Faculty Profile Faculty Awards

Sparks receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in University Service

June 1, 2021
Academic Strategic Communications
Sparks receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in University Service

Profile photo of Johnelle Sparks

Professor of Demography and Associate Dean for Faculty Success and Administration Johnelle Sparks has received the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in University Service for her exceptional record of service that has enriched the experiences and careers of the UTSA community.

"This recognition of my service to the university really affirms my commitment to help UTSA be a place where students, staff and faculty want to be and can be engaged with the university community."

"During my time at UTSA I have been intentional about being a good citizen. This has afforded me many great opportunities to work with, support, and mentor students, staff, and faculty,” says Sparks. "I know I would not be at the place where I am professionally without the support of many great colleagues across campus, and I am really thankful for the way they supported my nomination for this award."

The wide breadth of Sparks’ exemplary service is shadowed only by the impact this service has had on improving the Roadrunner community. Sparks has been integral in developing and growing new programs for students. In 2019, she helped get the MS in Applied Demography approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. She also established the Demography Alumni Board of Advisors to expand funding, internships, and job opportunities for students. 

Sparks assists doctoral students in research classes and dissertation advising, chairing 28 completed dissertations. She also helps students with publishing peer-reviewed journal articles, submitting grant applications, and presenting their scholarly work at national conferences. 

Outside of her advancements in student opportunities, Sparks is also a certified mentor facilitator through the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences (CIMER). She is a member of the University Mentoring Task Force, mentoring multiple faculty members and offering classes to four cohorts of faculty.

“Johnelle has set a high bar for service and her accomplishments have undoubtedly moved UTSA closer to R1 status,” says Kara Joyner, chair of the Department of Demography. “She is adept at discussing complicated topics among large and broad audiences and cultivating ties with faculty, staff, and administrators across different colleges and departments. She also conveys a sense that any goal can be met and is great at identifying the steps required.”

Sparks has worked closely with the UTSA COVID Response Team since the onset of the pandemic. She has helped implement and monitor the collection of COVID-19 data from self-reports and contact tracing, all to help protect the UTSA community. 

Sparks’ service at departmental, college and university levels is impressive, including: 

  • Chair of the Department Chair’s Council
  • Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the College for Health, Community and Policy (HCaP)
  • Vice Chair of the Faculty Senate
  • Parliamentarian of the Graduate Council
  • Member of VPREDKE’s Research Advisory Board and the Women’s Task Force
  • Member of the University Grievance Committee
  • Member of the University Leadership Council
  • Member of the Health Analytics Planning Group between UTSA and UT Health San Antonio
  • Member of the Vice President for Business Affairs Search Committee
  • Member of the HCaP Dean Search Committee and Leadership Team

Additionally, Sparks served her department in the role of Graduate Advisor of Record for five years and then served a three-year term as Department Chair. She currently supports the UTSA HCaP leadership team in the inaugural role of Associate Dean for Faculty Success and Administration. Outside of UTSA, she serves as the President of the Southern Demographic Association. 

“The impact of her service can be seen and felt throughout the University – governance of Chairs, graduate student success, response to COVID-19, family leave, managing a department – to name a few,” says Janis K. Bush, chair in the Department of Environmental Science and Ecology. “She is a model for every university member on how to serve the university and make an impact!” 

The President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in University Service recognizes tenured and tenure-track faculty who are exemplary in their commitment to university service. The work of these faculty has a major impact on the opportunities, lives, and future of UTSA students by providing leadership in critical areas such as advising students; student, department, college and university committee service; and/or creating new student programs and opportunities.