UHV awards three faculty members with excellence awards
The University of Houston-Victoria is recognizing three faculty members who teach English, computer science and biology for their dedication to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.
The faculty members are selected by their colleagues and students each spring for the prestigious awards. The winners this year are:
- Teaching Excellence Award – Jacob Snyder, lecturer in English
- Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award – Hardik Gohel, assistant professor of computer science
- Distinguished Faculty Service Award – Humberto Hernandez, assistant professor of biology
Each winner will receive a plaque and a monetary award. They will be honored during the university’s two commencement ceremonies on May 13 at Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the colleges of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences and Natural & Applied Science, while the 12:30 p.m. ceremony will be for the graduates of the colleges of Business and Education & Health Professions. A live-stream recording of both ceremonies will be available at www.uhv.edu/commencement the day of the ceremonies.
“Our faculty members are crucial to the success of our students and our university, and these awards recognize those who have gone above and beyond in those three important areas of UHV,” said Chance Glenn, UHV provost and vice present for academic affairs. “These faculty members have demonstrated excellence and dedication in the areas of teaching, research and service, and have made a positive impact on their students, the university and the community. We are proud to recognize them for their accomplishments and their efforts.”
The Teaching Excellence Award was established in 1993 and is given to a UHV faculty member nominated by students in the spring semester of each year in appreciation of their excellent teaching.
Snyder is in his fifth year teaching at UHV and teaches freshman composition and other literature courses. For years, Snyder worked outside of academia in a variety of jobs, and only seriously considered teaching after being approached to teach a course at UHV. Even though Snyder didn’t initially set out to become an educator, he found that teaching came naturally to him. He describes his teaching style as engaging, and for most classes he begins with conversations and allows students to ask questions and lets the conversation evolve before landing on the focus of the lesson.
“I found that students were receptive of having someone teach while at the same time be in conversation with them in a way that they weren’t used to in high school,” he said. “I really enjoy teaching composition courses because most of the students are fresh out of high school, and they’re open to new ideas and seeing things from different perspectives.”
Throughout the last several years, Snyder has learned how to teach a classroom of students who are at different levels of readiness. He also has mentored students in the language lab in the Student Success Center and helped students from throughout the university with their papers, remedial work or even just being a listening ear. While teaching has also been a lesson in balance, Snyder is happy that students appreciate his efforts.
“I feel in this profession that I can have a positive impact on someone’s life, and I am happy if even there’s just a student or two who feel like I made a difference in their education,” he said. “This is a really nice award to receive because you don’t receive it unless the students vote for you. It’s confirmation that you’re on the right path.”
The Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award recognizes professors who have made outstanding contributions to their scientific and scholarly communities during their time at UHV. Gohel’s research focuses on the emerging field of artificial intelligence, also known as AI, and its advancement, education, policy and practices to improve the human condition, he said. The research ranges from fundamental research in AI and scientific computing to key application areas, including cybersecurity, health care and climate change.
“AI is transforming the world as we know it, creating a future where AI will impact humans in ways we can only imagine today,” Gohel said. “From academia to industry, government and civil society, leaders are seeking to understand and influence the creation and impact of AI.”
During his three-year tenure at UHV, Gohel has received five federal grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State. His most recent research is focused on designing novel artificial intelligence methods in application areas of health care and climate change. For health care, he is working to study, design and develop a transparent AI health care framework to overcome the barriers of AI for clinical adaptation, compliance and implementation, he said. For climate change, he is working on designing novel AI-based risk assessment framework for global climate change that can contribute to resilience plans for the Department of Energy to take a proactive approach for climate change adaptation and enhance the climate resilience of not just the Department of Energy facilities, but neighboring communities as well, he said.
Gohel is grateful for the continuous support and help from the UHV Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and his colleagues. He also thanks Yun Wan, chair of the UHV computer science department and professor of computer information systems; Dmitri Sobolev, interim dean of the UHV College of Natural & Applied Science; and Chance Glenn for their support to conduct state-of-the-art technology research at UHV. Gohel also is thankful to his mentor Claudia Neuhauser, vice chancellor for research at the University of Houston.
“I am honored to receive UHV’s Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award,” Gohel said. “I am thankful to the faculty awards committee for this honor. It makes me feel great to be rewarded for the hard work that I am doing to conduct research at UHV and increase student learning, success and retention in UHV programs.”
The Distinguished Faculty Service Award recognizes the significant, positive contributions UHV faculty make to UHV, and to local and regional communities. Hernandez firmly believes that service is a fundamental aspect of the work of educators, and its impact on students cannot be overstated, he said.
“As we serve with the interests of our students in mind, we are better equipped to create an environment where students can reach their fullest potential,” Hernandez said. “The most important aspect of service is the direct impact it has on students. As faculty members, we recognize the important role that service plays in creating a vibrant academic community. As we dedicate ourselves to serving our colleges, the university and the broader community, we contribute to the excellence that makes UHV a source of pride for our students.”
Within the past year, Hernandez has been active as a committee member, advisor or volunteer for more than 20 university organizations and activities. He is active in the UHV Faculty Senate and has served on several committees in the organization and as the faculty senator for the UHV College of Natural & Applied Science. He also has served on the Academic Strategic Plan implementation committee and the UHV Diversity & Race Task Force working committees. Hernandez has been a member of the UHV Latino Faculty and Staff Association and is currently president of the group. He also serves as the faculty advisor for several student organizations, including the Hispanic Student Association, the Pre-Health Student Association and Nu Gamma Nu Honor Society. Additionally, Hernandez is part of the Local Institutional Biosafety Committee for Victoria and Port Lavaca, a group that reviews the safety of clinical trials for COVID-19 in the area. He also serves as a science judge and mentor at local high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, and participates in educational youth activities at local schools such as Earth Day or Career Day.
“Receiving this award from my colleagues was a humbling experience,” Hernandez said. “I am so grateful that my colleagues have nominated me and awarded me this prestigious award. Above all, I am immensely proud that my efforts have positively impacted our students, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of our work.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.