Posted on August 21, 2020 by Elizabeth Castillo


As students and faculty begin to make their way back to UTSA in a hybrid learning environment, the College of Education and Human Development welcomes   12 new faculty members   and three new chairs of departments.

Charged with continuing the college’s mission to develop transformative leaders in the community, these new chairs are prepared to lead their departments during unprecedented times.

Alejandra Elenes, Ph.D., Race Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (REGSS), Department Chair


Joining the Roadrunner family from Arizona State University, Dr. Elenes joins COEHD as the chair of the college’s newest department, REGSS.With a robust background of social, cultural, human rights, and women studies experience, Dr. Elenesbrings the department a wealth of knowledge and expertise.

Previously chaired by interim chair Marco Cervantes, Ph.D., the REGSS department is growing quickly adding four new faculty this year.

“The Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality studies was born of student, faculty, and community activism. As chair, I want to honor all of these individuals’ hard work to make the department a reality,” Dr. Elenes said.“I am beginning my tenure as chair under very challenging times and truly believe that the work we do is needed more than ever in light of race, class, gender, sexuality, and health structural inequalities.”

The REGSS department has already made strides in the community by providing courses important to the current social discourse. Coming this fall, a course in   Black Lives Matter   will dive into the importance of the movement and its historical and sociocultural contexts. Offering a link between pop culture and Mexican American Studies, the   “Selena: A Mexican American Identity and Experience,”   course is aimed at exploring the life and impact of Tejano star Selena Quintanilla-Perez on the Spanish language and Mexican American identity.

Dr. Elenes has big plans for the REGSS department and is eager to continue the already growing legacy of the department.

“My long-term vision is for REGSS to become a national model for decolonial and intersectional scholarship and community engagement. I want to make sure all the faculty in the department thrive and are successful in the tenure and promotion process. I will advocate for the department seeking the necessary resources we need to serve our students. REGSS has an important role in the implementation of UTSA’s strategic plan and as a Hispanic Serving Institution,” she said.


Sharon Nichols, Ph.D, Department of Educational Psychology, Department Chair

As students and faculty begin to make their way back to UTSA in a hybrid learning environment, the College of Education and Human Development welcomes 12 new faculty members (link to article) and three new chairs of departments.

Designated as the new chair of the Department of Educational Psychology, Dr. Nichols has been at UTSA for 15 years and plans to bring a unique set of perspectives and experiences to the position.

Previously chaired by Jeremy Sullivan, Ph.D., the Department of Educational Psychology is dedicated to preparing culturally competent scientist-practitioners and researchers to effectively contribute to the applied psychological development and well-being of children and adolescents.

As the newly appointed department chair, Dr. Nichols hopes to foster and expand the department’s growth.

“We have a Ph.D. program proposal up for consideration by the state that if approved will be a key initiative in these first years,” Dr. Nichols said. “As part of the many important opportunities provided by this program, we hope to be able to grow the availability of advanced methods and statistics courses for students in our programs and throughout the college. I would like to see our department be a quality resource for students seeking advanced statistics, measurement, and program evaluation knowledge and skills that would enhance their academic success and professional development.”

Charged with preparing culturally competent scientist-practitioners and researchers, inclusivity, and diversity is an important part of the department’s core mission.

“I plan to engage in my work with diversity and inclusion always in mind,” Dr. Nichols said. “I will emphasize and promote the importance of diversity, inclusion, and opportunity as it relates to all of our efforts in recruiting and retaining faculty and in supporting and ensuring the success of our students.” 


Mariela Rodriguez, Ph.D., Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS), Interim Department Chair  

Beginning her 16th year at UTSA this fall, Dr. Rodriguez is dedicated to supporting the students, faculty, and staff at ELPS.

Previously chaired by Enrique Alemán, Jr., Ph.D., the ELPS Department has a long tradition of preparing and working with educational leaders from across P-12, community college and higher education institutions.

To her appointment as Interim Chair, Dr. Rodriguez brings a history of several professional experiences. Dr. Rodrigues served a two-year, half-time appointment with the UTSA Graduate School as Associate Dean and Director of Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development; served as the program coordinator for both the ELPS Department’s master’s and doctoral programs and from 2009 to present; and chaired the dissertation committees of 36 doctoral students and co-chaired an additional 5 doctoral students for a total of 41 doctoral graduates to name a few.

“This fall I will begin my 16th year in the ELPS Department and I’m excited to serve in the role of Interim Department Chair,” she said. “Our faculty and staff are amazing professionals, and I look forward to working collaboratively with all of them in my new role. It is only through collaborative efforts that we will be able to support our students as they begin a new academic year through virtual teaching and learning.”

COEHD is excited to begin a new school year with these knowledgeable and passionate new department chairs. Together they will lead the charge of ensuring a quality educational experience for students, and an inclusive and productive environment for staff and faculty. Go Roadrunners!

By Elizabeth Castillo

— Elizabeth Castillo