This article originally appeared in UTSA Today by Sarah Hada.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2021 — The UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers has selected five senior faculty members for induction, its largest cohort to date since its inception in 2015. Representing four colleges across varied disciplines, they are David Akopian (electrical and computer engineering), Bridget Drinka (English), Krystel Castillo (mechanical engineering), Aimin Liu (chemistry) and Rogelio Sáenz (demography).
Sponsored by the UTSA Knowledge Enterprise, the academy honors and recognizes exceptional faculty who are accomplished scholars and who share the university’s continuing commitment to research excellence. Through a rigorous nomination process, the academy selects members who foster the highest quality of research and scholarly activity.
Chaired by Hamid Beladi, the Janey S. Briscoe Endowed Chair in Business and professor of economics in the Alvarez College of Business, the academy is comprised of 20 faculty members, representing a variety of disciplines in the arts, humanities, social sciences, engineering, business and sciences.
“The UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers received the largest class of nominees from across our eight colleges this past year,” Beladi explained. “We are inducting five outstanding faculty scholars from across the university in 2021. The Academy is dedicated to fostering a culture of exceptional research practices at UTSA and creating a collective of faculty advocates for research excellence who also serve as a resource for their colleagues.”
“The research our faculty leads and executes is crucial to our reputation nationally and internationally,” added Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA’s vice president for research, economic development, and knowledge enterprise. “Their contributions are what fuels the knowledge enterprise. Their achievements are what attracts students to our institution; they want to be part of a dynamic research community.”
An induction ceremony and luncheon will be held later this semester to honor the 2021 cohort and the 2020 inductees Robert Hard (anthropology) and Jenny Hsieh (biology).
Rogelio Sáenz, a sociologist and demographer, is a professor in the Department of Demography. His current research is calling attention to and tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the Latino population. He has been nationally recognized for his contribution to scholarship on Latinos and on social justice with an eye toward driving equity, justice and equal human rights for racially marginalized populations. Most recently, this includes collaborative research on a grant funded by the Department of Health and Human Services for strengthening health literacy and recovery from COVID-19 in San Antonio.
His book Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change was a labor of love, with the goal to increase the visibility of Latinos in this country. It is one of the few written broadly with numerous topics related to Latinos and is popular with undergraduate classes across the country. Along with his former graduate student and now established scholar, Cristina Morales, they are working on the second edition of the book. Sáenz is the recipient of the 2021 American Sociological Association Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award and the 2020 Saber es Poder Academic Excellence Award from the University of Arizona’s Department of Mexican American Studies.