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Dean's Update

Students at Spring 2019 graduation

May 14, 2019

Message from the Dean 

This time of year is always a wonderful reminder of why we do the work we do. At Star Awards, we heard student scholarship recipients commit to paying it forward and alumni reflect on the life-changing experiences they had here. At graduation, teaching graduate Ayo Shofoluwe shared how his hopelessness as a hospitalized child turned into hope.

“I have made a lifelong commitment to contributing to my community since then,” he said.

Indeed, as we look ahead to next year, I look forward to our continued work to serve our students and the community. Along those lines, the strategic plan leadership group met this month and agreed to focus our efforts in the coming year on growing and strengthening partnerships – a theme that also aligns with our “50 in 5” research goals. A working group will meet this summer to develop next steps.

Thank you all for finishing the semester strong.



  • Staff Stop and Share with the Dean – Thursday, May 16, 10-11 a.m. Farish 214.
  • Girls on the Run Houston 5K – Saturday, May 18, 8 a.m. race start. Lynn Eusan Park on campus. In collaboration with BOUNCE. Volunteer opportunities available.
  • Faculty & Staff Breakfast – Friday, Aug. 16, 9 a.m. Rockwell Pavilion.
  • First Lecture – Friday, Aug. 16, 11 a.m. Cullen Performance Hall.

March of Dimes

Thank you to everyone who donated and helped raise funds for March of Dimes March for Babies. We exceeded our goal of $2,000 and raised $2,953!


Curriculum & Instruction


  • Eulises Avellaneda had his proposal accepted by the UH Alternative Textbook Incentive Program for his bilingual education course. In addition, he will present on the use of vblogs in the teaching of second languages at the TESOL conference in Colombia. He also will present on the use of vblogs to help preservice bilingual Latino students develop their professional Spanish at the GERES conference in France.
  • Associate Dean and Clinical Assistant Professor Sesa Edgar was quoted in Community Impact Newspaper about effective teaching.
  • US PREP highlighted the transformation work of our teacher-preparation program in a new case study report that quotes Amber Thompson, Shea Culpepper and Jahnette Wilson.
  • Professor Cam White led a group of doctoral students who presented at the 2019 Region 5-Texas Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education Conference in Nacogdoches.

Educational Leadership & Policy Studies


  • We’re excited to announce that Bradley Davis, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington College of Education, will be joining our faculty as an associate professor. The Houston native previously taught in Alvin ISD and has interests in social justice leadership, public school administration, leadership policy and education law.

Psychological, Health & Learning Sciences


Manuscripts accepted for publication

  • Rosenda Murillo, “Diabetes prevalence by leisure, transportation, and occupation-based physical activity among racially/ethnically diverse U.S. adults” (in press). Diabetes Care.
  • Lorraine Reitzel and Virmarie Correa-Fernández, “Tobacco-related knowledge following a comprehensive tobacco-free workplace program within behavioral health facilities: Identifying organizational moderators” (in press). Patient Education and Counseling.
  • Sascha Hein, “Improved educational achievement as a path to desistance,” New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development.
  • Rosenda Murillo and Ezemenari Obasi, “Neighborhood walkability and aerobic physical activity among Latinos” (in press). American Journal of Health Behavior.
  • Lorraine Reitzel, “Income associations with cigarette purchasing behaviors and quit attempts among people experiencing homelessness” (in press). Addictive Behaviors.


  • The Nominations and Elections Committee will conduct the at-large College Committee elections when we return for the fall semester. The at-large positions are filled after departments hold their elections for departmental representation on the College Committee.
  • The fall 2019 elections will include:
    • chair-elect and secretary-elect (open to full-time tenured associate or full professors);
    • Promotion and Tenure Committee (open to full-time tenured associate or full professors)
    • Non-Tenure Track Promotion Committee (all levels open); and
    • Faculty Development (open to all full-time faculty, NTT and TT).
  • The FEC Constitution and Bylaws will be reviewed by UH legal this summer and will go out to a vote in the fall to eligible faculty.


  • Staff Council is accepting donations for Covenant House, a local homeless shelter for teens, through Thursday, May 16. Thanks to everyone who has been generous enough to give or to spread the word! Donations may be dropped off at the front desk in Farish 160. Cash donations must be given to Tracy Markovich in the Dean’s Office.


Nicole Switzer

Nicole Switzer, who has a B.S. in teaching and a B.B.A in marketing from UH-Downtown, brings her knack for organization to PHLS as the administrative assistant. Learn more:

Q: Have you always been organized, even as a kid?

A: Yes. I was always the kid with the perfectly organized Five Star binder and three-prong folders. Even my backpack was extremely organized. That’s also how I operate at work – strategically organized email folders and files and a frequently updated calendar with clear due dates set days before the actual due date.

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?

A: My 14-year-old son, Michael, is my greatest inspiration. He motivates me to set the best example possible and show him that you should never let (perceived) obstacles get in the way of your goals. I want to do all I can to help him reach his own personal goals.

Q: Any fun facts about yourself?

A: Fact No. 1: I do not own a single pair of jeans. I’m more of a dress girl.

Fact No. 2: I love whitewater rafting! I have hit rivers in Arkansas, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Canada. My dream is to run the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe.

Read the full Q&A.



  • Templates: In the coming days, we’ll be releasing templates you can use for flyers, PowerPoint presentations and letterhead. Look out for an email with details. Kudos to Jaime Questell for her work!
  • Graduation: Thank you to Paula Canada and all the staff volunteers who made graduation a smooth, successful operation.


Miao Li

Miao Li, assistant professor in CUIN, discussed her recent article in Nature Partner Journal – Science of Learning.

Title: “A Molecular-Genetic and Imaging-Genetic Approach to Specific Comprehension Difficulties in Children”

Co-authors: Jeffrey Gruen, Jan Frijters, Jeff Malins

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

A: We were trying to look at a specific group of students known as “poor comprehenders.” Those students have average or above average word-reading skills. However, they struggle with comprehension.

Q: Were there any surprising or interesting findings?

A: From the behavioral standpoint, we tested students with assessments and we identified those who have difficulty with reading comprehension, although they don’t have any problems in word reading.

Genetically, we looked at their genes and based on previous research, we know there were a few genes associated with reading and language difficulties. We found one specific gene called READ1 (Regulatory Element Associated with Dyslexia 1). For poor comprehenders, it is more likely that they carry this gene.

From the neuroimaging, we found that poor comprehenders had more activity in the right hemisphere of the brain.

Q: How do you see your work tying into practice?

A: We can inform educators and practitioners about these early identifiers and detect these poor comprehenders to provide earlier intervention. The earlier, the better.

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.

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