New UNLV Student Organization for Scholarly Writing

Dr. Margarita Huerta and students have founded a chapter to support students interested in academic writing.

SAA is a UNLV-registered student organization of individuals who meet together to support one another with scholarly writing. SAA provides resources and networking opportunities, and allows students to share experiences of navigating through novice academic writing. The goal of SAA is to maximize quality and production of scholarly writing for UNLV students.

2016-17 SAA Meetings:

  • September 2 at 2pm in the Student Union Room 224
  • October 7
  • November 4
  • December 2
  • February 3
  • March 3
  • April 7
  • May 5

For more information, contact Kristin Withey or visit their Facebook page.

Urban Leadership Development Program Graduates First Class

UNLV, CCSD partner on hands-on master’s program to create a pipeline of local K-12 teachers to fill demand for as many as 150 principals and other administrators a year.

By Keyonna Summers • Read on UNLV News Center

Diana Gomez always felt a pull toward a teaching career.

Even as a child, her heart was happiest when she was supervising her sisters and cousins’ cursive writing and math lessons, recess sessions and lunch duty during games of “school.” She spent five years post-college exploring an accounting career, but the passion for her first love — education — remained.

Gomez returned to school to obtain her teaching credential, moved to Las Vegas because of vast job openings, and might have been content to teach first grade forever. But one fateful day, a mentor, whose “growing our own” mantra had encouraged Gomez to spend the last several years moving up the ranks, urged her to attend an informational meeting about UNLV’s Urban Leadership Development (ULD) program.

The four-semester master’s degree program is a partnership with the Clark County School District aimed at preparing a new crop of principals and top administrators to fill a leadership gap created by retirements and local population and school growth. Officials say CCSD will need 100 to 150 new principals a year.

“The need is nationwide to really train teachers as instructional leaders. That was the first thing that got me,” said Gomez, an Edwards Elementary Title I learning strategist who has her eyes set on nabbing an assistant principal position next year. “The next thing was that community members and even businesses that are employing CCSD students know this is a great need, and this program listens to them and gives them a voice. I was sold.”

Gomez is among 27 members of the inaugural ULD cohort who graduated May 14.

Started in January 2015, the graduate program’s bread and butter is the real-world experiential learning element. Students are embedded in Las Vegas schools, where they work with mentor principals to research data/issues and available school resources specific to that particular urban environment — such as poor attendance, test scores or behavioral problems — then implement programs to spur improvements.

“Field experiences are core to our program — putting theory into practice,” said planning director Patti Chance. “It’s real work that benefits a site where the teacher is working.”

The program also works closely with Teach for America, which has six graduates among the first cohort, and is supported by Nevada Succeeds.

Circle of learning

The Urban Leadership Development program will broaden this fall under the College of Urban Affairs to include graduate education for community and business professionals in a variety of fields. Concurrently, the College of Education will continue the CCSD leadership-focused track under a new name, Educational Policy and Leadership, and expand it to 40 to 50 new students a year plus bring in nationally-recognized course instructors.

Officials say they believe the program is one of only two in Nevada specifically dedicated to the preparation of K-12 principals, and is the only one catering to Southern Nevada.

The emphasis on bringing in outside perspectives is among things that impacted ULD graduate Benjamin Feinstein most.

“We were introduced to so many resources that are there to support students  — who, for example, might be hungry or homeless or have no insurance to get glasses or a toothache fixed — that when we become leaders we already have contacts in the community to call and we already know how to meet that need,” he said.

Feinstein is a Valley High School International Baccalaureate coordinator, whose field experience project focused on simple techniques for teachers to help English Language Learners succeed in mainstream classrooms. He has worked in administration at private and independent schools, and his graduation from ULD allows him to begin applying for CCSD assistant principalships over the summer.

Tracking results

Gomez’s capstone project targeted kindergarten English Language Learners at Edwards, which has an 88 percent Hispanic and 66 percent ELL population. She developed a program to prepare the 13 pupils for first grade beginner reading courses and get them on track to meet CCSD’s read-by-third-grade initiative through tailored lessons on letter names and sounds. Gomez said her goal of a 70 percent success rate was exceeded by 15 percent.

“If the ULD program taught me anything it’s that if I’m growing, my teachers are growing and that means students are learning,” Gomez said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by ULD graduate Dawn King, who helps educators develop teaching strategies as a special education instructional facilitator. Her project successfully decreased behavioral problems in one Monaco Middle School classroom by implementing the “genius hour strategy,” a popular tool at companies like Google that gives individuals free time several hours a week work on something they are passionate about. There was a roughly 50 percent decrease in off-task behavior by students allowed to work on research paper topics of their choosing, King said, but a side bonus was the significant confidence boost teachers noticed in students who were suddenly eager to give presentations to their classmates.

King is hoping her newly-minted degree helps earn her a dean position at a middle school, where she can expand her capstone project and refine the traditional disciplinary role of a dean to include a bigger focus on building relationships with students.

“The biggest asset of this program was the relationship between CCSD and UNLV, and the professional development,” King said. “We know specifically what’s expected of us when we go into these jobs. UNLV brought in key speakers, had seminars on the weekends. I feel so prepared to get started (in an administration job) because I don’t feel like I just learned what was in a textbook. I learned how it can be applied on the job. UNLV did that for me. And the partnership with CCSD is invaluable.”

Department of Teaching & Learning Hosts Students and Professors from the Netherlands and England

Students and professors from the Netherlands, as well as observation students from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England, recently visited the COE to learn about teacher education in the U.S. COE graduating student teachers attended and shared information about teaching in southern NV as well as the new Classroom of the Future technology initiative. For more information about the Classroom of the Future, contact

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.