CTN’s Ascender Spring Seminar will be held on March 26 from 9 am to 3 pm via zoom. CTN’s Ascender Spring Seminar brings together scholar mentors, educators, advisors, counselors, and trainers from across the state to discuss progress and challenges in the program and to share best practices in the classroom. Workshops address content area curriculum and best practices for integration of student services and mentoring. Additionally, we will be incorporating guidance and adaptations for technology in the delivery/implementation of our Ascender framework. We also plan to incorporate guest speakers from our scholar mentor network and CTN Leadership Fellows to speak to issues facing students and instructors across the state and beyond.

All who are planning to attend MUST register. Only those people registered will be able to access the Webinar links and materials. To register for the Ascender Spring Seminar, go to:

To access the seminar, go to

Overview of Course Credit: In partnership with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at The University of Texas at Austin - University Extension, Catch the Next, Inc., provides a sequence of seminars to faculty and staff at colleges across the state of Texas wishing to bridge the gap between policy, theory, and practice by implementing CTN’s Ascender Framework for Student and Faculty Advancement. The seminars allow faculty to engage in experiential learning opportunities focused on student success for diverse populations. The courses are offered in the summer, fall, and spring semesters. Students may enroll either for college credit or on a non-credit basis.

This Ascender Spring Seminar: ELP 183P – Individual Projects Spring 2021, provides the option to participants to earn 1 graduate credit through the University of Texas - Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. The cost for the Graduate Credit is $310.00

To register with UT for the course go to

Enrollment Eligibility Requirements: Students enrolling in the credit option for Spring 2021 must submit an Official Transcript verifying their baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university no later than March 23, 2021. Students will be changed to a non-credit status if they do not submit evidence of their undergraduate degree by this date and will receive no refund.

Catch the Next’s Professional Development is based on the premise that as faculty further their education and training, so too will their students thrive and succeed. While they have always encouraged our participants to pursue their educational goals, the complete restructuring of developmental education in Texas has made this work imperative. Many faculty are now required to earn additional graduate credits, attend supplemental training, or, indeed, earn additional advanced degrees in order to continue teaching in their disciplines or to transition into other academic fields. Offering this coursework has already given many the validation and motivation to continue in their studies and has helped them strengthen their professional development portfolios at our partner institutions.

For more information, contact: 4q+DkIuDzKGKg5SHmKKBg5aBipaKh4yHmpbMjZCF@nospam or sfvE0N+f+djW0PHS0MXS2cXZ1N-UycWf3sPW@nospam

Speaker Bios

Suzanne Morales-Vale is the director of developmental and adult education for the Division of College Readiness and Success at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. In this role, Morales-Vale oversees the Texas Success Initiative, including the development and implementation of the legislatively mandated statewide plan for developmental education and the implementation of House Bill 2223 (85th Texas Legislature). Prior to joining the coordinating board in 2011, Morales-Vale spent more than 18 years teaching developmental writing/reading and college composition in traditional and online settings at Central Texas College as well as in university and secondary settings. She has held numerous institutional- and state-level leadership positions and has directed initiatives and programs for faculty professional development, institutional accreditation, and faculty advising. She has also worked on developmental education non-course, competency-based options that promote acceleration and improved outcomes. Morales-Vale holds a PhD with a specialization in adult education from Texas A&M University, College Station.

Keylan Morgan is a Program Specialist for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Ph.D. student in the Graduate Program in Developmental Education, Texas State University. Prior to joining the THECB, he worked as a Director for the Trio Upward Bound Program and has over 15 years of experience in higher education and student success initiatives.

Kevin A. Christian serves as the Senior Program Associate for Access and Inclusion for the American Association of Community Colleges. In his role at AACC, he is the staff liaison for the AACC Commission on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. He also works actively with the National Council for Black American Affairs, the National Hispanic Community College Council and the National Community College Council for Asian and Pacific Islanders. In addition, Christian serves on the Structural Inequity Team for the national Achieving the Dream Initiative for Community Colleges. He is currently enrolled in the doctoral program for community college leadership at George Mason University.

Samantha R. Ackers, J.D. is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. For over 25 years, recently in 2013, Professor Ackers began working at Austin Community College and Huston-Tillotson University - Austin, as an Adjunct Professor and Legal Coach/Consultant. Professor Ackers has shown a commitment to working with issues involving access to justice to the indigent and enjoys offering Pro Se’ Coaching Services to persons who cannot afford to hire an attorney for full representation. For the last 5 years, Samantha has been teaching college and career readiness /success courses at ACC which includes college students and dual-credit high school students. As an Adjunct Professor, she serves the community through outreach and education training sessions with Author/Professor Raymond Gerson geared toward preparing educators to teach the Student Success Courses. Also, working as an ACC Ascender Mentor and ACC Digital Faculty Scholar keep Samantha engaged in researching innovative methods to help students enjoy life while working towards reaching their goals. Attorney Ackers is a Family Law Lawyer specializing in children in the States care, child custody disputes, divorces involving spousal support, child support, business division, retirement division, and real property rights. Samantha has over 10+ years of experience in family law issues involving: - Child Custody - Child’s safety (immediate danger orders and status quo orders,) - Advocating for either side of family abuse restraining orders, elder abuse restraining orders and sexual abuse restraining orders.

Dr. Maria Martha Chavez Brumell is a sociologist with a history of researching, implementing, and evaluating social policy. Dr. Chavez has a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University in Journalism, Psychology, and Spanish Literature and a master’s degree in Education – Curriculum and Instruction. She also has a Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy from Yale University. At Kansas State, Dr. Chavez created The Minority Admissions Program. At Yale, she has served as Assistant Dean at Yale College, and as a member of the faculty. At Yale, Dr. Chavez established the AsianChicano- Native American Cultural Center, The Chicano Boricua Studies program (that has evolved into the American Studies, Race, Ethnicity and Migration major), the LULAC Head Start Program (a preschool initiative for children up to 5 years old), and the building of The Latino Youth Center in the city of New Haven, Connecticut. Maria also worked at Save the Children Federation as Associate Vice President of U.S. Programs and Global Marketing Team and was the principal investigator for the state of the union report on America’s Forgotten Children, looking at America’s 101 poorest rural places. She established six community learning centers in the Central Valley of California for the America’s Forgotten Children Campaign. Dr. Chavez also worked with Public Agenda, a research and engagement organization, and was a national partner in the Achieving the Dream Initiative, where she served as Research and Engagement coach and member of the Knowledge Development Working Group.


Allegra Villarreal is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College and the Director of Professional Development for Catch the Next, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase graduation rates of underrepresented students in higher education. She holds an undergraduate degree in International Relations from St. Andrews University and a master’s degree in creative writing from Oxford University though she began her academic career at a community college after receiving a GED. She has 12 years of teaching experience, and her classroom practices have earned her the NISOD Excellence Award, the Faculty Spotlight at South Texas College, and she has been nominated for faculty of the year each year since she began teaching at ACC. As the lead trainer for the Ascender Framework, she designs and facilitates a yearlong sequence of triannual, interdisciplinary professional development trainings that are eligible for six credit hours through the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at UT-Austin.

Mario J. Morin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Texas – Pan American (UTPA) in 2000 and earned his Master of Science degree in Mathematical Science from UTPA in 2003. He joined the South Texas College Mathematics Department in 2003 as a full-time faculty member and has since served in various roles at the college including: full-time Mathematics faculty, managing Director of a U.S. Department of Education College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) grant (2008-2011), Academic Grants and Projects Officer (2011-2013), Coordinator of the University Relations, Transfer and Articulation Center (2013-2015) and currently as Program Chair of the Department of Mathematics. Mr. Morin currently serves on the Executive Board of the Rio Grande Valley Council of Teachers of Mathematics (RGVCTM) as well as on the Executive Board as the Immediate Past President of the Texas Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (TexMATYC).

Ariel Marie Flores is a Master Area of Study Advising Specialist for Austin Community College and is based at the ACC Riverside Campus. Her areas of Study cover STEM, Computer Science/Computer Information Tech, and all majors within the Ascender cohorts. In addition, she is a part of the ACC Coach Trainer team and helps to train individuals from a wide range of ACC departments on the ACC Coaching Method. She strives to make sure each student feels listened to and fully supported in their academic, transfer, and career goals. She first started as a mentor to the first CTN Cohort and later became both the Club Advisor and Advisor for her campus. Ariel has also had the privilege of being a CTN Leadership Fellow since 2018. She is a proud alumna of The University of Texas at Austin, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Biology

Antonio Garza teaches English and humanities at Palo Alto College where he also teaches in the Ascender Program. In the recent past, he served as the coordinator of the college’s Writing Assistance Center – an experience which informed his M.A. thesis, “The Writing Center as Borderland: Transitioning Latino Students of Color in the Academy” and for which he received the NISOD Excellence Award. He holds a B.A. in English from UT San Antonio and a M.A. in English from Texas A&M University – San Antonio. He is a former member of Ballet San Antonio, and continues to perform character roles with the ballet company and teach classical ballet. He is also working on a memoir entitled Nutcracker Snow. Thus, he is a dancer at heart and a lover of stories. Antonio is a graduating member of CTN’s 2017-18 cohort.

Laurie Lopez Coleman is Director of the Honors Academy and Professor of English at San Antonio College. She is dedicated to innovative and dynamic teaching as a means of supporting literacy and a love of reading and writing in her students. She strives to enrich her courses through learning communities and collaborative learning. Laurie sees herself as a “teacher’s teacher” and seeks out opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines. One of her pedagogical methods includes making college more affordable for her students through the adoption of free or low-cost instructional materials. She is a 2019 NISOD Excellence Award recipient and recognized by her College in 2017 during National Distance Learning Week for exceptional leadership in the distance learning field. For nine years, she served as the co-coordinator of the San Antonio College Multicultural Conference. Laurie is a graduate of Our Lady of the Lake University where she received her M.A. in English Education. She is a former high school and middle school instructor for the Southside and the Edgewood ISDs.


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