Texas A&M University-Kingsville

A&M-Kingsville Faculty Member, Alumna Named National Role Models

KINGSVILLE - July 12, 2007

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

University’s fourth consecutive year for such honors

For the fourth consecutive year, the non-profit educational organization Minority Access Inc. has named members of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville community National Role Models.

Assistant professor Dr. Kenneth W. Escudero and Jacqueline O. Besinaiz Thomas will receive their awards at the organization’s National Role Models Conference Sept. 15 in Arlington, Va.

Every year, Minority Access recognizes institutional and individual role models producing or supporting minority researchers, particularly in the biomedical sciences.

 “Dr. Escudero and Ms. Besinaiz Thomas are excellent examples of how A&M-Kingsville is fulfilling its mission to provide higher education access and opportunity to the citizens of South Texas,” said Dr. Kay Clayton, provost and vice president of academic affairs. “We are proud of their accomplishments and the inspiration that they bring to others who pursue higher education and seek careers in fields related to the biomedical sciences. 

“We are very pleased that their work has been selected to receive Role Model Awards because this national visibility makes it possible for an even wider audience to see what can be accomplished through perseverance and commitment. In essence, the honorees become even more significant role models because this recognition brings visibility not only to them as individuals, but to A&M-Kingsville as well.”

The awards also help illustrate Texas A&M-Kingsville’s status as a research university.  Texas A&M-Kingsville is the only university in South Texas and one of only five in the state classified as a Doctoral/Research University by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which is the leading framework for describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education. From their inception in 1973, the Carnegie classifications have become the standard in empirically describing an institution’s size and focus. The system is used by researchers, policy makers, funding agencies, institutional leaders, the media and the general public to compare and contrast the complexity of colleges and universities in the U.S.

Faculty National Role Model Award winner Escudero has been deemed a contributor to increasing the pool of minority biomedical researchers through teaching, mentoring and supporting minority students. He also was chosen for the role he played in the fight to eliminate health disparities through major research, and elevating the issue as a priority.

Escudero studies the protein Fox L2, found in the ovary, and how it affects the genes that surround it. Mutations of the protein have already been shown to cause premature ovarian failure (POF). By understanding Fox L2 and its relationship to ovarian genes, effective treatments may be found for POF.

“I am very honored to receive the award and to be placed in the same company with last year’s recipient, Dr. Jamie Laurenz,” said Escudero.

Laurenz, associate vice president for research and academic support, was recognized in 2006 for his work as the former assistant dean of research in the College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences and associate professor and chair of the department of animal and wildlife sciences. Also recognized in 2006 was Laurenz’s graduate student, alumna Liza Soliz.

“However, in addition to my individual recognition as a role model, this award allows Texas A&M-Kingsville to be further recognized as a leader in providing minority students the opportunity to succeed,” said Escudero.

“The supportive environment allows our students to continue along the pathway toward productive careers.”

Student award recipient Besinaiz Thomas earned the award for maintaining an outstanding academic record and successfully completing a major research project.

The general research area of Besinaiz Thomas, currently a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University, is organic chemistry. She noted how excited she was on hearing the news of receiving the award.

  “I have never been nominated for anything like this, so it was definitely a surprise,” said Besinaiz Thomas.

“For many years, I have tried to be a role model for younger generations, not only in my family, but for the entire Hispanic community. I think that this award is an indicator that maybe I am doing something right.”

Escudero and Besinaiz Thomas offer their thanks to those that submitted their nominations from the Office of Special Programs and the Office of the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.


In 2005, Minority Access recognized Dr. Elda E. Sanchez, assistant director of the Natural Toxins Research Center (NTRC) and alumna Margarita Martinez-Moczygemba as Faculty and Alumna Role Models. In 2004, Dr. John C. Perez, Regents Professor of biology and director of the NTRC, and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez were named Faculty and Alumnus Role Models.

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