Keep Imagining a Bright Future

Advice from Ruben Kihuen, College of Education Alumnus of the Year


Read article on UNLV News Center.

Ruben Kihuen, ’05 BS Workforce Education, has been a Democratic senator in Nevada since 2010. Prior to that, he served in the Nevada Assembly from 2007 to 2010. He is also a principal with Ramirez Group, a public relations, advocacy, and multicultural outreach firm. Kihuen began his career with College of Southern Nevada as a recruiter and advisor.


The advice I’d give myself as a new graduate … is simple: You never know where life will take you, all you can do is work hard and success will follow.

Since I was a young boy, I had dreamed of playing professional soccer. I was the star of my high school team and just a few weeks before my big professional tryout, I broke my foot, ending my soccer career forever. If you’d asked me for advice then, it would have been darker. You’ll face times in your life where you can’t imagine a bright future ahead. In those moments, put your head down and focus on the task in front of you.

I finished college and worked as a student recruiter and academic advisor at the College of Southern Nevada, helping thousands achieve a college degree. A few years later, at the encouragement of my mentor U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, I ran for the state Assembly. No one thought I could win. I was too young, too inexperienced, had an accent, and no money. But with hard work and discipline, I won with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Today I am a sitting state Senator, a candidate for U.S. Congress, and most proudly a UNLV College of Education alumnus of the year. Regardless of what adversity may arise, work hard and success will follow.

COE Student Named 2016 Truman Scholar

Ms. Hannah Kelley was chosen as one of only 54 students nationwide to win the prestigious 2016 Truman Scholar Award.


By Francis McCabe • Read article on UNLV News Center.

Kelley, a junior in UNLV’s College of Education and Honors College, is one of just 54 college students nationwide selected for the $30,000 award based on academics, public service leadership potential.

UNLV undergraduate Hannah Kelley is one of just 54 college students nationwide to win the prestigious 2016 Truman Scholar Award, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation announced Wednesday evening.

Truman Scholars are selected for stellar academic and leadership performance and receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school. Award winners also get the chance to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.

This is the second year in a row a UNLV Honors College undergraduate has won the prestigious award. And Kelley is the fourth UNLV student to win the award since 2008.

“Being recognized as a Truman Scholar is wonderful validation of Hannah’s incredible efforts, her desire to give back, and what we have always known at the Honors College – that she is amazing,” said Marta Meana, dean of the UNLV Honors College.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in education, the 21-year-old is hoping to dive into a teaching role here in Southern Nevada. “I want to start out as a teacher in the Clark County School District – the community that literally gave me everything I have,” she said. The 15-year plan, which the Truman Scholarship folks make applicants map out, includes four or five years of teaching before pursuing graduate work, Kelley said. Her plans for the summer will take her to the Mediterranean where she will be writing and reporting for an arts and culture blog in Israel.

Kelley, who will be the first in her family to graduate from college, said while in high school she always felt higher education was unattainable until some teachers began to encourage her. “I always wanted to go, but it seemed like a mysterious thing that was out of reach,” she said.

But Kelley had top-notch grades — she was valedictorian at Green Valley High School — and soon New York University offered her a scholarship. While it was a substantial offer, Kelley said, tuition expenses were still beyond her reach.

Kelley had never really considered UNLV, but that changed during a steakhouse lunch offered by the university to local high school valedictorians. She was offered a full scholarship and the opportunity to attend UNLV’s flourishing Honors College. “I had always had this idea of UNLV being a gigantic commuter school with no sense of community,” Kelley said. “But the Honors College is everything I was hoping for. It offers small class sizes under 20 students and makes you feel like you are attending a small liberal arts college, not a gigantic research university.”

And it was only by happenstance that Kelley even considered applying for the Truman Scholarship. She was attending an Honors College workshop about national scholarships being led by her friend and 2015 Truman Scholarship winner Daniel Waqar, when Kelley thought she might apply. “Every single thing I learned about the Truman Scholarship, about being an agent of change, how they were looking for people committed to a lifetime of public service, to work on public policy in health, education, and other fields… it just fit.”

Kelley knew she wanted to be a teacher to give back to the community. “But I also thought about how we can improve public education. And hearing those words about being an agent of change and giving a lifetime to public service, that’s the way I’ve always thought. That’s the purpose of my life,” Kelley said.

Earlier this week, Kelley learned about winning the Truman award while attending an afternoon class of Teaching and Learning Secondary Education. She covered her mouth with her hands as tears streamed down her face. She was overcome with joy. Dean Meana, who made the announcement, along with Education Dean Kim Metcalf and Kelley’s advisor Andrew Hanson, embraced her as fellow classmates applauded.

It was a moment Kelley won’t soon forget. “I never gave myself the credit for the things I could accomplish. I’m very humbled by this award. But I think it shows that anyone can do something like this if they just let themselves,” she said.

Kelley has maintained a strong academic record at UNLV – her GPA is 3.99 – while holding down jobs as a barista and sales associate.

Candidates for the Truman Scholarship go through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process. In 2016, there were a record number of 775 candidates for the award nominated by 305 colleges. The 200 finalists for the award were interviewed in March and early April at one of sixteen regional selection panels. The 54 Truman Scholars will receive their awards in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum on May 29 in Independence, Missouri.

About the Harry S. Truman Scholarship

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. The Truman award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States.

Landscape for 21st Century Classrooms and Schools

Dr. Leann Putney co-edits the 24th Edition of the Association of Teacher Education’s Yearbook.


Teacher Education Yearbook XXIV: Establishing a Sense of Place for All Learners in 21st Century Classrooms and Schools, edited by LeAnn G. Putney and Nancy P. Gallavan, has just been released by Rowman & Littlefield.

The Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Yearbook XXIV offers 16 captivating chapters related to establishing a sense of place or belonging for P-12 students, classroom teachers, teacher candidates, and teacher educators. The chapters include theory, research, concepts, principles, practices, and programs that inform and support as well as question and challenge readers from multiple perspectives. Readers gain insights and inspiration that illustrate ways teachers and learners negotiate meaning in environments where everyone experiences social and cultural connections with personal and academic fulfillment.

ATE YearbookCollectively, the authors identify, describe, analyze, and advance issues associated with creating both an individual and a shared sense of place among the ever-changing populations in contemporary P-12 schools and classrooms. Like human geographers, teacher educators and educational researchers study environments where children grow up and create bonds with their early environments that continue to influence them throughout their lives based on the ways in which meaning is negotiated in that early space. Candidates, teachers, and teacher educators benefit by investigating the presence and power of these landscapes impacting the teaching, learning, and schooling.

Click here for information on ordering Teacher Education Yearbook XXIV. Click here for information on other books co-published by ATE and Rowman & Littlefield.

New Faces: Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola

Find out what inspired this Education College professor to focus her research on children, especially English language learners, who struggle to read.


By Diane Russell • Read on UNLV News Center

Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola says one reason she chose to move to UNLV from Denver is an opportunity she saw to partner with the Clark County School District, which counts many English language learners among its 300,000-plus students.

Why UNLV?

I selected UNLV because of the newly developed English Language Learning program, the expertise of the faculty in that program, opportunities to develop and expand the program, opportunities to bridge theory and research via community partnerships (Clark County School District has a large population of English language learners) and because of an opportunity to take part in conversations related to the Tier I status goals. I liked the fact that the university seemed to be thinking about how to create an environment that would attract new hires that were also interested in moving forward with research and scholarship goals.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Houston during a time that the school systems were still segregated. I attended elementary school where my mother taught and then changed schools when she was sent to a different school as part of an initiative to integrate schools. Those experiences taught me much about life and getting along with people despite differences. Growing up in a segregated school, however, resulted in strong identity formation and a belief that we as children could make a contribution to developing a better world. Our teachers protected us from the negativities of the outside world — they taught us to stand before an audience and make speeches, to be curious about new books (I loved having a library card and being able to check out books), and to be proud of who we were.

Where did you work previously? 

I worked in the bilingual education program in the educational psychology department at Texas A&M for eight years and for three years at the University of Denver, Colorado, in the child, family, school psychology program.

Tell us about your field of research. 

My scholarship attends to the prevention/intervention of language and literacy difficulties (Spanish/English) among students at risk of academic difficulties. Central to my scholarship is developing intervention curricula that build on validated instructional design principles, evaluating their impact on the language and reading development of struggling readers, and investigating how to improve the quality of language/literacy practices of teachers and parents of preschool English language learners.

I am interested in bridging research and practice by examining the feasibility/usability of research-based practices. My scholarship for years has focused on children who struggle to read and how to assist them in having greater access to the curriculum.

What inspired you to get into your field?

I have always been interested in issues related to language acquisition from my father’s own travels to Mexico to my undergraduate major (romance languages with an emphasis on comparative linguistics). My interest in understanding the intersection of language and literacy development was a result of my initial teaching years in New York City in Harlem with diverse learners (speakers of Spanish, speakers of African-American dialect, etc.) and wanting to understand why some students struggled to become fluent readers — what interventions, techniques, strategies could be used to overcome these obstacles. This influenced me to obtain a masters degree in developmental and remedial reading (City College of New York).

What’s the biggest misconception about your field?

The biggest misconception about second language learners is that they cannot learn academic content until they are completely English proficient. Another misconception is that families of ELLs are not interested in their child’s education when they are perceived as not being involved in school matters. Families from other cultures view their role and the role of school systems very differently than we do in Western society. Parents may not be involved because it is not a cultural expectation — not because they are not interested in their child.

Proudest moment in your life?

Giving birth to my two children.

One tip for success

To persevere despite obstacles and to not become sidetracked with activities that in the long run are not meaningful but prove to be superficial.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I love to sing and would like to continue with voice lessons in the near future.

Who was your favorite professor or teacher and why? 

John Grayson, professor of philosophy of religion at Mount Holyoke College. He approached abstract and complicated ideas in innovative ways. He inspired students via his depth of knowledge and how to apply the intersection of theology and philosophy to understand contemporary issues in society. He provided opportunities for us to develop as analytical writers and thinkers.

Who is your hero?

Mother Theresa and Dorothy Day. Dorothy Day was a U.S. social activist and journalist who was known for her writing in the Catholic Workernewspaper during the Great Depression. She was very outspoken on issues related to social justice and known for her commitment to the poor.

Pastime or hobbies?

Photography of nature and lighthouses, reading (history, theology, historical fiction, Eastern religions), visiting museums, traveling, and exploring new places.