope you’ll each join me virtually to kick off the semester celebrating each other and continuing our focus on equity.

Key Events

  • Wednesday, Aug. 18 – Faculty and Staff Welcome Back: We’ll honor major milestones and awards earned by our faculty and staff. We’ll also welcome colleagues who have joined us over the last year and the new faculty starting this fall.
  • Friday, Aug. 20 – First Lecture: This year’s 10th anniversary event features nationally renowned commentator and comedian Baratunde Thurston on equity and a return appearance by award-winning teacher John Hunter. (Note: We have canceled the live watch party in the KIVA.)

Faculty Honors

I’m pleased to share that Associate Dean for Research Ezemenari Obasi (PHLS) has been named a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Chair, a prestigious and well-deserved University honor. He is the first professor from the College to achieve this hard-earned recognition.

In addition, Lorraine Reitzel (PHLS) and Alberto Rodriguez (incoming to CUIN) have each been named a Distinguished Professor of Education. This College honor recognizes exemplary accomplishments in teaching, service and/or scholarship with widespread impact. Provost Paula Myrick Short also holds this honorable distinction.

Kudos all around!

Strategic Plan

To better align with the new UH strategic plan, our College strategies have been slightly revised from our 2016-17 plan. See a streamlined version of our strategies at the bottom of this email.

  • A new strategy has been added to address student success.
  • Our commitment to advance equity, justice and belonging is now stated in our strategy about maintaining a culture of trust.
  • Professional development and communications will be embedded in the implementation of each strategy, rather than be stand-alone strategies.

COVID-19 Resources

For quick reference:

Onward in tribute,

Banner: A peaceful view of the fountains outside Farish Hall  

Distinguished Faculty


  • Commencement for 2020 Graduates — Thursday, Aug. 12. 7 p.m. at the Fertitta Center.
    • Seeking one more volunteer please!
  • Faculty & Staff Welcome Back: A Virtual Gathering — Wednesday, Aug 18. 10:30  – 11:30 a.m. Virtual via Zoom. RSVP via Outlook calendar invite.
  • First Lecture 2021 (Virtual) —  Friday, Aug. 20. 11 a.m. – Noon. Virtual via live stream or with closed captioning. RSVP today! KIVA watch party has been canceled.
  • No Hassle Lunch Break — Wednesday, Aug. 25. 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Farish Hall, KIVA. RSVP required to select your lunch option by close of business Thursday, Aug. 19 (see detailed lunch descriptions). 

RSVP for First Lecture


Kara Hurt-AvilaKara Hurt-Avila (PHLS Counseling)

Research interests/expertise: My research has focused on counselor professional identity development. Clinically, my specialty is perinatal mental health — counseling people through the journey of fertility/infertility, pregnancy and postpartum with an emphasis on filial and attachment-based therapies.  

Background: I grew up in rural southeast Colorado. My mom was dedicated to instilling the value of a college education in me, as she was a first-generation college graduate. I wanted to take that further and be the first doctorate degree holder in my family. I took a course in interpersonal process skills and found a connection with the profession of counseling.

If I weren’t a professor, I’d…  be an elementary art teacher. I love working with children and I love expressive arts.

Maredil León Cedeño Marédil León Cedeño (CUIN – Bilingual/ESL Education)

Research interests/expertise: My research explores the impact of language ideologies in the construction of language teacher identity — exploring how beliefs about language and language use shape teachers’ professional identity and teaching practices.

Background: I was born and raised in Venezuela. I started teaching in 2006 while still in college. In 2013, I got a Fulbright scholarship and moved to Tucson, which changed my life forever. I am the first person in my family to earn a Ph.D., and thanks to my move to the U.S., I have been able to keep my family afloat despite the terrible sociopolitical situation in Venezuela. 

If I weren’t a professor, I’d… be a marine biologist. I’m fascinated by sea animals, and I would love to know a lot more about them and the ocean.

Dave Louis Dave Louis (ELPS – Higher Education)

Research interests/expertise: The experience of Black faculty in higher education, particularly African Americans and Afro-Caribbean peoples. I also explore faculty diversity at historically Black colleges and universities.

Background: Born and raised in Trinidad; however, New York City was home base for many years. Mother was an elementary teacher for over 40 years, and my paternal grandfather was a school principal during the colonial years. Always loved education and fell in love with higher education while attending the University of the West Indies Sixth Form School.

If I weren’t a professor, I’d… be in education somehow. Honestly, I can’t see myself not being a professor or engaged in the research and learning process.

Alberto RodriguezAlberto Rodriguez (CUIN – Science Education)

Research interests: Equity, diversity and social justice-driven teacher education (at all levels); critical cross-cultural science/STEM teaching and learning. As part of a Fulbright grant, I’m working with colleagues in Costa Rica. This project focuses on cross-cultural STEM education with secondary pre-service teachers. One of the preliminary findings has widened our perspectives on critical cross-cultural awareness and teacher identity development. I look forward to sharing these insights soon.

If I weren’t a professor, I’d… be a graduate student working to become a professor.

Hobbies? Enjoy hiking, traveling and exploring new cultures, dancing, movies and good conversation. During the pandemic, I discovered some fun and creative ways to make science activities hands-on and minds-on even using true hybrid formats (i.e., some students online and some present). Never thought that would be possible. Plato was right: Necessity is the mother of invention.

Kmt Shockley	Kmt Shockley (ELPS – K-12 Leadership)

Research interests/expertise: African-centered education. I am working in a maroon village in Colombia, South America. Maroons are groups of Africans who, during the period of enslavement, escaped from plantations and created liberated spaces for themselves and their families. One of my Howard University doctoral students and I created a documentary that is focused on the world’s oldest Maroon group.

Background: I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. I am a first-generation college student, from a “working class” family. I was not destined for academia.

If I weren’t a professor, I’d… be a pianist.

Read more in the full Q&A.


2021 Faculty Awards

Teaching Excellence Award
Keith Butcher (ELPS), April Peters-Hawkins (ELPS) and Virginia Snodgrass Rangel (ELPS)

Faculty Research Excellence Award 
Elsa Gonzalez (ELPS)

Collaborative Research Excellence Award 
Lorraine Reitzel (PHLS)

Staff Awards

Staff Distinguished Service Award
Jeylan Yassin (UGS)

Staff Excellence Award
Isabel Martinez Leal (PHLS), Lena Mitchell (previously OOR)

Staff Spirit Award
Yonelly Gutiérrez (ELPS), Oluwasade Orebiyi (UGS)

Service Awards

Five Years
Keith Butcher (ELPS), Robert Hausmann (CUIN), Ruth López (ELPS), Isabel Martinez Leal (PHLS), Ericka Mellon (DO), An Nguyen (ELPS), April Peters-Hawkins (ELPS), Greta Ralston (UGS), Jaha Williams (DO), Jie Zhang (CUIN)

10 Years
Kristen Hassett (ELPS), Dustine Thomas (CUIN)

15 Years
Weihua Fan (PHLS), Jeanette Narvaez (DO), Daniel Pineda (CITE), Amber Thompson (CUIN)

20 Years
Becky Perez (CUIN)

25 Years
Sara McNeil
(CUIN), Cameron White (CUIN)

30 Years
Eleanore Tyson (CUIN)

35 Years
Consuelo Arbona (PHLS)

Questions about the Dean’s Update? Email and

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