Posted: 10/07/22

TAMIU Names Recipients of Faculty and Community Awards at Fall ’22 Convocation



Texas A&M International University’s (TAMIU) Fall 2022 University Convocation recognized excelling faculty and community partners in a ceremony held Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts Recital Hall.

TAMIU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Tom Mitchell presented the 2022 Awards to University faculty while TAMIU President Dr. Pablo Arenaz presented the Senator Judith Zaffirini Leadership Medal Award, the Innovador Award, and the University’s annual State of the University message.

The University’s Innovador Award was created in 2019 to recognize an individual or organization making a lasting impact on education, particularly higher education, in Laredo and the South Texas region.

This year’s Innovador Award recipient is Frank Staggs, longtime champion of education, students and teachers. A retired educator, businessman, and rancher, he is most proud of his and late wife Julieta Farias Staggs “favorite place, ” The Julieta and Frank Staggs Academy of International and STEM Studies, an innovative, University-level high school located on the TAMIU campus.

Created by Senator Judith Zaffirini and authorized by the 79th Texas Legislature in 2005, it opened its doors in August 2014.   Staggs Academy students take full University courses their junior and senior year of high school.

TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz lauded Staggs’ legacy and support of higher education.

“His history as an educator is inspiring.  In his day, he would be your teacher, your coach, your principal and sometimes, even your bus driver.  He channeled his passion into encouraging students to find their passion, and to succeed. His support for and enthusiasm for elevating the importance of teachers and affirming students continues to inspire us here at TAMIU. He likes to say he has just been lucky in life, but we believe that the Staggs Academy, TAMIU, Laredo and South Texas have been lucky and truly blessed to have him in our shared lives,” Dr. Arenaz said.

Past Award recipients include Guadalupe and Lilia Martínez Foundation Trustees Bob and Shirley González and State Senator Judith Zaffirini.

Arenaz presented the Senator Judith Zaffirini Award for Scholarship and Leadership to Dr. Peter Haruna of the College of Arts & Sciences faculty, and director of the Masters of Public Administration program.

Dr. Haruna’s scholarship and leadership are legendary and his impact on his adopted hometown has been measurable. Originally from Ghana, he has a profound appreciation for education, and often shares with students how his mother sold nearly every single possession in raising funds for his bus fare to begin his education at Ghana’s flagship University of Ghana.

“Professor Haruna’s core research interests include integrity in public governance, international and comparative administrative systems, public management, administrative leadership and management, public service education and training, and public service and civic engagement. His community service includes the inauguration of a certified Public Manager Program in collaboration with Texas State University, TAMIU and the City of Laredo.  His leadership and service to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have been recognized and awarded by The Texas A&M University System Chancellor,” Arenaz observed.

Presenting the 2022 Faculty Awards was Dr. Mitchell.

Receiving the University’s Instructional Technology Excellence Award was Dr. Cynthia Piña of the College of Education.

Piña was praised for her integration of technology to create truly enriching courses and experiences for her students.  She encourages students to complete online mini-courses to obtain digital badges, and graduate students to utilize Canva or Google Classroom to synthesize videos, text, and quizzes using Google Forms, Screencast-O-Matic, and other apps. An advocate for education technology, she serves on two TAMIU technology committees, the A&M System Council for Academic Technology and Innovative Education, and is a Board member of the Texas Computer Educator Association. 

The Outstanding Teacher Award was presented to Dr. Lina De la Garza of the A. R. Sanchez, Jr. School of Business. 

Dr. De la Garza was recognized for her numerous professional development activities and presentations in the area of teaching. Her most recent presentations included   "Learning to Flex: How Social Media Became a Popular Teaching Tool for Educators," and "Can Audio Feedback Enhance Learning Outcomes amongst Diverse Students?," presented in Galveston, TX and New Orleans, LA respectively.  She has been recognized as the Outstanding Teacher in the International Business and Technology Studies Division, Sanchez School of Business, in 2018, 2019, and 2021.

The Distinguished Scholar Award was received by Dr. Yong Chen of the Sanchez School of Business.

Since coming to TAMIU in 2018, Dr. Chen has co-authored 36 refereed journal articles; including one Elite and four Top Tier journal articles. His publications are highly cited with Google Scholar indicating 2,013 citations. He has established an innovative line of research on technology entrepreneurship, technology standardization, and new technologies, such as Big Data, Internet of Things, and Industry 4.0.

The Distinguished Teacher Award was presented to Dr. Marvin Bennett of the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering.

A passionate educator teaching at TAMIU for the past 20 years, Dr. Bennett prides himself on a robust student-driven approach that guides his classes. He has numerous scholarly publications, and has received several external grants while being highly active in service to the University. His students enjoy his classes immensely, offering strong testament to his impressive teaching record.  

For additional information, contact the TAMIU Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at 956.326.2180, email prmis@tamiu.edu, click on tamiu.edu or visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 268.

Information is also available on the University’s web site, tamiu.edu, and social channels on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

Innovador Award 22
2022 TAMIU Innovador Award recipient Frank Staggs is presented with the Award by TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz
Group Photo of Award Recipients
Recipients of 2022 TAMIU Faculty Awards are joined by Dr. Tom Mitchell, provost and Dr. Pablo Arenaz, president.  Left to right: Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Yong Chen, Dr. Marvin Bennett, Dr. Lina De La Garza, Dr. Peter Haruna, Dr. Cynthia Piña and Dr. Arenaz.