Elevating the human condition.

College of Liberal Arts

Creative, interdisciplinary approaches to address the challenges of a complex, global society.


COLA departments and centers cluster into the social sciences, humanities, and fine arts. They are comprised of highly skilled faculty and students who are dedicated to elevating the human condition through research, scholarship, and creative activity. Throughout the college, we cultivate the following values and skills:


Local Engagement and Global Thinking. Foster a community-based understanding at UTA, in DFW, throughout the state, and on a global level. This capacity encourages students to act locally while being globally conscious.

Creativity and Innovation. Ensure students are engaging and cultivating various pursuits in entrepreneurship and artistic expression.

Inclusiveness and Diversity. Encourage an environment that is open to diverse backgrounds, ideas, and ways of thinking. Teaching respect, empathy, and tolerance for all people and cultures develop thoughtful, well-rounded students and citizens.

Community and Collaboration. Provide students with the ability to examine their place and space in the world. Cultivating partnerships and collaborative efforts produce an impact on society and help students in an increasingly global, ever-changing world and workplace.

Curiosity and Imagination. Speak to allowing the brain to roam free, question unexpectedly, think divergently instead of conversely, and not be afraid to express one’s self and ideas.


Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

Foster inquiry into the attitudes and ideas that shape contemporary society. These skills facilitate bold ideas, challenge conventional thought, and reveal the process of finding solutions to complex issues.

Comprehension, Interpretation, and Analysis

Create deep thought of written, oral, and visual material. Once mastered, students demonstrate a high level of cognitive ability.

Leadership, Teamwork, and Effective Communication

Promote work habits and character traits commonly associated with 21st century skills.

Technological and Digital Tools

Enrich tremendous knowledge in social/media, the Internet, computer programming, computer hardware and software, applications (apps), and future technologies.

Research and Professional Expertise

Highlight scientific, social science, and humanities literacy and reasoning and advance disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge.


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    Dr. Elisabeth Cawthon




    Elisabeth A. Cawthon has been a faculty member in the Department of History at UTA since 1988. Her research has focused on English legal and constitutional history, comparative legal history, and medico-legal history. Recent projects include studies of legal and political policy related to alternative medical practitioners, especially physician assistants, in recent U.S. and world history. She is the immediate past Chair of the European History Section of the Southern Historical Association.

    Her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in legal history are from the University of Virginia, and her B.A. was earned at Louisiana Tech University. She was a visiting assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire and Brown University.

    She has directed 41 M.A. theses and doctoral dissertations, served on 113 graduate and undergraduate committees, and taught an array of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Through a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation she began a service learning outreach by UTA students on behalf of the clients of legal aid clinics in North Texas. She has received teaching, service, and advising awards at the college, university, and system levels. Within the college she has led committees on teaching, research, and curriculum matters, and has been engaged in development efforts on behalf of departments and the college. She is a frequent media commentator on forensic medicine and British and U.S. legal and constitutional history.

    Dr. Cawthon has been the Associate Chair of the History Department and Founding and Interim Director of the Pre-Law Center, and an undergraduate advisor for the Department of History as well as the university Honors program. She has served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs within the College of Liberal Arts at UTA, as well as Acting Dean of the College.

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    Dr. Eric Bolsterli

    Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs



    Dr. Bolsterli joined the History department as an adjunct in 1994, and became the History advisor in 1998, before moving to the Dean's Office in 2005. He graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1982 with a double major in History and Anthropology.

    After a short stint outside academia he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas, finishing in 1998. His focus was on Modern U.S. diplomatic History, but he has since branched out to include Economic History as well. He has had a strong interest in student success, both in the classroom and in the University environment, evidenced by the Outstanding Adjunct Instructor Award, the Provost's Award for Excellence in Teaching and Outstanding Academic Advisor Award.

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    Dr. Sonja Stephenson Watson

    Associate Dean of Academic Affairs



    Dr. Sonja Stephenson Watson was appointed as Associate Dean in September 2017. She previously served in the Department of Modern Languages as Associate Professor of Spanish and Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program. Dr. Watson has been with UT Arlington since 2007 after earning her B.A. in Spanish from the College of William and Mary, and her M.A. in Spanish and doctorate in Modern Languages from the University of Tennessee. She also served as a faculty fellow in the Center for African American Studies at UTA from 2012 to 2014 and a postdoctoral fellow in African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, from 2005 to 2007.

    Dr. Watson is well known for her scholarship in Afro-Panamanian literature and Hispanic culture in the Caribbean region. She has published in numerous journals, and wrote a widely-cited monograph on black national identity: The Politics of Race in Panama: Afro-Hispanic and West Indian Literary Discourses of Contention (University Press of Florida, 2014). She is co-editor of the journal PALARA (Publication of the Afro-Latin/American Research Association). Dr. Watson also has an extensive record of grant acquisition in collaboration with partners across campus and beyond. Such supported efforts include Dr. Watson’s project that exemplifies the College’s focus on Digital Arts and Humanities: the development of a multicultural women’s archive in North Texas, in partnership with UTA Libraries staff and faculty members in English, History, Art and Art History, Modern Languages, and Education.

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    Dr. Les Riding-in

    Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs



    Dr. Les Riding-In was appointed Assistant Dean and Director of Graduate Studies on August 1, 2012. He has been a member of the UT-Arlington community since 2005, holding professional academic advising and recruitment positions with the college of Business and, most recently, the Honors College. Dr. Riding-In began his higher education career in Residential Life as a Center Coordinator at the University of Oklahoma.

    He presently serves as the primary advisor for the Native American Student Association (NASA), which sponsors DFW’s 3rd largest powwow. In 2012, NASA was honored to win the Outstanding Contribution to the Greater Community Award. Additionally, Dr. Riding-In is the chair for the Native American and Tribal Colleges Interest Group for the National Association of Academic Advisors (NACADA. He also serves on the executive board for the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program. Dr. Riding-In is a member of the Pawnee and Osage tribe and a native Oklahoman.


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    Lee Banda

    Director, Academic Resource Planning



    Lee comes to UT Arlington from the University of California, Riverside in Southern California. He is originally from San Antonio and is a military veteran. Lee served in the US Navy from 1985-1993. He has Bachelor’s degrees in Accounting and in Business Management. He also has a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance.

    Lee has been in higher education for over 23 years. He began his higher education career with the San Diego Community College District in early 1995. He was in accounting and finance for 10 years while at the SDCCD before moving onto the University of California, San Diego in 2005. He spent the first 5 years at UCSD in budget and finance for the School of Medicine and then moved onto the Department of Physics as the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Chief Operating Officer for the next 5 ½ years until late 2015. He has been at the University of California, Riverside for the past 2 ½ years as the Director of Planning and Budget for the University Library.

    Lee enjoys playing baseball and softball, golfing with his wife as much as time and the weather will allow, and reading.

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    Laura Nation

    Assistant to the Dean



    Laura is a UTA graduate with degrees in Communication and Electrical Engineering. After a successful career at TU Electric she began working at UTA, first in the Electrical Engineering Department for one year and then in the Office of Special Events for almost six years. Laura recently transferred to the Dean’s Office as Assistant to the Dean. She is responsible for overseeing the budget for the College of Liberal Arts.

    Outside her duties at UTA, Laura sings with the renowned Oratorio Chorus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Other spare time activities include playing the flute and spending time with her husband and their Norwich Terrier, Gus.

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    Cindy Wilder Graves

    Executive Assistant to the Dean



    Cindy is a native Texan and proud of it. She has literally grown up on this campus. Her mother came to work here when Cindy was only three years old. Cindy worked for the Dean of the Graduate School from 1980-1985, then took a leave in order to spend time with her two children. In June, 1990 she came to work for the Dean of Liberal Arts office, working three years for the Associate Deans, 12 years as the Administrative Assistant to the Dean and the last few years as the Executive Assistant to the Dean.

    Cindy keeps the Dean's schedule and handles all of her correspondence. She keeps up with all matters dealing with faculty, from their offer letters when they are hired, through their career to tenure and promotion, and on to retirement. She handles various reports, supports all committees at the College level, works closely with Development, oversees the annual elections, coordinates the graduation ceremonies for the College, and takes care of day-to-day tasks as office manager. She loves her job and plans on retiring from UTA. She is married to a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, who also works at UTA, and has two wonderful children - a grown son who is married and who has made Cindy the proud Grandma of the most beautiful little girl, and a grown daughter who is married to a young man in the Coast Guard . She is very involved in the music program at Lamar Baptist Church. Her hobbies are singing, reading, and spoiling her family, as well as their Chihuahua and Pomeranian.

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    Aleta Duran

    Administrative Assistant I



    Aleta and her family moved to Arlington in the spring of 1988 from East Texas. She has two children who are currently attending college. She joined the Dean’s Office team in April 2007, leaving a position as Court Administrator for a local municipality where she served for many years.

    Her primary responsibilities include ongoing communication with departmental advisors and various other staff, processing student petitions, scheduling classrooms, maintaining student and college records/reports assisting with college mailings and various other duties as support staff for the Assistant Dean.

    She enjoys people and thrives on a varied and busy environment which makes her a perfect fit in this office. She keeps herself busy outside of work by being involved in the local Boys Scouts and facilitating for the young adults at her church.

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    Ami Keller

    Administrative Assistant I



    Ami Keller graduated with honors with bachelor degrees in History and International Studies from Stephen F. Austin State University. She received her Master's Degree in Public History from UTA. Besides Public History, her areas of interest are Diplomatic History, English History and Irish History. In addition to her scholarly interests, she enjoys photography, volunteering, playing with her dogs and spending time with family and friends. She joined the Dean’s Office staff in August 2012, after working in the UTA History Department for three years.

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    Janet Hazelmyer

    Senior Office Assistant



    Janet Hazelmyer joined the College of Liberal Arts in March 2015. She worked previously for a DFW-area church for 14 years as well as at Electronic Data Systems (now known as Hewlett Packard). Janet’s hobbies include reading, music, spending time with friends and family, and traveling to see her son who attends Stephen F. Austin State University where he marches in the band.

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    Angelica Esparza

    Student Assistant - Administrative



    Angie enrolled with UTA in fall of 2014. She joined the Dean's Office in March 2016. She is currently majoring in Biology. Angie is aspiring to become a rehabilitator for endangered species. She hopes to specialize in elephants. This passion for four-legged creatures was developed at a young age after adopting her first cat. It was then that she became a cat enthusiast. Outside of work and school she enjoys volunteering at the Arlington Animal Shelter photography, hiking, spoiling her cat, and getting lost.


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    Jamie McTigue

    Academic Recruiter



    Jamie graduated summa cum laude from Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in Communication, specializing in advertising, with a minor in graphic design. As an undergraduate, she was active in the College Honors Program, interned in several Advertising agencies, and served as the art director for the college’s newspaper. 

    She joins the College of Liberal Arts team as an Academic Recruiter, with the goal of increasing enrollment for the college as a whole, along with focusing on individual department needs. Jamie has worked in both digital and print marketing, and continuously looks to add to her graphic portfolio and skill set. In her free time, Jamie enjoys attending sporting events and concerts, and volunteers with a local animal nonprofit organization.


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    Jacob Singletary

    Director of Development



    Jacob and his wife, Shanna, have 4 children (3 boys and 1 girl). He enjoys being outdoors as much as possible, particularly doing activities that center around bodies of water. Jacob is an avid sports fan; and while he enjoys all sports, he is most fond of hockey, basketball, football, baseball, and soccer. Jacob and his family regularly volunteer to support the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the March of Dimes, MDA, the American Heart Association, and the Heart of Texas Autism Network. Jacob relishes discussions of history, politics, and physics. As a former foster child who aged out of the system, Jacob has a deep personal interest in issues surrounding at risk youth and foster children.


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    Jonikka Davis

    Assistant Director, Marketing and Communication



    Jonikka Davis is a seasoned communications professional with more than a decade of specialized marketing strategy/execution, promotions, public relations and brand-building expertise.

    A graduate of San Diego State University’s School of Communication, Jonikka earned her B.A. in Radio, Television & Film, with a minor in English, and quickly transitioned to a career in Public Relations. There, she leveraged her “love of all things COMM” and passion for word play in order to mobilize audiences, drive brand recognition and promote engagement for an array of clients including global charities and non-profits, international consumer brands and entrepreneurial start-ups.

    After earning her M.A. in Management, Jonikka emerged as a consumer promotions maven, leading brands—large AND small—to unprecedented campaign success.

    Jonikka is also passionate about continuous education and service. She is a community leader who prioritizes integrity, hard work, mentorship and human connection, as evidenced by her experience, reputation and commitment through service to and with numerous local, regional, national and global organizations.

    Ever-evolving, Jonikka is currently serving the UTA community and engaging emerging leaders as the College of Liberal Arts’ Assistant Director of Marketing and Communication.

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    Oli Gemechu

    Student Assistant - Graphic Design



    Olyad "Oli" Gemechu enrolled with UTA in fall of 2015. He joined the Dean's Office in September 2017 and his duties include creating graphic designs for use in CoLA marketing and communication. He is majoring in Film/Video with the Department of Art & Art History. Oli aspires to be an animator. In his spare time he works on personal projects like 3d modeling or painting.

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    Sarbajit Roy

    Graduate Research Assistant



    Sarbajit Roy enrolled with UTA in fall of 2017 as a master's student. He joined the Dean's Office in November 2017 and his duties include creating and maintaining the webpages for use in CoLA marketing and communication. He is majoring in Computer Science with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. His thesis research is on fake news detection on social media. Sarbajit aspires to be a Data Scientist.

CoLA Organizational Chart 2018

CoLA Organizational Chart 2018