UHV Academic Affairs announces new awards

Willie Black
Elise Hendricker
Kendra Matthews
Jennifer Ortiz-Garza
Jennifer Reeder
Rhiannon Smith
Yun Wan

The University of Houston-Victoria is celebrating outstanding faculty, staff and students with a new set of Academic Affairs awards that acknowledges achievements including junior faculty members, mentors, administrative leaders, academic advisors and outstanding students.

“These awards are intended to recognize those who have gone above and beyond in the 2020-2021 academic year,” said Chance Glenn, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We plan to make these annual awards in order to create a continuous process and culture of recognizing outstanding work. The past year has been a difficult time for our employees and students, and these individuals have put in the extra effort to help us navigate that time.”

Chance Glenn

In future years, UHV plans to add the awards to others that are honored at a special banquet the evening before the annual spring commencement. Other awards that are honored at the banquet include Outstanding Faculty Awards and the Outstanding Students for each of the three academic schools. A banquet was not held this year because of safety precautions for the pandemic. Faculty and staff members who receive awards also will receive a plaque and a cash prize of $500. The Outstanding Students will receive a plaque and a $1000 scholarship to use in the fall.

Candidates for awards were decided by nominations, and the nominees for the different awards were voted on by UHV faculty and staff members and students in an online ballot.

The Outstanding Junior Faculty Member award is for members of the UHV faculty who have been at the university for less than five years. The award was given to Willie Black, director of field experiences for the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. Black has served on numerous committees in his few short years at UHV and founded a mentoring program at an area middle school. Black was nominated for the award because of his extensive involvement in groups on campus including the Diversity and Race Task Force, the Enrollment Campus Committee and Aspiring Leaders Facebook Group.

The Faculty Mentor of the Year award honors faculty members, chairs, or other members of the Academic Affairs community who have been there for other faculty members by serving as mentors throughout the year. Elise Hendricker received this year’s award. She is the chair of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, and she is known for mentoring junior faculty throughout the school. This year, she hosted regular mentor meetings and invited faculty members from the School of Arts & Sciences to participate. In her nomination, she was acknowledged for serving as “a great source of support and a role model” for many.

The Above and Beyond Award honors a faculty or staff member or student who has gone above and beyond to improve academics at UHV. This year, the award was given to Jennifer Ortiz-Garza, senior lecturer in psychology. In her nomination, Ortiz-Garza was recognized for going above and beyond to serve not only her department but the university as a whole, putting “her whole heart into everything she does.”

The Outstanding Administrative Leader was awarded to two individuals: Yun Wan, professor of computer information systems and chair of the School of Arts & Sciences computer science division, and Rhiannon Smith, director of administration and student services in the business school. The administrative leader award recognizes chairs, deans, directors, and other administrative leaders in Academic Affairs. According to his nomination, Wan is “very passionate about growing computer science and computer information systems programs” and “finding different ways to collaborate with other institutions and businesses to make STEM more accessible to students from all backgrounds.” Rhiannon Smith was nominated for exemplifying true excellence through her vast knowledge, professional conduct, and passion for the best interests of the students in the School of Business. She “works tirelessly to ensure that our students are taken care of, and that the faculty and staff are made to feel seen and heard.”

The Outstanding Advisor award went to Jennifer Reeder, an advisor for the School of Arts & Sciences in Katy. The award recognizes the efforts of academic advisors, including success coaches, school advisors, and certification analysts. Reeder’s nomination recognized her for being “passionate about helping students, about finding more efficient solutions to common problems, and about finding different ways to collaborate across departments.”

Kendra Matthews, executive administrative assistant to the provost, was named Outstanding Office Staff Member. The award recognizes administrative staff members for their excellent work in Academic Affairs. Matthews has the office of Academic Affairs running smoothly and efficiently, never missing a beat despite the special challenges of working in the age of COVID, her nomination said. She has remained on campus throughout the pandemic, keeping the day-to-day operations of Academic Affairs running smoothly while also auditing and improving all processes within the unit.

The Outstanding Students awards are given to students who have exhibited excellence over the course of the academic year but who are not graduating this year. The students were nominated by faculty members. This year’s Outstanding Students are:

  • Beverly Bellot – Bellot is a graduate student from Houston majoring in Computer Information Systems. She is known in the program for the strength of her academic commitment.
  • Daniel Perez – Perez is a senior history major from Goliad who enjoys the outdoors. He has a strong interest in learning about people and culture, and he “excels in his coursework, writing eloquently” and exhibiting a “keen eye for research.”
  • Pavithra Sivashanmugam – Sivashanmugam is from Katy and is completing a Master of Science in computer science and has assisted faculty in developing interactive activities for their courses.
  • Andrew Tomek – Tomek is a freshman from Shiner who “says he is a history major” but, according to his nominator, also shows a great deal of promise in math. He is a freelance photographer who has been covering sports events for the Victoria Advocate since the age of 15, and he impressed his instructor with his exceptional level of focus.

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.