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Gracie Villarreal Appointed Co-chair of the Marketing Committee for Annual Texas Higher Education Symposium

Gracie VillarrealM.Ed. in Higher Education student, Gracie Villarreal has been appointed co-chair of the marketing committee for this year’s 7th Annual Texas Higher Education Symposium at the University of Texas at Austin on August 4th - 5th 2016.  “It is an exciting opportunity to be appointed co-chair of the marketing committee for this year’s Texas Higher Education Symposium,” said Villarreal.  “I am absolutely thrilled because it will allow me to network with students, faculty members, other higher education professional staff, and community members in a new capacity.”

Villarreal is looking forward to the research that will be presented.  “I had the opportunity to attend the Texas Higher Education Symposium last year for the first time where I gave my first presentation that focused on Massive Open Online Courses,” she said.  “Should I present [this year], I’d like to focus on online classes and accessibility which does have some ties to key points I discussed during my presentation last year.” 

Villarreal believes it is crucial to the development and success of online classes that they be fully accessible to all students.  “Students with disabilities unfortunately encounter accessibility issues with online classes and even in regular face-to-face classes,” she said.  “Video presentations may not always be captioned and therefore, will not have the academic benefit to a student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing.  My research intends to bring further awareness to these type of issues and promote a universal design approach to the instructional design of online classes.”

Villarreal chose the University of Houston’s Masters in Higher Education program because it was offered in an online format.  “For students such as myself who work full-time, an online format permits us to pursue a graduate degree that supports academic, professional, and leadership development in higher education,” she said.

Other reasons she chose the program was the diversity of its student population and that she learned in-depth the different aspects of higher education from policy and planning, assessment, leadership, cultural differences, along with other concentrated themes.  She noted that “it is because of the Master’s in Higher Education program that I feel fully prepared to soar into the next phase of my professional career and I’m very excited to see what the near future will bring!”

“The professors that have most inspired me are Dr. Cathy Horn, Dr. Cheryl Brock, Dr. Lyle McKinney, and Dr. Miguel Ramos,” said Villarreal.  “Each of these professors have encouraged and challenged me while in the program.  I will always be grateful to them for their continuous support, guidance, and leadership.”

“Gracie’s commitment to students and their postsecondary success represents, in action, the very heart of our Masters program,” said Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies (DELPS) associate professor, Catherine Horn. “We are incredibly proud of the ways in which she is already improving the lives of so many on a daily basis.”

The Texas Higher Education Symposium is co-sponsored by the University of Houston, Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Texas at San Antonio. 

This year’s focus is “Addressing Inequity through Policy and Praxis”. The symposium provides an opportunity for higher education professionals and constituents to come together and share ideas on current and emerging trends in higher education.  It also provides a means to collaborate and connect with emerging scholars from different institutions.  In addition, the conference provides opportunities to graduate students to present in various formats such as formal research presentations, roundtables, or poster presentations.