Four faculty from COPP earn President’s Distinguished Achievement Awards


This year marks the first time that COPP has had the largest amount of faculty to represent UTSA in this high-ranking distinction.

March and April is definitely award season, especially for higher education. We are proud to recognize four winners from the College who have made remarkable achievements in the areas of teaching, research, community engagement and university service.

Congratulations to the following recipients:

Community Engagement
Derek Plantenga, LCSW

Derek Plantenga, LCSW is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Work. His award for Community Engagement recognizes, encourages and rewards those non-tenure track faculty who are exemplary in their service and civic scholarship outside the university, providing leadership and making significant contributions to the public good. Derek Plantenga is highly sought after because of his dedication and high-quality contributions within UTSA and beyond. His contributions not only benefits the outside community but also his students. He has improved the lives of countless others and strengthened UTSA’s community relationships, with impressive and far reaching impact in San Antonio, elsewhere in south and central Texas, and with immigration-focused scholars and practitioners across the United States and Mexico. Derek strives to provide his students with the opportunity to transform themselves so they can in turn play a part in the transformation of others. Derek Plantenga will be recognized formally at the University Excellence Awards Ceremony at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 in the HUC Ballroom at the Main Campus. 

Excellence in University Service
Dr. Patricia Jaramillo 

Patricia Jaramillo, Ph.D. is a Lecturer III in the Department of Public Administration. Her award for Excellence in University Service recognizes, encourages and rewards those tenured/tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty who are exemplary in their commitment to service within the university whose service has had 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.  

Since joining the UTSA College of Public Policy in 2002, Dr. Patricia Jaramillo has served as Undergraduate Advisor of Record, Internship Coordinator, and Assessment Coordinator for the bachelor's and masters programs in Public Administration. She has also served as faculty advisor to the Public Administration Student Organization.

Dr. Jaramillo was the recipient of the Regents Teaching Award in 2015 and has been active in the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. She has taught the Academic Inquiry Seminar in a course redesign year. She has actively promoted undergraduate research and recently two of her students have won UTSA undergraduate research scholarships. She has represented her college! and department in the many events and programs that support undergraduates and assist with recruiting new ones including March into your Major, UTSA Days, Countdown to College, mock college lectures, and more.

In the Honors College, Dr. Jaramillo has worked to support the Archer Fellowship Program which brings students to intern and study in Washington DC and has contributed to the redesign of the CityMester experience.  Her service takes many forms, from making significant contributions to university efforts, from supporting college projects and outreach, to major departmental administrative responsibility, and to her overall dedication to her students. Dr. Jaramillo will be recognized formally at the University Excellence Awards Ceremony at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 in the HUC Ballroom at the Main Campus. 

Research Achievement
Dr. Dylan B. Jackson

Dr. Dylan Jackson is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice. His award for Research Achievement recognizes, encourages, and rewards those non-tenure and tenured/tenure-track faculty who who have conducted a sustained program of high-quality, high-impact research that has translated into national and international recognition and has made a substantial contribution to the faculty member's field.  

Dr. Jackson joined the UTSA faculty in 2015 just after completing his Ph.D. and hit the ground running as a researcher, focusing on advancing the Developmental/Life-Course Criminological Paradigm, a burgeoning area that assesses the role of events and developmental processes that impact offending behaviors. Since 2015, Dr. Jackson has published 33 peer reviewed journal articles (26 as primary author, six as sole author), 13 of which are deemed by the profession to be "impact" articles (in the top 20% of citations in the field). In short, Dr. Jackson has produced in two and a half years the quality and quantity of research deemed appropriate for full professor at many of UTSA's aspirant universities. Further, his focus on high-risk health behaviors, high-risk health conditions, and diminished health resources that contribute to antisocial and delinquent behaviors in youth has set him on a trajectory to bring positive international attention to the excellent research communities at UTSA into the future. Dr. Jackson will be recognized formally at the University Excellence Awards Ceremony at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 in the HUC Ballroom at the Main Campus. 

Teaching Excellence
Candace Christensen

Dr. Candace Christensen is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work. Her award for Teaching Excellence recognizes, encourages and rewards accomplished faculty whose command of their respective disciplines, teaching methodologies, communication skills and commitment to learning translate into a superior learning experience for students. These awards are aimed at faculty who maintain high expectations and standards for their students, ensuring academic rigor, while meeting the challenges of motivating students and helping them develop into educated, ethical and responsible citizens.

Dr. Candance Christensen has demonstrated a unique ability to create a transformative learning experience that intentionally extends beyond the classroom environment. She states that she sees her role as an instructor as "guiding students towards developing a critical consciousness, turning this consciousness into action beyond the classroom, and teaching students to respect their own strengths and limitations." She utilizes a wide range of teaching methods and styles -including incorporating Theatre of the Oppressed methods -in order to create an environment of active learning and openness to reflection. She brings this transformative approach into her work in the classroom, as a mentor to 36 students, a field liaison, a faculty sponsor for more than one student organization, and an advocate in the community.

In teaching a diverse set of masters-level courses, Dr. Christensen has demonstrated the ability to foster deep learning through a collaborative/constructivist teaching and learning approach. For example, in her Advanced Community Practice course, she incorporates the implementation and evaluation of a community-based participatory research photovoice project. This project, which emphasizes the power of visual storytelling, provides the opportunity for students to recruit and train participants to compose and take photos that represent community problems and strengths. The result is a transformative experience for both the students and the community.

One recent graduate of the social work program described her this way: "Dr. Christensen's constant example of service, leadership, collaborative partnerships and community service has made an impact on not only my career but that of my fellow cohort peers. Dr. Christensen has made significant contributions to the public good within a diverse society at the University, Department and community levels. She has been a dedicated advocate of multiple student programs including Students Against Sexual Assault and the Social Work Council, thus setting the standard of what an engaged professor and social worker should look like."  Dr. Christensen will be recognized formally at the University Excellence Awards Ceremony at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 in the HUC Ballroom at the Main Campus.