Emmy Perez is a renowned Chicana poet, who received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and her MFA from Columbia University. She is the 2020 Texas Poet Laureate.

She has been a faculty member at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley since 2006. During that time, she has chaired thirteen thesis committees and led her students to present at countless academic conferences and venues nationwide, to receive significant nationally competitive fellowships and awards and to have their poetry and other work published in prestigious peer-reviewed literary journals and anthologies.

Pérez’s poetry has been published in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series and appears on the Poetry Foundation online. Her work has also been published in journals such as Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Indiana Review, Crab Orchard Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art, and other publications, including the anthologies Orange County: A Literary Field Guide (Heyday), Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature & Art (University of Texas Press), New Border Voices: An Anthology (Texas A&M Press), and The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press). She has work forthcoming in the anthology Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press). Her lyric essays have appeared in A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press) and IMANIMAN: Poets Reflect on Transformative & Transgressive Borders in Gloria Anzaldúa’s Work (Aunt Lute Books).

Together with Tato Laviera, Edna Ochoa and José Martinez she founded Cosecha Voices, a program that provides migrant farmworker youth the opportunity to document and share their testimonios In 2008, she founded an annual event on campus “El Retorno: El Valle Celebra Nuestra Gloria” that she coordinates with the Center for Mexican American Studies in honor of the late Gloria Anzaldúa. Over the years, she and her students, through service-learning projects, have taught creative writing to youth and adults in three Edinburg, TX detention center facilities programs. In 2012, she received a University of Texas Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and in 2016, a University Faculty Excellence Award for Student Mentoring.

Pérez is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry. In previous years, she was a recipient of poetry fellowships from CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has also received the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award for her poetry and the James D. Phelan Award for her prose writing. Since 2008, she has been a member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros for socially engaged writers.


Rogelio Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy and holds the Mark G. Yudof Endowed Chair at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He also is a Policy Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Sáenz has written extensively in the areas of demography, Latina/os, race and ethnic relations, inequality, immigration, public policy, and social justice. He co-authored Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change and co-edited The International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnicity. Sáenz regularly writes op-ed essays on demographic, social, racial, and policy issues for a variety of newspapers and writes a monthly column for Ahora Sí, the Spanish-language newspaper of the Austin American Statesman. Earlier this year, the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity presented Saenz its Cesar Estrada Chavez Award, an honor that recognizes an individual who has demonstrated leadership in support of workers’ rights and humanitarian issues.


Maria Martha Chavez is Chief Executive Officer for Catch the Next, Inc. Dr. Chavez Brummel 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 Masters of Philosophy and Doctorate of Philosophy from Yale University. At Kansas State, Dr. Chavez created The Minority Admissions Program. At Yale, she has served as Assistant Dean in Yale College, and as a member of the faculty. At Yale, Dr. Chavez established the Asian Chicano 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 was 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 engagement coach and member of the Knowledge Development Working Group.

Allegra Villarreal is Director of Professional Development for Catch the Next. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College. She enrolled in community college after receiving her GED at age 16 and ultimately transferred the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, where she would earn a joint honors B.A. in International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies.  After graduating, she enrolled at Oxford University, shifted her academic focus, and was awarded an M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 2008.  She taught ESL in Mexico and the Czech Republic before returning to the U.S. where she taught English at Mount Hood Community College and South Texas College before joining ACC. 

Dr. Reyna is Co- Chair and Assistant Professor of Counseling & Student Development at Palo Alto College.  She is a TX Licensed Professional Counselor and has worked as a counselor/therapist in community and mental health agencies, and in private practice.  She has worked at PAC since 1991 where she began her career in higher education as a counselor and instructor for a program assisting single parents, pregnant women, and women re-entering the workforce.  Dr. Reyna has since worked as a coordinator of grant funded programs, tenured counselor/instructor of Student Development courses, and departmental chair.  Dr. Reyna obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of the Incarnate Word and a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University.  She earned her doctorate in Educational Administration at Baylor University.

Daniel Rodriguez is currently Professor of Counseling and Student Development at Palo Alto College and teaches the Education 1300 course (Learning Frameworks) for CTN. During his 25 year career at Palo Alto College he has overseen student life, assessment & testing, international student programs, career services, advising, transfer services, admissions/registrar, numerous federal grant programs, health services, auxiliary 9 services, recreational sports & athletics, tutoring services, student activities fees, clubs and organizations, disability support services, new-student development programs and served as Chair of Counseling. Daniel has presented at numerous local and national and international conferences on research related to transfer of students to four-year institutions as well as success rates of first-time-college students taking student development courses. On many occasions he has led student groups on study-abroad programs. At the college level he has served on the Executive team of the Faculty Senate and on numerous College and Alamo Colleges district committees. He has also been the recipient of the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award, recognized as a Distinguished Doctorate by the Chamber of Commerce, and served as the Lead Instructor with the Alamo Colleges Student Leadership Institute. He received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Texas State University (formally Southwest Texas State University) and a Doctor of Education degree from Baylor University.

Dr. Anna Alaniz works as an instructor at South Texas College. As the first in her family to be born in the United States, she guaranteed her family’s entrance visas into the country. In 1975, her family migrated to Five Points, California, where Anna spent the majority of her childhood. Her parents owned a ranch in Mexico, so when they immigrated, they made their livelihood as farmworkers, due to their lack of other skills and formal education. In the early 1980’s, the family returned to Roma where Anna enrolled in high school only to drop out at the age of 16 before marrying her husband and giving birth to her first child, a son, at the age of 18. Throughout these experiences, Anna never lost sight of her education as this was a value instilled in her by her parents. They often reminded her that only through education was the American Dream possible. In 1995, she returned to school, receiving her GED from San Jacinto Community College, and three years later, enrolled at South Texas College. Upon completing her basic requirements, she transferred to the University of Texas at Pan American where she graduated Suma Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Bilingual Bicultural Education. Five years later, in 2006, she received a Master’s Degree in Education with a minor in Reading and graduated in May 2017 with her doctorate in Education Leadership with a cognate in English at Texas A&M Kingsville. She worked for the Roma Independent School District from 2001-2008, before beginning to work for South Texas College as a Developmental Reading Instructor. In addition to her teaching duties, she has also been involved with the CTN Program since 2012 as a Mentor Recruiter, Student Recruiter, Instructor and Advisor. She has been the Townsend Press Scholarship Coordinator for the past six years, which is a program that gives scholarships to students for reading. She also regularly volunteers at the Center of Learning Excellence, mentoring students on an individual basis in addition to teaching adult ESL in her spare time.


Jon Herrin has a BA in English, master’s degrees in English Education and Theology, and an earned doctorate in Theology (Th.D.)

Presently, he teaches for South Texas College (Starr County) where, in addition to teaching, he serves as a peer mentor and researcher for Catch the Next, Inc. He and his wife live on the US/Mexican border in South Texas where they work with the least- and under-served in education and community services.

Jon has been involved in higher education for over 28 years, having taught in colleges and universities in Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Venezuela and Mexico. He has taught writing, literature, humanities and religion. In addition to teaching, Jon has worked in institutional assessment and academic administration. His favorite classes to teach and the students he most enjoys working with are those related to developmental studies. “My greatest sense of accomplishment comes when a student begins the semester thinking he or she shouldn’t really be there, can’t really do the work…and then to see them at the end of the semester confidently and competently writing compositions and talking excitedly about the upcoming semester.”

After growing up in Guyana, South America, and Grenada, West Indies, and then living parts of his adult life in Venezuela and Mexico, Jon’s heart is divided in equal parts for all the places he has called home. As an ‘adult third-culture-kid’ (a-TCK), he understands first-hand the challenges of crossing cultural divides and language.





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