UHV News

UHV News

UHV honors three faculty members with excellence awards

The University of Houston-Victoria is recognizing three faculty members for their outstanding dedication to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service. The faculty members are selected by their colleagues and students each spring for their respective awards.

The award winners are:

  • Teaching Excellence Award – Humberto Hernandez, assistant professor of biology
  • Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award – Aobo Jin, assistant professor of computer information systems
  • Distinguished Faculty Service Award – Mark Ward Sr., professor of communication
Joann Olson
Joann Olson

“Every year, these awards give us the opportunity to highlight and acknowledge excellence in the various aspects of faculty work: teaching, research and service,” said Joann Olson, UHV interim provost. “Our faculty members play a crucial role in the success of our students. Their dedication to academic excellence, innovative teaching methods and effective research endeavors not only enrich the learning experiences of our students, but also enhance UHV's mission. The university extends its congratulations to these faculty members for their well-deserved accomplishments."

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.

Humberto Hernandez
Humberto Hernandez

“I am grateful for the nomination from my students,” Hernandez said. “It was shocking; we have so many great professors at the university, and to be chosen – I am very humbled and grateful.”

Hernandez came to UHV in the fall of 2019 and began teaching upper- and lower-division biology courses, as well as courses in the biomedical science program. He also teaches the Life Science courses for the College of Education & Health Professions.

“I was a first-generation college student, and it was my instructors who showed me the way and told me it was possible to reach my dreams and goals,” Hernandez said. “That is the reason why I decided to become a professor: to instill that passion in the classroom and pass that passion on to the next generation.”

Since coming to UHV five years ago, Hernandez has always made it a priority to be deeply involved with the university. He is the adviser for three student organizations: the Pre-Health Student Association, TriBeta NuGammaNu Student Association and the Hispanic Student Association.

“We aim to keep our students involved in the community and research so that they can get the experience that they need to be competitive enough to get into Ph.D. programs, medical school or their desired profession,” Hernandez said.

Throughout his years of teaching, Hernandez emphasized the importance of translating course material into real-world applications to engage his students more effectively. Rather than solely lecturing about the material, Hernandez said it is also important to facilitate discussions to demonstrate the application of course content.

“It’s a little bit like storytelling,” Hernandez said. “It’s not just important to know the molecules or content we are studying, but how can we use that to help people, whether it is in a clinical setting, laboratory or the classroom.”

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.

Aobo Jin has been at UHV for two and a half years, focusing his research on how artificial intelligence can be utilized to aid in 3-D modeling. In his research, Jin said he collaborated with Hardik Gohel, director of the UHV graduate data science program, to work with applied AI to find ways to solve real world problems.

Aobo Jin
Aobo Jin

“I’m honored; it’s a big accomplishment,” Jin said. “This award gives me more passion and pushes me to do more interesting research.”

His current project involves collaborating with the Department of Energy to address environmental issues, particularly in nuclear management and climate change.

In addition to his research, Jin also teaches gaming courses at UHV, guiding students in creating their own video games and utilizing motion capture in lab sessions to teach animation creation. Over the past two years, he has been published in multiple journals.

The Distinguished Faculty Service Award recognizes the significant, positive contributions UHV faculty make to UHV and to local and regional communities.

Mark Ward Sr. has been a faculty member since 2010 and has dedicated 12 years as a faculty senator. Throughout his tenure, Ward has been a vocal advocate for faculty interests and shared governance while serving on various university committees. Notably, he served on the UHV Long-Range Strategic Planning Committee where he played a role serving on the executive writing team. Ward has also served on the Faculty Salary Committee, which advocates for competitive pay for faculty members.

As a professor of communication, Ward leverages his expertise to promote civic and interfaith dialogue within the Victoria community. Since 2021, he has authored a monthly opinion column for the Victoria Advocate newspaper, providing insights into current national and local issues using communication research and scholarship.

Since Ward’s own research examines communication in religious contexts, he is active in Communities of Faith. The Victoria-based interfaith organization brings together clergy and faith-based community service providers to dialogue and build relationships through monthly discussion meetings. Members are drawn from Victoria’s Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and Islamic communities.

Mark Ward
Mark Ward

“By coming together, faith-based outreaches can help meet the needs of our community,” Ward said. “Interfaith understanding can also help combat the rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia and religious violence.”

Beyond his community engagement, Ward serves his profession as a member of the Religious Communication Association executive council and the editorial boards of multiple scholarly journals. Ward has garnered multiple national awards for his scholarship and in 2018 received the UHV Research and Scholarly Activities Excellence Award.

“Scholarly recognition is special because it’s acknowledgment from external peers,” Ward said. “But receiving the Distinguished Faculty Service Award from my UHV peers is special in another way. It comes from the decision that my wife and I made, when we came here as strangers 14 years ago, to invest ourselves in UHV and in the Victoria community.”

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 50 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.