Access, talent, research and external funding 4 keys to UT El Paso’s continued success, retiring president Natalicio says

EL PASO, Texas — After spending three decades reshaping the University of Texas at El Paso, Diana Natalicio isn’t sure she’s ready for the next stage of her life. “Well, I mean, in some ways I am and in some ways I’m not, having done the same thing for 30 years,” said Natalicio, who announced her retirement in May as UTEP’s president. “I don’t have much practice on the retirement side of this. So I think it’s a good time for me to do this. But I’ll have to see how successful I am at being a retiree.”

Natalicio, a 79-year-old native of St.

UTEP’s Borderzine wins prestigious national journalism grant for bi-national media project to tell real story of the borderlands

EL PASO – Borderzine – the University of Texas at El Paso’s award-winning web magazine – received a $35,000 grant from the Online News Association to fund a binational journalism multimedia project between the communities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Students from UTEP, El Paso Community College and the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez will work together on the project called “Engaging Community Across Borders Through Media.”

“It’s an ambitious project to engage border residents from the U.S. and Mexico sides to better relate to the rest of the world the reality of the border minus the usual stereotypes,” said Zita Arocha, professor of practice at UTEP and director of Borderzine. Local media from both sides of the border also will participate in the project with the goal of helping communities identify solutions to common binational issues such as immigration, transportation, environmental challenges, socio-economic development and health and medical needs, Arocha said. Key media partners include KTEP, El Diario de El Paso, El Paso Times, El Paso Inc., Ser Empresario, KVIA, Univision, Telemundo and KFOX. More than a dozen students from UTEP, EPCC and UACJ will work as a team to produce multilingual content about the borderlands – from podcasts to video stories to an e-book designed to dispel common myths about the region, Arocha said.

Hazy skyline of El Paso

Air quality one of the biggest threats on U.S., Mexico border

EL PASO – Lower Valley resident Daniela Caro struggles to breathe some days. “On bad days my asthma gets really bad, my throat closes up, even walking to class is a little bit hard,” she said. The 23-year-old El Pasoan lives near Riverside where trucks spew toxic fumes as they transport goods across the El Paso-Juarez border. The American Lung Association ranks El Paso’s pollution in the top 20 among U.S. metropolitan areas for both particles and ozone. Poor air quality has been linked to health issues, particularly for at-risk groups like children, older adults and anyone with respiratory problems like asthma.

Texas stares down the barrel of ‘open carry’ and ‘campus carry’ debate

I was watching a weightlifting competition in a Juarez gym not too far from my old home near Plaza Juarez Mall in 2009. As I sat near the stairs toward the back of the gym, a young man was struggling to lift an absurd amount of weight when two men who did not seem interested in the competition came in through the back entrance . I remember hearing a loud metal clanging noise like the sound of weights dropping, followed by gun shots. Everything after that is a blur — running up the stairs, finding a place to hide, people screaming. Only one particular detail remains clear, the jet black 9mm handgun in the killer’s fist.

Borderzine multimedia experience leads to journalism career opportunities

It’s been five years since my wife Danya and I first walked into the Cotton Memorial building for our introduction to journalism class at the University of Texas at El Paso. This is where we met our mentors David Smith Soto, Zita Arocha, and Lourdes Cueva Chacon. And where we learned the countless lessons we referenced every day at our internships and now at our jobs working for a daily newspaper. I was a creative writer at heart and felt comfortable with my storytelling abilities. Danya was an artistic photographer and felt comfortable telling visual stories.

Bhutanese visitor sees home in unique Texas university architecture

EL PASO –Sweating from a three-hour rehearsal of George Fredric Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea, Bhutanese performer Tshering Goen, dressed in blues, yellows, and deep reds began to prepare for a second round of practice. Goen, a director of the Bhutan Royal Academy of Performing Arts, came here to perform at the University of Texas at El Paso, a campus filled with buildings inspired by Bhutanese architecture. The Kingdom of Bhutan is at the eastern end of the Himalayas in South Asia. “I feel as if I am back in Bhutan,” Goen said with calmness in his voice as he donned an animal mask to continue with the rehearsal of a classic Western opera in Bhutanese dress. Related story and video: Love and Death visit Handel’s Acis and Galatea in a Bhutanese cremation field

The Bhutanese interpretation of the classic Handel opera fit perfectly with the architectural history of this campus, nestled in the foothills of the Franklin Mountains in the Chihuahuan desert.

Senioritis is killing me, but freedom looms ahead

EL PASO — I’m suffering from a compilation of excitement, regret, anger, laziness, and nostalgia, but I don’t need a shrink. My ailment is called senioritis and all I need to get better is to graduate. I’m fully aware that I suffer from senioritis, but not because I’m skipping class or getting lower grades. Neither of those have occurred so I’m in the clear in that category, but I’ve just been dragging along these past few months for several reasons.Excitement: Like every other senior, I am pumped to be able to say, “I’m a college graduate” in a few months. After four years (okay, I lied, 6 years) of all-nighters studying (with Facebook and Netflix study breaks), group projects (where you end up doing 90% of the work and everyone else gets your well-deserved A), and subjecting your body to fast-food so you can even find time to eat (which you eventually learn to enjoy), you deserve that diploma.Me personally, I love knowing that once I get home from work, I won’t have to worry about checking Blackboard and that I can re-watch Dexter from the beginning in peace, without feeling like I’m not accomplishing anything.

A smoke-free campus protects the health of all, but frustrates some

EL PASO — Some students and staff at The University of Texas at El Paso say that smoking cigarettes can ease the stress that comes with study or work, but that tension isn’t going away any time soon. After 100 years the cloud of tobacco smoke at UTEP is lifting. UTEP banned the use of all tobacco products from university property on February 20.Notifications for the major campus reform came through a mass email that afternoon but for some the full realization didn’t hit home until they arrived on campus the following week. The school mascot PayDirt Pete adorned Smoke Free Campus signs and orange flags representing tobacco litter on the floor were there like slaps in the faces of unaware smokers.This massive reform affects too many people to be broadcast through only an email, according to smoker Tony Acuna, who was one of many regulars hanging out outside the doors of the library. He said that his rights are at stake.“Smoking is my choice, just as eating fast food,” said Acuna.

Undergraduates learn to explain each others’ research to a lay audience

EL PASO – Computer science and special education majors do not normally meet to discuss each other’s research, but Amanda Sepulveda and Garrett Shaw met throughout the spring 2014 semester to share research in preparation for a competition funded by the Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI). Sepulveda is a special education major researching autism spectrum disorder, and Shaw is a computer science major researching optimization of high performance computing. They made up the winning team among the 50 that competed in COURI’s, “Explaining Research to a Non-Expert Audience” competition April 16-17. The competition was a prelude to a two-day undergraduate research symposium hosted by COURI that gave undergraduates the chance to present and discuss their research with faculty, peers, and the El Paso community. COURI was founded to help engage undergraduates in scholarly research.