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Fernandez receives the Richard S. Howe Excellence in Service to Undergraduate Students Award

September 20, 2021
Fernandez receives the Richard S. Howe Excellence in Service to Undergraduate Students Award

Profile photo of Ephrem Fernandez

Professor in the Department of Psychology, Ephrem Fernandez, has received the Richard S. Howe Excellence in Service to Undergraduate Students Award. Fernandez’ passion for his students professional and personal growth is evident in his thoroughly engaging courses and research opportunities. Fernandez’ mentorship has not only had a monumental impact on undergraduate students at UTSA, but also enhances the university’s destination to become a model for student success. 

"I gratefully accept the Howe award, mindful of the students and faculty who supported me, the committee that found me worthy, and the McAllister family as kind benefactors of the award," says Fernandez. "There are probably many others who also deserve accolades, and I wish them well." 

Fernandez directs the Emotion Sensation Research Group at UTSA, which includes several undergraduate (and graduate) students, allowing them to gain invaluable experience for future research and career pursuits. The group explores two key areas: psychosomatics of pain and assessment and treatment of dysfunctional anger. For the sensory research on pain, Fernandez has received funding from the National Institutes of Health to study psychometric and semantic approaches to the assessment of pain. For the affective research on anger, Fernandez’ team has been funded by the Guggenheim Foundation, in pioneering the online delivery of programs for preventing and intervening on anger and aggression. 

A prominent faculty member and colleague says, “Ephrem constantly encourages student researchers to think about research challenges creatively and suggest possible solutions. He also maintains a high standard for his mentees which I believe encourages them to rise to meet the demands and challenges of research. In short, Ephrem is a highly effective mentor whose students are well positioned to conduct or contribute to research after his supervision.”

Fernandez provides extensive mentorship both in and outside of his research lab. Many of his former students report that Fernandez helped them with their writing and research skills and took the time to write personalized recommendations. This guidance was instrumental in advancing students along their paths towards graduate school, health professions, and other related career tracks

According to one former student,

“Dr. Fernandez takes the time to meet with his students, learn, teach, guide, and aid them in being successful. He not only taught me skills to do well at UTSA, but skills I can take with me as I pursue my graduate education.” 

Within the classroom, Fernandez emphasizes student engagement and hands-on learning. He employs a variety of learning methods to appeal to all student learning styles, from handouts and lectures to movies, discussions, and small group projects. Fernandez’s exciting and invigorating classes demonstrate his dedication to engaging all students and providing them with an optimal learning environment.

Fernandez also includes a variety of experiential learning opportunities in his classes. He incorporates role-play activities to help students learn interviewing skills and practice psychodiagnoses and mental status exams. Fernandez also brings in biofeedback devices that help students learn about monitoring and regulating physiological activity. These enriching classroom activities help students better understand the subject material and how it relates to real life scenarios.  

Says a former student of Fernandez who is now a doctoral candidate and licensed health professional,

"[Dr. Fernandez] has a strong commitment to mentoring students in research and community engagement so that we are equipped with the academic skills to contribute to scientific knowledge as well as human growth and development. His innovation and rigor in the classroom inspired me and other student learners to take an active approach to engaging with the instruction materials." 

 Through this hands-on approach to learning, Fernandez inspires his students to take ownership over their education and professional development. The impact of Fernandez’ service to undergraduate students is evident in the outpouring of recommendations he has received from current and former students, many of whom see Fernandez as a catalyst for finding their passion in the field of psychology. 

According to another student, 

“Dr. Fernandez pushed us all to be better students and opened my eyes to the clinical side of psychology… I know that Dr. Fernandez’s class was what began to shape me into becoming the counselor that I hope to become.”

With a passion for undergraduate student development and an engagement-centered approach to his teaching, Fernandez is helping UTSA become a model institution for student success.   

The Richard S. Howe Excellence in Service to Undergraduate Students Award recognizes faculty members who have shown exemplary commitment towards UTSA undergraduates. Recipients of this award have demonstrated a strong commitment to teaching and/or service to undergraduate students, advocated for undergraduate education, and engaged in activities to promote student access and success.