Joanna D. Sánchez, a Gates Millennium Scholar (GMS) alumna who is a second year doctoral student in the College of Education, and Cultural Studies in Education associate professor Luis Urrieta have been awarded Gates Millennium Excellence in Service Awards by the Gates Millennium Scholars Alumni Association.
This is the first time the association has presented Excellence in Service Awards, and of the 12,000 Gates Scholar alumni only five winners were selected.
The awards were presented at recent GMS leadership conferences in Chantilly, VA, and San Jose, CA. This is the first year the organization has presented awards recognizing GMS alumni, friends, and partners.
Sánchez, who is in the Department of Educational Administration, was selected for the award not only for her academic ability but also for her leadership skills, dedication to service, and commitment to give back to the community.
“There were some amazing alumni from which to choose, and I am humbled that I was selected,” said Sánchez. “None of the things that I’ve accomplished could have occurred without the help of others. We are GMS scholars for life and are committed to giving back, whether we’re students or are out working in the real world.”
Among the specific activities Sánchez was honored for were:
- work with non-profits
- essay-writing workshops
- scholarship outreach work
- creation of a video containing pointers for completing each of the eight essays in the GMS application
- an annual reception she hosts for Rio Grande Valley area scholars and their parents
Sánchez is originally from the Rio Grande Valley town of Pharr, and she received a bachelor’s of science in geology from Trinity University in San Antonio (‘02) as well as a master’s Geographic Information Science (GIS) from the University of Denver (’05). After completing her master’s, Sánchez returned to South Texas where she practiced GIS in the private and public sectors and was an adjunct GIS professor at South Texas College.
In 2009, Sánchez’s community work and her own life experiences inspired her to launch the non-profit Odisea, Inc. Its mission is to make the transition from high school to college easier for students and parents. Sánchez’s non-profit work proved so inspiring that she decided to make that her career and pursue a Ph.D. at UT Austin.
For the last four years, she has served as one of 40 Gates Millennium scholarship readers for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.
Sánchez’s research interests include college access, minority first-generation college students, parental engagement, females in STEM, and using GIS to analyze questions around the relationship among schools, neighborhoods, and other community constructs.
Sánchez also has been named a 2014-2016 Barbara L. Jackson Scholar.
Urrieta, in addition to being a Cultural Studies in Education faculty member, is affiliated with UT Austin’s Center for Mexican American Studies and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program. Additionally, he is chair of the faculty committee for the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Mexican American Studies.
His research and teaching have focused on cultural and racial identities – particularly among Chicano, Latino and indigenous populations – social movements related to education; and learning in family and community contexts. Nationally, he is known for his work with migrant children and their families.
Urrieta has been recognized as a Fellow by the American Educational Research Association, Spencer Foundation, UT Austin Lee Hage Jamail Regents Chair in Education, and the U.S. Department of State Fulbright Commission. In 2012, he received the Alumni Achievement Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Education and earlier this year he was honored by the White House as a César E. Chávez Champion of Change for his extensive community work.