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Juan Soto

Juan Soto

Soto ('14 BA, Advertising and History), a U.S. Army veteran and Movin' Mavs coach, won for the United States wheelchair basketball team in the Invictus Games, the international adaptive sports tournament for wounded, ill, and injured service members. He also won gold for the Army team in the Wounded Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition among the nation's armed forces held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Juan Placencia

Placencia ('09 BS, Computer Engineering) is mobile architect at the Coppell-based startup Aireal, which was tapped to create downloadable digital experiences and games for The Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week marathon of shark-themed programs.

Lilia Castillo Jones

Lilia Castillo Jones

Gannett Co. named Jones ('89 BA, Communication) president of the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership, which includes The El Paso Times and six other newspapers in Texas and New Mexico. Jones has been the publisher of Valley Morning Star in Harlingen since 2012. Her work history also includes 25 years with the Dallas Morning News, where she held various roles, and a stint at San Antonio Express News.


Toby Pugh (BS, Mechanical Engineering; '74 MS, Aerospace Engineering) co-authored a paper in the November 2015 issue of World Oil. He holds three patents and has overseen projects around the world.


Ralph M. Cox (BS, Mechanical Engineering) retired as senior principal from Tompkins International, a global supply chain consulting firm. He worked with clients in the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, China, India, and Singapore.

Tommie Wood (BS, Aerospace Engineering; '72 MS, Mechanical Engineering) received the 2016 Alexander A. Nikolsky Honorary Lectureship by AHS International, the Vertical Flight Technical Society. He is chief technologist for Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.


Chris Burkett (BS, Civil Engineering) retired after 32 years with the City of Mansfield, including nearly 23 years as assistant city manager. He worked briefly for the City of Dallas after graduation and did private engineering work before being hired by Mansfield as public works director in 1984. He was promoted to director of planning and development later that year and as assistant city manager in 1993.


Mark McKinney (BA, Psychology; '80 PhD, General Experimental Psychology) is vice president of client development for Bottle Rocket, a leading mobile strategy, design, and development company in Addison.


Enrique Mendez (BS, Architecture) has joined HNTB Corp., an infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and contractors, as aviation project director–architecture and associate vice president.


Vinsen Faris (BA, Political Science; '93 MPA, Public Administration) is CEO of Christian Senior Services in Bexar County. He is the former executive director of Meals on Wheels for Johnson and Ellis counties.


Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner (BSN, Nursing) is the director of the Nurses Christian Fellowship and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Christian Nursing.

Rick Smith (BS, Electrical Engineering) has been named president of the Sugar Land Rotary Club. He also serves the Boy Scouts of America in the North Star District and is on the Board of Directors for the Sugarwood Homeowners Association. He retired from Texas Instruments in 2009.


Brad Chasteen (BS, Physical Education) is the boys varsity basketball coach at Midway High School in Waco. Previously, he coached at South Grand Prairie and Coppell high schools, the Texas Lightning AAU program, and for a homeschool team, the Flower Mound Rebels.


Michael Bennett (MA, Architecture) was named Top Private CEO of the Year by Fort Worth Business. He is principal of the architecture firm Bennett Benner Partners, which has helped shape downtown Fort Worth. Bennett also serves on the advisory council of UTA's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs. 

Mark Haney (BS, Political Science) has opened a new law firm, Puls Haney Kaiser, in Fort Worth. He was recognized by Texas Monthly as one of the Top 100 Personal Injury Trial Attorneys in Texas.


Laif Afseth (BBA, Finance) was named president of Houston-based Amegy Bank of Texas. He previously served as the company's executive director of commercial and industrial lending.

Hamid Parsaei (PhD, Industrial Engineering) was inducted to Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Excellence Academy. He is a professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M and director of academic outreach at Texas A&M at Qatar.


Liz Johnson (MSN, Nursing) has been named a member of the American Academy of Nursing's 2016 Class of New Fellows. Johnson is a nationally recognized, award-winning chief information officer for Tenet Health. Fellow selection criteria include evidence of significant contributions to nursing and health care and sponsorship by two current academy fellows.

Mike Myers (BBA, Marketing) has been named a shareholder at Holmes Murphy and Associates, a national brokerage offering property and casualty insurance for individuals and businesses as well as commercial, liability, and industry-specific lines. He is a vice president/senior benefit consultant in the Dallas office.

Anne Spence (MS, Aerospace Engineering) is a professor of the practice and interim director of the Center for Women in Technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she has taught since 1995.

Laura Sullivan (MS,'92 PhD, Materials Science) was appointed to the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. She represents the city of Flint on the 17-member committee, which is working to implement long-term solutions to the city's water system. She is a professor of mechanical engineering at Kettering University.


Michael Brown (BS, Civil Engineering) was named 2015 Engineer of the Year by the DFW Mid-Cities Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. He is a project manager and team leader at TranSystems Corporation Consultants.

Roy Rudewick (BA, Physical Education) received the Frank Medina Award from the Southwest Athletic Trainers' Association for significant contributions to the profession. He is UTA's associate athletic director for sports medicine and the primary trainer for men's basketball.

Kyle Walterscheid (BS,'93 MA, Civil Engineering) is pastor of St. John Paul II University Parish in Denton. He was ordained in 2002 after working in North Texas as a civil engineer from 1990-95.


Virginia Lynch (MSN, Nursing) was recognized for her efforts in forensic nursing when she received the John R. Hunt Award in February at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Las Vegas. She currently serves on the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Initiative in Humanitarian and Human Rights and lives in Colorado with her husband, Dr. Z.G. Standing Bear.


Roger Arriaga (BBA, Economics) is the San Antonio Water System's chief of staff. Previously, he worked for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and KB Homes. 

Roopangi Kadakia (MS, Social Work) has been appointed chief information security officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Previously, she served as web services executive in NASA's Office of the CIO.

Roel Peña (BS, Aerospace Engineering; '02 MEd, Curriculum and Instruction) was featured in a Dec. 7, 2015, Cleburne Times article about his career transition from a 25-year Lockheed Martin engineer to a sixth-grade science teacher at Smith Middle School.


Iqbal Hossain (MS, Environmental Engineering) joined Texas-based civil engineering firm RPS Klotz Associates as a senior project manager in Public Utilities. Hossain brings nearly 25 years of experience, specializing in water and wastewater treatment plants, pipelines, pumping stations, compressors, and hydraulic structures.

Kathryn Mershon (BA, Communication) launched Caring Transitions of West Arlington, a resource for managing senior relocations as well as downsizing and estate liquidations that serves Arlington, Kennedale, Fort Worth, Mansfield, and the surrounding communities. 

Bob Stephan (MBA, Finance) was named director of acquisitions of Tarantino Properties in Houston.

Margot Suzanne Weyandt (MS, Social Work) has published the novel Gour Ghost Passage, which is available through Amazon. She lives in Parkville, Mo.


Elizabeth Brown (BA, Interdisciplinary Science) is a communication specialist for the Community and Government Affairs Department of BASF (Freeport) as well as the document control and integrity coordinator. She was previously the portal specialist for the Contracted Services Group at BASF.

David Fagerstrom (BA, Interdisciplinary Studies) is president and CEO of the Greater Valley YMCA of Pennsylvania, which has six branches in Lehigh Valley. He served 10 years as president and CEO of the River Valley Regional YMCA in Williamsport, Pa.

Raj Malik (BS, Computer Science and Engineering) is a regional winner for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. He is the president and CEO of BioWorld Merchandising, which is based in Irving.

Gordon Mayern (MBA, Business Administration) is the interim director of utilities for the city of Tyler. He previously held the role of deputy director of public works and city engineer for the city of Southlake.


Mathew Happach (MBA, Business Administration) is president of Lovejoy, a premium manufacturer of industrial couplings and universal joints. He has been an associate of Timken, Lovejoy's parent company, since 1987, serving as director of aerospace bearings, managing director for Europe, managing director for Korea and Japan, and vice president of the global rail businesses. Lovejoy Inc. is based in Downers Grove, Ill.


Sesh Commuri (PhD, Electrical Engineering) was named technical director of the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center at the University of Nevada–Reno in January. He is a professor in the electrical and biomedical engineering department.


Nic Burtea (BS, Mechanical Engineering) was appointed chief information officer at Enertia Software, which serves the oil and gas industry.

Tamara Hilliard (BA, Radio and Television Broadcasting), founder and chief executive officer of Tay's Gourmet Superfood Granola, has introduced the company's products in Walmart stores across the country. Hilliard founded the company in 2009 to provide healthy breakfast and snack food options. In 2015, she received a UTA Distinguished Alumni Award.

Tim Smith (BS, Biology) joined Cleave Biosciences as chief business officer. Smith is responsible for business development, corporate development, and investor relations at the Burlingame, Calif.-based biopharmaceutical company. Prior to joining Cleave, he was executive director of business development at Celgene Corporation.


Roland Fryer (BBA, Economics), the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University, published a study on "An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force." The study was a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. Fryer entered UTA on an athletics scholarship and earned his bachelor's degree in economics in just two and a half years.

Charlene Parham (BA, Exercise and Sports Studies) is principal at Crownover Middle School in Denton.


Domenic Coletti (MS, Civil Engineering) led the first of eight sessions on steel bridge design for the American Institute of Steel Construction's annual "Night School" series. He is a principal bridge engineer with HDR in Raleigh, N.C.

Linda Patterson (MS, Materials Science and Engineering), a chemistry teacher at Wheeler High School in Cobb County, Ga., was one of five finalists in that state for the Presidential Excellence in Science Teaching Award. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.

Wayland Scott (BA, Psychology) was awarded the Technology Chair for the Fort Worth Independent School District. He is a middle-grade math and science special education teacher at Boulevard Heights and was teacher of the year at his school for 2015-16.


Sandi McDermott (BSN, '06 MSN, Nursing) has been appointed to the advisory board of the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs. She is director of Tarleton State University's center on the Navarro College Midlothian campus.

Nikola Olic (BS, Computer Engineering) was featured in an Aug. 3 Dallas Observer article. In addition to being an engineer who co-founded a health care software company, Olic is a professional BMX flatlander and photographer who takes fascinating pictures of downtown Dallas' architecture.

Dewitt Smith (BA, History; '02 MEd, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies) has been named Region 18 Education Service Center Superintendent of the Year and will represent the region as its nominee for the 2016 Texas Association of School Boards Superintendent of the Year. He is superintendent of Wink-Loving ISD in Wink, Texas.


Zach Cazares (BA, Kinesiology) is principal of Bonner Elementary School in Tyler.

Sarah Hagan (BBA, Accounting) is chief financial officer of Omnitracs LLC, a fleet management solutions company in Dallas.

Fernando Medina (MS, Education) is the chief human capital officer for the Austin school district.

Amber Horton Miller (BA, Kinesiology) received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in May. She has been a physical therapist for eight years, working in the acute care, rehab, assisted living, skilled nursing, and outpatient settings. She works for the Indian River County School District.


Emily Camarena (MEd, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies) is the principal at Dunaway Elementary School in Waxahachie. She has more than 10 years of experience as a campus administrator, holding positions in the Duncanville and Grand Prairie school districts. 


Micheal Blackmon (BS, Mechanical Engineering) was named to the board of directors of the Society of Tribology and Lubrication Engineers. He works for ALS Tribology in Fort Worth and is responsible for new business development throughout the United States and for performing certification-training programs.

Sandip Faldu (ME, Civil Engineering) joined Freese and Nichols' Dallas office as a senior engineer with the transportation planning group.

Elizabeth Harvey (BA, Communication) was named business development representative for the Fort Worth office of Sundt Construction Inc. She is responsible for supporting Sundt's growth in its building sector, which includes municipal, federal, justice, higher education, hospitality, and more.


Tom Witherspoon (PhD, Civil Engineering) is a diplomate in geotechnical engineering with ASCE and holds two U.S. patents. He is a five-time Texas state champion in Olympic weightlifting (open division) and was the Pan American master's weightlifting champion in 1990, 2000, and 2014. He also won the weightlifting World Cup in the 65-69 age group, 94 kg class, in 2015.


Santosh Lamichhane (BS, Electrical Engineering) published a collection of Nepalese poetry, Porridge Eaters and Gruel Drinkers, in September 2015. He is an energy analyst for DNV GL in Madison, Wis.

Daniel Montgomery (BBA, Accounting) has become a partner in the firm Gollob Morgan Peddy in Tyler. He specializes in areas of tax consulting, planning, and preparation for individuals, partnerships, and corporations.

Randi Nelson (BA, Journalism and Public Relations), an associate attorney at Nusbaum & Parrino P.C., has been selected for a 2016 Top 10 Under 40 Attorney Award for the State of Connecticut by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys. She was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 2011.


Dominic Bracco (BA, Journalism and Spanish Literature) won the prestigious Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award for his work documenting the daily tragedies in Mexico's most dangerous cities. The photojournalist is a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grantee. He is based in Mexico City.

David L. Campbell (EMBA, Business Management) was named CEO and president of Horizon Air, part of Alaska Air Group. He is a former vice president at American Airlines and JetBlue.

Brian Fuller (MBA, Business Administration) has been named senior asset manager for Preston Hollow Capital in Dallas.

Lyke Thompson (BS, Journalism; '13 MS, Urban Affairs) serves on the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. He is the director of the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University.


Daniel Evilsizor (BS, Computer Science) was promoted to director of online communications in UTA's University Communications Department.

Eric Ogle (MEd, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies) has been named principal of Lamar Middle School in Irving.


Alexis Nguyen (BBA, Management) has been named community engagement manager for TECH Fort Worth, a nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow emerging technology companies.


Michaela Dollar (MA, Communication) was named economic development director for the city of Georgetown. Dollar has 11 years' experience working for economic development organizations in Texas and Florida.


Leeann Englert (MEd, Curriculum and Instruction) was named assistant principal at McWhorter Elementary School in Mesquite. She was a third-grade teacher at Motley Elementary School and has been with the Mesquite Independent School District for nine years.

Emily Farris (PhD, Psychology), a University of Texas of the Permian Basin assistant psychology professor, has been awarded the La Mancha Society Golden Windmill Award in recognition of completed intellectual contributions/creative productions.

Douglas Prude (MS, City and Regional Planning) is an economic development and planning analyst for Downtown Dallas Inc.

Jeffrey Rich (MEd, Science Education) is a nature photographer who published The Complete Guide to Bird Photography in April. Rich has been photographing nature professionally and teaching science and photography since 1987. He is currently teaching at Stellar Charter School in Redding, Calif.

Jeremy Stewart (BS, Biology) was appointed a student regent for the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents. He is pursuing a Doctor of Medicine from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. A third-year student, Stewart serves as the 2017 class president of the Medical Student Council. 


Chad Lovett (BS, Biology) is the new CEO at Kindred Hospital Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C. Past president of the UTA Native American Student Association, he was featured in Winds of Change magazine's spring 2016 edition.

Shaunda Poster (BA, Broadcasting) was featured on the City of Arlington's website for her work as the in-game host for Arlington's newest professional sports team, the Dallas Wings of the Women's National Basketball Association. She is also the in-game host for UTA men's and women's basketball games and is the new alumni relations coordinator at UTA in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. 

Gerald Sarpy II (MS, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies) is principal of Berry Middle School in Mesquite. He previously served as assistant principal at North Mesquite High School.

Cody Spraberry (MEd, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies) is principal of Forest Trail Elementary School for the Eanes Independent School District in Austin.


Hollis Harris (BFA, Visual Communication) is a senior web designer in UTA's University Communications Department.

Lashanda Putman (BSN, Nursing) was recognized as a Top Nurse by the International Nurses Association. She currently serves patients at The Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The Shepherd Center specializes in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation along with medical research as the top rehabilitation hospital in the nation.

Josh Rader (BS, Exercise Physiology) is offering the FitSteps for Life exercise program for cancer patients at his fitness center in Abilene.


Harrison Abanilla (BA, Communication) joined Balcom Agency, an advertising agency in Fort Worth, as junior interactive developer. Prior to joining Balcom full time, Abanilla assisted the agency's interactive team in programming client and agency projects while serving as Balcom's first web development intern. In his new position, he will build and update websites and interactive applications for clients such as Dairy MAX, support the agency's transition into Drupal 8, and help the team continue to refine website development processes.

Mabellyne Carrion (BA, Bilingual Education) was featured in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when she joined the staff of Johns Elementary School in Arlington as a fifth-grade bilingual teacher. Carrion attended Johns Elementary as a student and was hired by the same principal who was there 15 years ago.

Derek Fuller (BA, Mathematics) teaches mathematics at Grand Prairie High School.