A Newsletter from University Outreach and Engagement
October 2020
October 26 and November 5, 2020
Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Webinars
Texas Tech faculty, staff, and students are invited to join!

University Outreach and Engagement will be hosting two webinars this fall to highlight the recipients of the 2020 President’s Engaged Scholarship Awards. This annual awards program recognizes Texas Tech faculty from all disciplines for a project or activity that demonstrates exemplary and sustained commitment to mutually beneficial partnerships with external communities. Recognized faculty apply their teaching, research, or creative activity to find innovative solutions to social, economic, or environmental issues for the benefit of specific communities or the general public, as well as the university and scholarship.

During the webinars, the award winners will provide an overview of their projects, and share best practices, challenges, and lessons learned. They will highlight the impacts that their engagement has had on student teaching and learning, research and innovation, as well as their scholarship. Graduate and undergraduate students who were involved in the award-winning projects will provide their perspectives and discuss the impacts that the experience has had on their learning, academic pathway, and career goals.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2:00-3:30PM

Session 1 | 2:00-2:45 p.m. 
"The Texas Liberator Project"
(Winner of the President’s Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Award)
Aliza Wong, Professor and Interim Dean, Honors College, TTU
Fran Berg, Commissioner, Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

Session 22:45-3:30 p.m. 
"Promoting Child Development, Inclusion, and Health Through Natural Learning
(Winner of the President’s Emerging Engaged Scholarship Award)
Charles Klein, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture; College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, TTU
Muntazar Monsur, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resource, TTU
Kristi Gaines, Associate Professor, Design, College of Human Sciences; Associate Dean, Graduate School, TTU
Malinda Colwell, Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences, College of Human Sciences, TTU
Lori Guerrero, Instructor, Design, College of Human Sciences, TTU

Register Now

Session 1 | 1:30-2:15 p.m. 
"Literacy Champions"
(Winner of the President’s Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Award)
Mellinee Lesley, Professor, Language, Diversity & Literacy Studies, College of Education, TTU
Julie Smit, Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, TTU

Elizabeth Stewart, TTU Student
Whitney Baker-Beach, TTU Student

Session 2 | November 5; 2:15-3:00 p.m. 
"CASNR Matador Institute of Leadership Engagement (MILE)"
(Winner of the President’s Exemplary Program Award)
Lindsay Kennedy, Assistant Professor of Practice, Agricultural Education and Communications, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, TTU
Cindy Akers, Associate Dean, Academic and Student Programs, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resource, TTU
Lacy Jackson, TTU Student
Sydney Lundberg, TTU Student

Register Now

Interested in Submitting Your Project for the 2021 Awards? 

A Call for Nominations for the 2021 President’s Engaged Scholarship Awards will go out on November 10, 2020.  Deadline for Submissions is February 15, 2021.  For further information, visit the President's Engaged Scholarship Awards website
Engaged Scholarship Spotlights

Project SASI:
A Community Engagement Project to Increase Recruitment and Retention of Professionals Working with Students with Sensory Impairments in Rural and Remote Schools 

There is a shortage in rural and remote communities of professional educators qualified to work with students who have sensory impairments. SASI (Students with Autism and Sensory Impairments) was a project that tested community engagement strategies and how they can be used to enhance recruitment of such valuable professionals. Dr. Rona Pogrund, Professor of Special Education in the Texas Tech College of Education and also a recipient of the President's Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Award in 2019, was a fundamental leader of the project.

SASI involved high-impact strategies for recruitment of teachers as well as an engaged scholarship model for developing mutually beneficial partnerships between faculty and communities. The project incorporated community engagement strategies in all stages of the process, and it included a sustainability plan following the conclusion of the funding period.

Thanks to the dedication of Dr. Pogrund and her team, progress is being made to provide quality education to students while also providing high-impact opportunities to valuable professionals who transform the community. 

“This project was a true example of outreach and engagement through working in partnership with educators from six states who do not have the capacity to train professionals with sensory impairments to meet the needs of their students who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, and deafblind. The project led to MOUs with five of the six State Departments of Education that has resulted in ongoing engagement many years beyond the end of this U.S. Department of Education grant.”

– Dr. Rona Pogrund 

Project SASI was published in the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 

Researchers Examining Roles of Obesity, Diabetes in COVID-19
With a $160,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), an internationally renowned obesity researcher at Texas Tech University and two colleagues are rapidly exploring why obesity and diabetes increase one’s likelihood of becoming affected by COVID-19 and whether a simple change might improve the odds of survival. Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar, Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences; Rajesh Khare, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering; and Vijay Hegde, a molecular and cell biologist and Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences, are using an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to conduct their research.

"We hope to determine whether having a greater number of fat cells, as in obesity, may contribute to a greater severity of COVID-19," Dhurandhar said. "Also, we should be able to identify diabetes drugs that do not promote infection. Thus, our research is expected to provide information to clinicians to make decisions about the use of diabetes medications.”
Pandemic Highlights the Importance of
Giving Children an Early Head Start 

Texas Tech University's Center for Early Head Start (CEHS) is a research-based program that provides child care, parenting education, and family support to children ages 6 weeks to 3 years old. It serves 96 children and their families who qualify by income, and all services – including hot meals, infant formula, and diapers – are provided free of charge to support infant and toddler development and family well-being. The current situation puts a special emphasis on the importance of programs that give children from low-income families a chance to get ahead of the curve before they start school so later shortfalls may affect them less. For example, teachers and children in the Early Head Start program participate in story time. Throughout the spring and summer, story time was conducted virtually to keep the children engaged and learning even while the center's physical location was closed.

The Center, which is an initiative of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences, is designed to enhance the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth and development of participating children. Furthermore, it responds to the families' needs by promoting positive interactions between adults and children and supporting caregivers in their parenting role.

Click here for the full story.

CASNR Researchers Develop Program Designed to
Promote Diversity and Inclusion in Agriculture 

When Texas Tech University officially achieved Hispanic-Serving Institution status in 2019, one of the main benefits of the designation was the eligibility of federally funded grant support available under Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 designed to enhance educational opportunities for students.

Researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR) are showing their commitment to that opportunity and have received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in order to fulfill that commitment.

Led by Nathan Gill, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management (NRM), the Bridge Adventure Program will create educational opportunities designed to promote diversity and inclusion in agricultural and natural resources fields. The program will provide transformative learning experiences related to the natural environment for all Texas Tech students.

UAV Flights: Key to Mapping Growth of Invasive Plant Species 

For land managers, the spread of honey mesquite trees, a native and prevalent species in Texas, as well as the non-native yellow bluestem grass, is an issue. Together, these two species are a threat to maintaining rangeland diversity and productivity.  


Controlling these two species has been difficult, but thanks to research by a team from Texas Tech University's Department of Natural Resources Management (NRM), rangeland managers may now have a method to get a leg up on controlling the spread of honey mesquite and yellow bluestem.  

"At Texas Tech's Geospatial Technologies Laboratory, we have been using low-cost commercial UAVs to inspect and map ecological features in different types of landscapes around Texas," said Carlos Portillo-Quintero, NRM Associate Professor. "The objective was to generate knowledge on the best practices that rangeland managers and contractors can apply when using this type of mapping technology."


Click here to read the full story

Virtual Outreach and Engagement

Texas Tech Libraries' Annual Sowell Conference Goes Virtual
In lieu of its annual conference, the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World – part of Texas Tech University's Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library – will host a series of virtual readings and discussions this fall.

The series, "Memoir: Memory and Landscape, Memory and Family, Memory and Love," will showcase three writers whose papers are in or whose work is connected to the Sowell Collection: Howard Norman, Debra Gwartney, and J. Drew Lanham.

To register for the series, email You will receive a link to join the online readings.

College of Architecture Presents Its Virtual Fall 2020 Lecture Series
Texas Tech University's College of Architecture has launched its virtual fall 2020 lecture series, "Calibrations: The Space of Practice," which addresses and promotes the expanded space of architectural practices regarding critical issues of diversity and inclusivity. The series will continue into the spring 2021 lecture series. It is accompanied by "Dialogues," a student-initiated series of public discussions on topics equally related to diversity and inclusivity.

Texas Tech students, faculty, and staff will act as moderators for each lecture. Lectures will be synchronous and will partner both the Lubbock and El Paso campuses.

The series will focus on three practices:
  • The way the nature of architectural practice is multiplying and evolving,
  • Community-building through the inclusion and representation of minority voices, and
  • Creation of contexts via the reframing of architectural narratives to create inclusive contexts for design. 
School of Theatre & Dance Announces 2020-01 Virtual Season
Texas Tech University's School of Theatre & Dance, housed within the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts, announces its virtual 2020-21 theater and dance season featuring nine shows that navigate the muddy waters of the political world and its impact on personal journeys.

“We gave this season a theme, ‘The Personal and the Political,' based on through-lines we felt connected the plays selected and the dances to be choreographed,” said Mark Charney, director of the School of Theatre & Dance. “Ironically, our season has grown both more personal and political in the last few months. Rather than be constricted by the choices made pre-pandemic, we are embracing the concept of a fluid season, one that is continuing to evolve based not only on the world around us, but the community within the Charles E. Maedgen Jr. Theatre.”

The season begins Oct. 8-11 with “20/20 Visions: The Violet Response Project,” the first show in the New Voices Series. The three additional shows in the 2020-21 season included in the series are “The Blue Flower,” “Fall Dance Festival,” and “Frontier Fest.”

Unless otherwise noted, all performances in the 2020-21 season will be presented virtually on Zoom and are viewable on PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android devices. Tickets are $5, free for Texas Tech students, and available for purchase online through the “Productions” menu on the School of Theatre & Dance website. To access free tickets, students can use their student ID number or R-number as a discount code during checkout.

Engage at Tech Central is an online engagement hub that provides a birds-eye view of Texas Tech's community outreach and engagement programs, activities, and events. It showcases content that is relevant to members of the university as well as the local community. 

Texas Tech faculty, staff, and students can use Engage at Tech Central to discover academic outreach and engaged scholarship opportunities that allow them to apply their academic knowledge or expertise in teaching, research, or creative activity to "real-world" community needs or societal issues, become involved in mutually beneficial community partnerships, and develop multi-disciplinary collaborations with peers and colleagues across the university.

Community members
can utilize the online resource to discover K-12 programs, academic enrichment opportunities, Texas Tech resources, and special events. 
This platform will continue to grow and serve as a valuable resource that connects our university and community. Its purpose is to spread awareness of events and resources as well as to inspire and foster university partnerships, faculty-led research projects, and high impact learning experiences for students through academic engagement. We hope that you will find value in this innovative central engagement hub.

Engage at Tech Central was featured in an article in Texas Tech Today. It was also recently featured in two webinars which thoroughly explain and demonstrate the platform: 
If you would like to become involved and provide your outreach and engagement content for Engage at Tech Central, please contact Katie Howell Evans at or
Click below to Engage at Tech Central and see for yourself!
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Feb 28, 2023