UHV honors faculty for teaching, research, service excellence
The University of Houston-Victoria recently acknowledged three faculty members in the fields of English and creative writing, Spanish, and psychology and biology for their work in teaching, research and service.
The faculty members are selected by their colleagues and students each spring for the prestigious awards. This year’s winners are:
- Teaching Excellence Award – Anthony Madrid, assistant professor of creative writing and English and director of the creative writing program
- Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award – Armando Chávez-Rivera, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Spanish program
- Distinguished Faculty Service Award – Sandy Venneman, professor of psychology and biology
Each winner will receive a plaque and a monetary award. They also will be honored during UHV’s two graduation ceremonies May 14 at Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane. The 10 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the colleges of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences and Natural & Applied Science. The 3 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the colleges of Business and Education & Health Professions. A live-streaming broadcast of the ceremonies will be available at www.uhv.edu/graduation.
“Teaching, research and service are three instrumental elements of success in higher education, and UHV is proud to honor our faculty members who excel in these areas,” said Chance Glenn, UHV provost and vice president of academic affairs. “All three of these faculty members do excellent work and have made an impact on their students, the university and the community.”
The Teaching Excellence Award was established in 1993. UHV students nominate professors who exemplify innovative, high-quality instruction relevant to their lives and careers.
Madrid came to teaching in a rather roundabout direction. When he was in high school, he thought he wanted to be a lawyer because he wanted to have that movie courtroom experience of standing in front of a jury and speaking with such eloquence that they choose to side with his case. However, after being part of a debate club, he learned that the vast majority of a lawyer’s work was focused on research.
“Looking back at it now, I know that I wanted a career that allowed me to have those moments of theatricality,” he said. “Teaching actually offers the possibility of making a connection with students through theatricality every day. I’ve come to love those moments when I can reveal information about a work of literature or share an interesting thought that helps students understand a concept. It speaks to my heart.”
One of Madrid’s favorite teaching experiences from the past year was teaching a Shakespeare class in the fall. To help his students better grasp the meaning of the plays, he created a voluntary group that met outside of class to read through the plays together with commentary from Madrid. While he only expected a few students to attend, at least 12 of the 15 students in the class attended every time, and sometimes all of the students were there.
“It was an amazing experience because it was so unique to have a class of students who voluntarily give up a Friday night to do this,” Madrid said. “I am delighted to know that I have made such an impact and impression on my students, and I’m grateful for this honor.”
The Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award recognizes professors who have made outstanding research contributions to their scholarly communities. Chávez-Rivera’s research focused on elements of the Spanish language, particularly in relation to its usage in Cuba and the Caribbean region.
Throughout his career, Chávez-Rivera has received many grants focused on research. Some of his more recent grants and fellowships include the Library Research Grant from the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida in 2021 and being named Scholar in Residence of the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in 2018 and 2019. He also recently was elected as a numerary member of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language, which is the highest ranking member of the academy. The academy’s mission is study, prepare and implement the normative rules of Spanish in the U.S.
One of Chávez-Rivera’s most recent projects involved finding and analyzing a lost Cuban manuscript from 1831. He spent a year in the Library of Congress finding and studying the document, which provided an important historical context about the development of the Spanish language’s usage and specific words in the Cuban Caribbean region.
“Research is a long and difficult process that involves spending weeks, months and even years on a topic in the hope that you can share something new and important with others,” Chávez-Rivera said. “Awards like this one are so important because they open doors and support faculty research efforts. I am thankful that the committee chose to recognize me for my work this year.”
UHV faculty members also annually recognize a peer with the Distinguished Faculty Service Award. This faculty member must admirably serve both the university and community. For Venneman, serving is an important part of life, and she dedicates time to serve both at UHV and in her personal life.
As a UHV faculty member, Venneman has volunteered in multiple committees and organizations. She currently serves as the vice president of the Faculty Senate, which means she will move up into the president role in the next academic year. She also is on the Faculty Grievance Committee and is chair of the Policy Review Committee. In addition, she is part of the leadership for the UHV chapters of both the Phi Kappa Phi and Nu Gamma Nu honor societies.
Outside of UHV, Venneman serves as the regional delegate for the U.S. Dressage Federation. She also teaches courses in sports psychology. Recently, an episode of the federation’s podcast that featured an interview with Venneman was ranked in the top 21 downloaded episodes for the federation’s podcast in the past year.
“Receiving this recognition was a wonderful surprise,” she said. “There are so many people on campus who are involved in all kinds of service. It’s nice to know that my work has been noticed and deemed worthy of recognition.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.