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Cordero wins 2 awards for contributions to STEM education

Minerva Cordero and Keith Moo-Young
Minerva Cordero received the HENAAC Education Award from Keith Moo-Young, GMIS board member and chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities, on October 8. Photo courtesy of GMIS HENAAC.

A mathematician and College of Science administrator at The University of Texas at Arlington has been honored for her contributions to science education with a pair of national awards.

Minerva Cordero, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Mathematics, was named recipient of the Education Distinction Award as part of the 2016 HENAAC Awards given by Great Minds in STEM, a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping the United States technologically strong by promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, especially in underserved communities.

Cordero received the HENAAC award during the 28th Annual HENAAC Conference on October 8 in Anaheim, California. The conference is Great Minds in STEM’s flagship event, where all elements of outreach and programming come together to celebrate Hispanic excellence in STEM. The awards recognize the achievements of America’s top engineers and scientists within the Hispanic community.

She also has been named one of the Ford Motor Co.’s Mujeres Legendarias (Legendary Women) for 2016, for excellence in teaching and a decades-long commitment to increasing diversity in STEM programs.

A national program, Mujeres Legendarias honors Hispanic women in the United States who are making a difference in their workplace, home, environment and community. Cordero was one of only four award recipients in North Texas honored during a celebration held October 25 at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas.

“I am honored to receive this HENAAC award from Great Minds in STEM, and also to be among the outstanding women leaders recognized by the Ford Motor Company as a ‘Legendary Woman’,” Cordero said. “My passion for creating awareness of the value of a STEM degree and careers is fueled by my interactions with students and parents. I am very grateful to be working at UTA where diversity and the pursuit of excellence embody our commitment to the community.”

UTA President Vistasp M. Karbhari said Cordero exemplifies the excellence and commitment that define faculty at UTA and congratulated her on the recognition.

“Dr. Cordero is renowned nationally for her efforts to help all students access educational and professional STEM opportunities,” Karbhari said. “She exemplifies what it means to be a leader in academia working in partnership with the community, and we salute her for her untiring efforts. She and her colleagues in the Department of Mathematics and College of Science are to be commended for their dedication and commitment to encouraging and assisting students to excel in STEM areas.”

College of Science Dean Morteza Khaledi also praised Cordero for her efforts in promoting STEM education, particularly among women and underrepresented minorities.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Cordero has been recognized for her outstanding contributions to STEM education with these two prestigious awards,” Khaledi said. “Throughout her career she has demonstrated a strong commitment to increasing participation in STEM fields by those whose opportunities in such fields have often been limited in the past.”

When Cordero came to UT Arlington in 2001, she saw a need in the Department of Mathematics for an organization for undergraduate students that would help them feel connected to the faculty, department, and each other. She was instrumental in the creation of the UTA Student Chapter of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), which is dedicated to sparking interest in mathematics and its applications and providing the tools necessary for a deeper understanding of mathematics.

While Cordero was serving as faculty advisor for UTA’s MAA chapter, it was named Outstanding UTA Student Organization. The following year, she received Outstanding Student Organization Advisor award. She also collaborated with students to create a student chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

In her role as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, she works to develop and evaluate undergraduate programs to ensure that the fundamental commitment to learning outcomes relies on best practices throughout all departments of the College of Science. She examines strategic initiatives to enhance teaching and collaborates with colleagues to create metrics for evaluating undergraduate programs and student success. She also assists with faculty mentoring in the area of teaching.

Another area on which Cordero has focused is in evaluating the College’s undergraduate programs to ensure that the curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students and that the teaching of introductory courses is most effective. She also has devoted considerable time and effort in expanding research opportunities for the College’s undergraduate students.

Cordero has also been heavily involved in enhancing mathematics education by giving students a solid mathematics foundation from their earliest educational experiences. From 2009-15 she was director of the GK-12 MAVS (Mathematically Aligned Vertical Strands) Project, a program funded by a five-year, $2.85 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Each year the project paired eight UTA graduate fellows with eight mentor teachers from participating Arlington Independent School District schools. The student fellows developed communication and leadership skills through interactions with AISD teachers and students, while sharing their research and getting young students excited about mathematics.

Cordero earned a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico in 1981; an M.A. in Mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1983; and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Iowa in 1989. After receiving her Ph.D., she took an assistant professor position at Texas Tech University, where she won numerous awards for her teaching, including the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1999.

Among the many honors she has received since joining UTA in 2001 are the UT Arlington Honors College Outstanding Faculty Award in 2012; the UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award in 2009; and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Texas Section of the MAA in 2007. She was inducted into UTA’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 2005.