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2018 University Honors Program Faculty Named Posted: 5/17/18

2018 University Honors Program Faculty Named



Teaching is often considered a labor of love and a Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) faculty member was recently recognized for her work as an outstanding teacher thanks to nominations submitted by University Honors Program students.

Dr. Kate Houston, assistant professor of Criminal Justice, was named the 2017-2018 University Honors Program Faculty of the Year out of a pool of 10 nominees.

All nominees received a certificate to acknowledge their achievement at a reception held on campus in the nominees’ honor.

Along with being named University Honors Program Faculty Member of the year, Dr. Houston received a plaque and a small stipend to recognize her hard work.

“We could not function without the willingness of faculty to expend extra time and effort in guiding our students in their research and additional coursework,” said Dr. Deborah Blackwell, associate professor of History and director of the University Honors Program, “The University Honors Program is able to offer opportunities to students in all majors across the University thanks to the wonderful dedication of so many of our faculty. “

Dr. Blackwell explained that approximately 180 students were in the University Honors Program this year.

She said she collects Honors Faculty of the Year nominations from students in April after asking them to nominate faculty with whom they have worked that have gone above and beyond the call of duty for them in their Honors theses and coursework.

“Once I receive the letters, I ask the previous winners to read them and to use their best judgment to rank their top three choices,” she said, “We had such wonderful nominations this year that there was no agreement, so, I had to break the tie.”

Dr. Houston said she feels honored to have been selected as the University Honors Program Faculty of the Year.

“I am so proud to have received this award and honored to have been considered amongst such highly talented fellow faculty, who all had nominations which highlighted their commitment to our students,” she said.

She said she enjoys the Honors Program because it enables faculty to interact with students beyond the classroom.

“I especially love the thesis aspect, as it allows us to engage our students in research, to teach them the skills to solve problems and to generate knowledge, rather than to simply consume knowledge,” Dr. Houston said, “To play a role in that process for a student is a part of my job that I especially enjoy.”

  2018 University Honors Program Faculty

Outstanding University Honors Program Faculty:

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) faculty member Dr. Kate Houston, center, has been named the 2017-2018 University Honors Program (UHP) Faculty of the Year. Pictured left to right are nominees Dr. Andrew Hilburn, Dr. Charlene Summers, Dr. Deborah Scaggs, Dr. Aaron Olivas, Dr. Kate Houston, Dr. Deborah Blackwell, UHP director; Dr. Sebastian Schmidl, Dr. Jack Byham, and Dr. Simon Zschirnt. 


The nomination for Dr. Houston reads: “A significant faculty member who means a lot to me is Dr. Kate Houston. Dr. Houston not only conducts interesting, meaningful research herself, but she enthusiastically helps me with mine.”

The nomination further states, “As my undergraduate thesis advisor, she has guided me in the current research I do on Mental Health Courts here in Texas. Dr. Houston also helped me with my presentation for the 14 th Annual Pathways Research Symposium, which ended up taking first place in the Undergraduate Humanities and Social Sciences division.”

The University Honors Program provides intensive, advanced critical thinking and undergraduate research opportunities to TAMIU’s most academically talented students and has done so since its inception in 2000.

The following are excerpts from the other professors’ nominations:

Dr. Jack Byham

Dr. Jack Byham, assistant professor of Political Science: “After much thought, I decided to major in Political Science; however, I was not sure it was my passion. Being placed in the honors section of National Government taught by Dr. Byham made the difference.”

Dr. Andrew Hilburn

Dr. Andrew Hilburn, assistant professor of Geography: “Dr. Hilburn has taken the time to give me constructive feedback on my writing…If I am not certain on an instruction he gives me, he makes sure I understand him. He is very encouraging.”

Dr. Monica Munoz

Dr. Monica Muñoz, associate professor of Psychology: “Dr. Muñoz has demonstrated academic excellence in her respective field and incredible support for her students. She comes prepared for every lecture and speaks from her broad knowledge and research of every concept covered in class.”

Dr. Aaron Olivas

Dr. Aaron Olivas, assistant professor of History: “‘You could have done so much better. Other honors students have done much better work.’ These words from Dr. Olivas made me realize not only that I was doing a poor job working with paleography and not investing enough time in it; however, he knew that I could do so much better than an average student…He was one of the two professors who has extremely pushed me to do better in my honors assignments.”

Dr. Alia Paroo

Dr. Alia Paroo, assistant professor of History: “Dr. Paroo has helped me develop my skills as a historian and as a teacher thanks in large part to her being friendly and approachable. The door of her office is always open for any student to come in and talk about things they need help with.”

Dr. Deborah Scaggs

Dr. Deborah Scaggs, associate professional of English/ Writing Program director: “Dr. Scaggs has played a huge role in my formative years at TAMIU and I truly believe that it was through her instruction that I have academically evolved tremendously…Working under Professor Scaggs in this course not only broadened my understanding of different disciplines, but also strengthened my ability to properly conduct research.”

Dr. Sebastian Schmidl

Dr. Sebastian Schmidl, assistant professor of Biology: “I started working with Dr. Schmidl when I did an honors contract for Microbiology back in Spring 2016…I will graduate with honors this semester, and it will be because he gave me the opportunity to excel outside the classroom setting.”

Dr. Charlene Summers

Dr. Charlene Summers, assistant professional of English: “Dr. Summers has cared for me as a scholar, as a student, and as a human being. She helped me develop as a scholar to present a good thesis defense by helping to present at four different conferences plus three more presentations to different classes, and by making me realize that I can even publish my thesis.”

Dr. Simon Zschrint

Dr. Simon Zschrint, assistant professor of Political Science: “I would never forget that day that Dr. Zschrint asked for my opinion on a Supreme Court case in class and I froze. I said nothing. Upon reflecting on the embarrassing moment, I noticed that he rephrased the question for me four times and gave me time in between to answer. As an honors student, he knew and recognized in class I had the potential to do better and gave me time to reflect.”


For more information, please contact Dr. Deborah Blackwell at 326.2133 or email

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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