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UTPA nominates professor Chad Richardson for prestigious award
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Specialist
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Posted: 02/23/2007
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The University Texas-Pan American has selected Dr. Chad Richardson, professor of sociology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Borderlife Project at the University, as its 2007 nominee for the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation Professor Program Award.

The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable corporation that began in 1950, honors 15 professors from across the state of Texas during each academic year for their dedication to the teaching profession and for their outstanding academic, scientific and scholarly achievement. Each college and university in the state of Texas may submit only one nomination regardless of the size of student enrollment.


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- Dr. Chad Richardson
Richardson, who obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from The University of Texas at Austin, founded the Borderlife Project at UTPA in 1982 to train students to conduct research related to the distinct South Texas social and cultural environment. Since then, his students have conducted more than 10,000 interviews among 25 distinct social or cultural groups on both sides of the border. Approximately 6,000 of these are ethnographic descriptions, while the other interviews are from 12 survey research projects. The Borderlife archive’s economic value has been appraised in recent years at $2 million.

“Dr. Richardson has accomplished great research through a lifetime engaging students in research. What they have created is a record of human lives in South Texas and Northeastern Mexico that is an irreplaceable treasure for scholars and people of the Valley,” said Dr. Van Reidhead, dean of the UTPA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Richardson said he was tremendously gratified by the honor his UTPA colleagues accorded to the students and himself by selecting their work for nomination. He said his goal in teaching has always been to help students discover that they can learn, understand and even create knowledge.

“Helping students learn how to learn and helping them see that learning is enjoyable has always been stimulating,” he said. “I love teaching. I love the subjects I teach. I enjoy getting students to ask questions, to collaborate in solving problems, to discover they can make a difference and to develop a lifelong love of learning.”

Recognized in 2004 in “What the Best College Teachers Do,” a national study conducted by author Ken Bain at the Center for Teaching Excellence at New York University, Richardson was described as helping students “develop an empathetic understanding of the diverse cultural heritage in which they lived and to emerge from his class with increased abilities – and confidence in those abilities – to think sociologically and to communicate their thoughts to others.”

Rated highly by students on annual evaluations of instructors, Richardson said he enjoys including and crediting them in his publications. More than 500 students contributed to both his first book “Batos, Bolillos, Pochos and Pelados,” published in 1999 by The University of Texas Press and his newest book, also published by UT Press in 2007, "On the Edge of the Law: Culture, Labor and Deviance on the South Texas Border,” co-authored with Dr. Rosalva Resendiz, UTPA assistant professor of criminal justice. Ten UTPA graduate students were co-authors on most of the chapters in these two books he said.

“When this student research is published, it validates the lives they document and gives the student interviewers a sense of cultural and historical “place.” It also recognizes the talents of our students at UTPA as interviewers and writers,” Richardson said.

During his tenure at UTPA, Richardson also founded and formerly directed the Center for International Studies and has taught, lectured and served as a consultant to numerous national and local community groups as well as corporations. In addition, he currently serves as graduate adviser in sociology, has an adjunct faculty appointment at the Graduate School of Business Administration at Monterrey Tech in Mexico, and, as a member of the UTPA Educational Leadership Doctoral Program faculty, published – again with a former student – a book on educational leadership in 2005.

Besides Dean Reidhead, Richardson said over the years he has received invaluable support and resources from UTPA Sociology Department chair Dr. Guang-zhen Wang and Drs. José Pagan and Cynthia Brown, both former directors of the Center for Border Economic Studies. He also acknowledged the thousands of individuals who have shared their lives and experiences with UTPA student researchers.

“The experiences they have shared illuminate our lives and our understanding of life in this border region,” Richardson said.

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