Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department Chair

 

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Biography

Mariela A. Rodríguez, Ph.D. is Professor and Interim Department Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research focuses on leadership practices that support equitable learning environments for culturally and linguistically diverse students. She has published several co-edited books, book chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles. At the national level, Dr. Rodríguez is currently the Vice President of Division A: Administration, Organization, and Leadership within the American Educational Research Association (AERA). She is also a Past-President of the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). In 2021, Dr. Rodríguez received the Jay D. Scribner Mentoring Award through UCEA in recognition of her dedication to mentoring graduate students and emerging scholars.

 

 

Mariela Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Interim Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department Chair
Email | CV


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Faculty 

 

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Biography

Sofía Bahena, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of education at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research interests include identifying, promoting, and leveraging community-based resources – as well as sound education policy –  to create pathways to (and through) higher education for under-represented populations in the United States. Dr. Bahena is currently working on a project, “Constructing a Latina/o Educational Pipeline in Texas”, to identify policies and other structural factors that either hinder or promote student educational attainment. This project is funded by the UTSA College of Education and Human Development Faculty Research Award. Citywide, she serves on the City of San Antonio SA2020 Commission of Education (District 7) and is President-elect for the local Harvard Club of San Antonio. Dr. Bahena is originally from San Antonio. A San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) alum, she graduated from Fox Tech High School. She received a B.A. in sociology and business administration from Trinity University (San Antonio, TX) and an Ed.M. and Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Cambridge, MA). 

 

Sofia Bahena, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Email | CV

 

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Biography

Dr. Patti Birney is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Her expertise and experience in educational leadership have facilitated her higher education success for over 15 years, teaching at both the masters and doctoral levels. As coordinator of the superintendent certification program, she is the instructor for both the coursework and the preparatory work required for certification. Additionally, Dr. Birney has 39 years of experience as an educator/administrator in San Antonio area schools at all levels of the PreK-12 system (elementary, middle school, high school, and central office).  Her extensive executive administrative leadership experience has been in positions on PreK-12 campuses and at the central administrative office for 27 of those years. She is renowned for her forward-thinking expertise in Exemplary Teaching & Learning, Ethical Executive Leadership, Developing Capacity in Organizations, Transformational Leadership Program Development, and Coaching for Results.

Patricia Birney, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer
Email | CV

 

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Biography

Curtis A. Brewer is an associate professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His research interests include political action by educators, the utilization of democratic theory in educational arenas, and critical policy studies.

Dr. Brewer received his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. He also taught at Clemson University. 

 

  

 

 

 

Curtis Brewer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Email | CV

 

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Biography

I am a Professor in the social foundations at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies. My research interests include curriculum theory. cultural studies, utopian scholarship, French social theory, nonhuman animals, archival research, representation, space and place, anarchist theory, and critical pedagogy. My larger project is connected to a rigorous social and cultural critique that is truly interdisciplinary. This spans questioning notions of truth, finding ways to connect divergent theoretical traditions, utopian visions, and rethinking common assumptions and practices.
 

 

 

 

Abraham DeLeon, Ph.D.
Professor
Email | CV | Website

 

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Biography

Claudia García-Louis, is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. She is a proud first-in-family and first-generation student, Mexican immigrant, and mamíScholar. Her scholarship is interdisciplinary in nature as she engages topics of Latinidad, culture, race, and ethnicity. She seeks to disrupt negative stereotypes about Latinx students, minoritized populations, and underrepresented students through the critical incorporation of culturally appropriate, asset-based methodological approaches. Her research focuses on disrupt the racialization and homogenization of Latinx students by underscoring intragroup racial, cultural, and linguistic differences.

 

 

 


Claudia García-Louis, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Email | CV

 

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Biography

Dr. Tanya J. Gaxiola Serrano is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. As a first-generation immigrant and college student from the border region of Tijuana-San Diego, Dr. Gaxiola Serrano’s lived experiences have deeply shaped her professional trajectory into higher education. Her research explores the racialized and gendered experiences of students and faculty of color when navigating education in an effort to expose the functions of systemic oppression. Currently, a large part of her research agenda focuses on the inequities faced by Latina/o/x students when navigating community college in the US-Mexico border region as a pathway to a postsecondary degree. Dr. Gaxiola Serrano draws from Critical Race Theory in Education, Chicana/Latina Feminist Epistemologies, and Critical Geography as theoretical frameworks that illuminate the strengths and assets embodied by communities of color.

Dr. Gaxiola Serrano is a Ford Foundation Fellow. Her research has been published in different venues, including in different edited books such as in Why They Hate Us: How Racist Rhetoric Impacts Education and journals including the Community College Journal of Research and Practice and Journal of Latinos and Education. One of her current projects includes continuing to develop Chicana/Latina feminist methodologies in educational research by adding to the scholarship on pláticas and walking pláticas methodologies. In 2019, Dr. Gaxiola Serrano earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education and Information Studies with a specialization in Race and Ethnic Studies. Dr. Gaxiola Serrano uses she/her/hers pronouns.

Tanya Gaxiola Serrano, Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor
Email | CV

 

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I am a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Texas as San Antonio. I earned my Ph. D. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. I was a fellow in the Cooperative Superintendency Program, a nationally recognized doctoral program designed to prepare candidates for the superintendency. I earned my M. Ed. (Counseling), and B. A. (Spanish) from the University of Texas at Pan American. 

  

 

 

 

Encarnacion Garza, Ph.D.
Professor
Email | CV


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Dr. Mark S. Giles is a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and former Director of the African American Studies program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His scholarship and teaching interests include 20th century African American history, African American education (K-20), social justice leadership, African American spirituality, and critical race studies. He earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies with a minor in United States history from Indiana University. He has extensive professional experiences in urban community affairs, post-secondary academic support services, and diversity-focused administrative positions. 

 

 

 

Marc Giles, Ph.D.
Professor
Email | CV

 

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Biography

Guadalupe C. Gorordo, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Practice for the Principal Certification Program in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University in College Station. For her dissertation titled “Mexican-American Teachers Tell Their Stories of Success in the Midst of a Colonia”, Gorordo received the inaugural Excellence in Education Award from the College of Education at Texas A&M International University. Gorordo holds several educator certifications - Early Childhood, Bilingual/ESL, Special Education, Principal, and Superintendent. She has years of leadership experience as a campus principal, associate superintendent, and deputy superintendent across urban and rural school districts. Dr. Gorordo most recently worked with the educational leadership department at UT-Tyler as a principal practicum field supervisor, and assisted students with the new principal certification exam. 

 

Dr. Guadalupe Gorordo
Assistant Professor in Practice
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Van Lac is an assistant professor at the University of Texas-San Antonio in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.  She earned her doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Prior to her graduate studies, she was a high school English teacher for eight years in Richmond, California, working in an under-resourced community serving primarily African-American and Latino students.  She has a Master’s degree in The Art of Teaching English from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from the University of California-Berkeley.  A native of Oakland, California, Van attended K-12 public schools in the Oakland Unified School District and is a first-generation Southeast Asian college student and academic faculty member.





Van Lac, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Email | CV


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Born in a small village in upstate New York, on the Vermont and Canadian borders, Dr. Merchant taught all grade levels, in multi-cultural settings across the U.S. and on Native American reservations, prior to pursuing her Ph.D. in Administration and Policy Analysis at Stanford University. Before joining the faculty at UTSA, she was a tenured associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At UTSA, Dr. Merchant has served as the first Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at UTSA, and as Dean of the College of Education and Human Development. She now holds the Henrietta Frances Zezula Lowak Endowed Distinguished Professorship. Her research interests include diversity and educational reform, educational policy analysis, democratic school leadership in increasingly diverse and polarized political contexts, international comparative studies related to the educational and social experiences of refugee youth and their families, and longitudinal studies of school leadership.



Betty Merchant, Ph.D.
Professor
Email | CV 

 

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Socorro Morales (she/her/ella), Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She was raised in Fontana, CA and earned her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in Education, Culture, and Society. Her research agenda focuses on educational equity for historically marginalized populations. Situating schools as institutions that embody and perpetuate white supremacy and colonial logics, Dr. Morales’ scholarship highlights how Latinx youth make sense of, navigate, and resist schooling institutions that view them and their communities as deficit. She draws from interdisciplinary frameworks such as Critical Race Theory, Chicana/Latina feminisms, and Critical Youth Studies to illustrate how Latinx youth are multi-dimensional, complex, intellectual, politically engaged people that like other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) youth are often relegated to the margins. Her research has been published in edited books such as Surviving Becky(s): Pedagogies for Deconstructing Whiteness and Gender, and "White" Washing American Education: The New Culture Wars in Ethnic Studies, as well as journals such as Chicana/Latina Studies and Urban Education. Dr. Morales is a queer Chicana, first-generation college student and faculty member.

Socorro Morales, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Email | CV

 

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Juan Manuel Niño is an associate professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Niño's public educator experience includes secondary science teacher, ESL teacher, athletic coach, campus, and district leader. His primary research focuses on school leadership for school improvement. 

Current research interests center on school district leadership, leadership preparation for social justice, Latino leadership and intersectionalities.  Niño's preferred method of inquiry is qualitative research to better understand the complexities of schools as evolving systems. Other interests include instructional supervision for diverse students, instructional leadership and multicultural studies.

 

 

Juan Manuel Niño, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Email | CV

 

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Nathern Okilwa is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Okilwa earned his PhD in Educational Policy and Planning from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the ranks of higher education, Okilwa's experience and commitment to education spans 13 years of general and special education teaching in K12 settings across a variety of sociocultural contexts. Okilwa taught for six years in a rural farming community school in western Kenya. After his master's degree in special education from the University of Wyoming, Okilwa taught K12 special education in two different school districts in Wyoming. While teaching at the high school in Laramie, WY, Okilwa helped design, implement, and coordinate a program for students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities. In Austin, TX, Okilwa taught students at the Alternative Learning Center; students who were suspended from their home schools for a variety of infractions. These professional experiences as well as personal background have shaped Okilwa's scholarly interests and commitment to educational outcomes for disadvantaged or marginalized students. 

 

Nathern Okilwa, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Email | CV

 

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Biography

Vanessa A. Sansone is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at UTSA. Her research agenda aims to advance equity and success for diverse student populations in higher education. Her current scholarly interests focus on college affordability, Latina/o students, student veterans, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and policy work. She's published a co-authored piece focused on first-generation Latina/o college students who work for pay while enrolled in college in The Review of Higher Education and has a forthcoming co-authored book chapter on culturally inclusive approaches to address Latina/o student postsecondary success. Having worked in higher education as a tutor, college advisor, institutional researcher, and program coordinator within both the university and community college settings, she has a decade of experience working as a student affairs and academic affairs practitioner. She serves as the co-founder and lead organizer of Colegio en Nuestra Comunidad, which is an annual citywide college fair that promotes college attainment to low-income neighborhoods within San Antonio, Texas.

 

Vanessa Sansone, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

 


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Biography

David P. Thompson is a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Texas at San Antonio, where he served as chair from 2005-2012.  He received his B.S. (Physical Education), M.S. (Educational Administration), and Ph.D. (Educational Administration) from Texas A&M University. For his doctoral dissertation, titled “Job Satisfaction: A Synthesis of Research in the Educational Administration Quarterly”, David received outstanding dissertation awards from both Division A (Administration) of the American Educational Research Association and the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration. 

David is in his 30th year in public education, having served as a mathematics teacher and golf coach in the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, a high school assistant principal in Spring Independent School District, and a faculty member and department chair at both UTSA and Texas A&M University-Commerce. 

 

David Thompson, Ph.D.
Professor

 

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Biography

Dr. Michael Villarreal is a first-generation college student and native of San Antonio. He and his wife, Jeanne Russell, are raising their family in downtown San Antonio. In 2015, Michael retired from the Texas Legislature after serving 15 years in the Texas House of Representatives.  He served on the committees of Public Education, Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, and Ways & Means; and retired as Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. A few of his legislative accomplishments include the creation of a state longitudinal education and workforce data system; programs that supported prekindergarten, college student financial aid, college credit transferability, and workforce development funding. He also helped change state beer distribution laws to support the development of craft beer in Texas. Michael earned his Ph.D. from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, a Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a bachelor's degree in Economics from Texas A&M University, College Station. In addition to teaching as an Assistant Professor, Michael serves as the Director of the Institute for Urban Education at UTSA.

 

Michael Villarreal, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

 


Emeritus

 

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Bruce Barnett, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Email | CV 

 

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Dr. Felecia Briscoe, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Emeritus
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Dr. Richard Diem, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
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Dr. Gerry Dizinno, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Emeritus
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Amaury Nora, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
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Maricela Oliva
Associate Professor Emeritus
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Dr. Raymond Padilla, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
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Dr. Laura Rendon, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
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Biography

Page A. Smith, is a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His research pursuits target organizational studies and involve quantitative analysis. Specifically, his scholarly areas of emphasis include organizational climate and health, institutional trust, collective efficacy, student aggression and bullying, institutional change and influence. Accordingly, his most recent publications (Educational Administration Quarterly, The International Journal of Education Management, Journal of School Leadership and Journal of Education Administration) reflect his contributions to the field in these areas. He is currently conducting research in the areas of school culture, change orientation and leadership influence. Smith pursues an active role in connecting theory to practice via graduate teaching forums, site consultations, staff development initiatives, and school-community liaison servicing. He serves as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Education and Human Development at UTSA.

  

Page Smith, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus

College of Education and Human Development
Main Building | One UTSA Circle | San Antonio, TX 78249
Phone: 210-458-4370 |
education@utsa.edu