Faculty / Staff / Students Bios 2019-2020

Dr. Brian Yothers, Principal Investigator

Dr. Brian Yothers is the Frances Spatz Leighton Endowed Distinguished Professor of English at UTEP and a 2014 recipient of the UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. He is the author of Reading Abolition (2016), Sacred Uncertainty (2015), Melville’s Mirrors (2011), and The Romance of the Holy Land in American Travel Writing (2007), and co-editor, with Jonathan Cook, of Visionary of the Word (2017), editor of Critical Insights volumes on Billy Budd, Sailor (2017) and The Scarlet Letter (2018), co-editor, with Harold Bush, of Above the American Renaissance (2018), and associate editor of Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies.

Margaret Nelson Rodriguez, Co-Principal Investigator

Margie Nelson Rodríguez is an Associate English Professor and has led developmental education redesign at El Paso Community College (EPCC) where she has worked for 10 years. She is also the Pathways Instructional Liaison, Special Projects Assistant to the Vice President of Instruction and Workforce Education. She received the EPCC Faculty Achievement Award and NISOD Excellence Award in 2014 and earned a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree in American and English Literature from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Brian Kirby, Co-Principal Investigator

Brian F. Kirby is an Associate English Professor and enters his fourth year as District-wide Coordinator of English at El Paso Community College (EPCC) where he has worked for 6 years. He has mentored two EPCC students, Itzel Tejeda and Andrea Portillo Porras, to earn the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship and is co-Principal Investigator for the Mellon Foundation grant supporting the Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in philosophy and a Master's Degree in English from New Mexico State University.

Vincent Martinez, Program Manager

Vincent Martinez received his BA in English: Creative Writing and MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso before working as a writing instructor at El Paso Community College. He later worked as a corporate copywriter for twelve years in the personal care and wellness industry before returning to The University of Texas at El Paso where he obtained his BA in English and American Literature and his MA in Literature. He currently works as the Program Manager for The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP.

Joseph Crisafulli

Joseph Crisafulli is an Assistant Professor of English at El Paso Community College. He holds undergraduate degrees in English and Spanish from Penn State University. Upon moving to the Borderlands, he first earned a Master’s degree in Spanish Linguistics from New Mexico State University and subsequently a Master of Fine Arts in the bilingual Creative Writing program at The University of Texas at El Paso. All of his work and pedagogical practices revolve around one thing: story. He also volunteers with the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program. In his private life, he and his wife care for six dogs, and his interests include guitar, fitness, and martial arts.

Dr. Melissa A. Esmacher

Dr. Melissa A. Esmacher is an Associate Professor of History at El Paso Community College. She teaches American and World History and serves as the Faculty Coordinator for History, Philosophy, and Sociology at the EPCC Northwest Campus. Her research interests focus on migration and diaspora, race and ethnicity, labor, and violence in recent American history. Melissa is currently preparing a manuscript based on her dissertation about race riots in the U.S. during World War II. She received her M.A. and PhD. in History from The University of Hawaii at Manoa, her B.A. from Texas A&M University, and her A.A. from Lone Star College

Maria L. Espinoza-Schrock

Maria L. Espinoza-Schrock is a full-time Professor of American History at El Paso Community College's Valle Verde Campus. She obtained her B.A in history at Humboldt State University, her M.A in history at New Mexico State University, and will be receiving her Ph.D. at The University of Texas El Paso. In the past, she has also taught at New Mexico State University and at the University of Texas El Paso and has received major fellowships such as CONACYT (2012-2015) and a Doctoral Teaching Fellow position through The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP in the 2018-2019 academic year. One of Maria's main goals is to involve her students in the college and the university, but also in the community. She will be using her Collaborative faculty fellowship to promote student participation in humanities projects at the El Paso Community College and at The University of Texas El Paso as well as in the broader Borderland community.

Dr. Andrew Fleck

Dr. Andrew Fleck teaches early modern literature and culture at the University of Texas in El Paso. His research focuses especially on the Dutch in the early modern English imagination. In addition to articles in Studies in English Literature, Modern Philology, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, Studies in Philology and numerous contributions to edited collections and short scholarly pieces, Dr. Fleck has one monograph under review and is in the early stages of his next book. His project for The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP focuses on connections between the history of science (astronomy, in this case), early modern literature (paratextual verse, in this case), and the emerging field of digital humanities (the creation of a new research tool). Dr. Fleck is the editor of the journal Explorations in Renaissance Culture and serves as the Director of UTEP’s Liberal Arts Honors Program.

Jorge Gomez

A 2019-2020 Faculty Fellow of The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP, Jorge Gomez is an Assistant Professor of English at El Paso Community College. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in English and American Literature from The University of Texas at El Paso, and his research interests include literacy studies, Latinx studies, immigrant literature, ecocriticism, and the Gothic. He serves as advisor for The Papagayo Project at EPCC’s Rio Grande campus, where students and faculty present workshops on a wide variety of topics and issues. Jorge also serves on the EPCC Literary Fiesta committee, the Hispanic Heritage committee, the Black History Month committee, and the Pasos Program. Outside of his college duties, Jorge sits on the board of directors of the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and acts as faculty liaison for the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) from the Office of Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez.

Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva

Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva is a Chicana historian and writer who was born and raised on the border. She is the Director of the Institute of Oral History, Director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program and Associate Professor. She has spent her life listening to and now documenting the lives of people who live on la frontera. Professor Leyva specializes in border history, public history, and Chicana history. She is co-founder of Museo Urbano, a museum of the streets, that highlights fronterizo history by taking it where people are-- from museums to the actual streets of El Paso. She came to academia after a decade of social work in the Black and Brown communities of east Austin, with a desire to make academia and especially history relevant and useful to people. Her work has been recognized nationally. She is the recipient of the National Council on Public History "Best Public History Project Award" and the American Historical Association Herbert Feis Award that recognizes "distinguished contributions to public history." She has also received several faculty awards from UTEP and the College of Liberal Arts.

R. Danielle McGill

R. Danielle McGill is an Associate English Professor at El Paso Community College. She is a writer and editor for fiction and non-fiction print and digital media. Her earliest years were spent in Panama before moving with her family to the American Deep South. After a visit to El Paso for what was planned to be just three months, Danielle settled in El Paso, Texas. Her first novel, Chiggers, Grits, & Dead Shrimp in Heaven, a Southern historical, came from her knowledge of Southern life and from research including time spent at the Penn Center Gullah Studies Institute. Currently, she is working on The Step Up Dragoness, an urban fantasy novel. Danielle volunteers with several groups, including the El Paso Community College Feral Cat program. She earned her M.F.A and M.A in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and her B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at El Paso.

Patrick Pynes

Patrick L. Pynes is an Associate Professor of History and teaches American and World History at El Paso Community College where he has worked for 13 years. Previously he taught History and Western Cultural Heritage classes at UTEP. He serves as the History Faculty Coordinator at Valle Verde Campus and has recently been appointed to serve as Coordinator of the Honors Program. He has worked on the Pathways Program for the last few years and has served as Chair of the Curriculum Committee. He was fortunate to have received an NEH Grant to study Religious Pluralism at the Newberry Library in Chicago for three Summer Institutes from 2014 to 2016. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in History from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Dr. Thomas Schmid

Dr. Thomas Schmid is the Director of Literature at UTEP and holds a seat on the Executive Board of the International Conference of Romanticism. He is the author of Humor and Transgression in Peacock, Shelley and Byron, which won the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Book Award (1992), The Student Guide to Writing about Literature (2005), a collection scholarly essays on Romanticism and Pleasure, co-edited with Michelle Flaubert (2010), and a book of fiction, Fools of Time (2015) from Texas Review Press. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in nineteenth-century British literature and British Romantic studies, and he has published frequently in such scholarly publications as The Keats-Shelley Review, The Wordsworth Circle, Gothic Studies, and Studies in Romanticism.

Jerry Wallace

Jerry D. Wallace is an Assistant Professor in History at El Paso Community College. He is a Ph.D. candidate at The University of New Mexico with an anticipated spring 2020 graduation date. His research interests are urban, architecture, and neighborhood identities in the American Sunbelt and Borderlands. He is the author of the forthcoming article from the New Mexico Historical Review, “'All Over New Mexico': The Bellamah Addition and Borderland Neighborhoods in the Early Cold War Era," in fall 2019. He teaches classes in Early and Recent United States History, Public History, and Historic Preservation, and currently is a Faculty Fellow for The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP.