Meet LFRI Faculty & Staff

Dr. Jennifer Miller-Ray is a cognitive research scientist specializing in STEM literacy, makerspace pedagogy, and digital resources. Currently, she serves as an assistant professor in educational instructional technology in the College of Education. She has designed literacy and makerspace events for multiple museums, NASA, the Indigenous Education Institute, public libraries, and implemented makerspace initiatives in over 30 public schools. In addition, Dr. Miller has developed Massive Open Online Courses through Canvas’s Open Network highlighting NASA MMS Education Outreach programs through mobile makerspace initiatives. Dr. Miller’s research centers around a makerspace project-based learning literacy process in which elementary and middle school students connect curriculum content to informal makerspace activities to make an artifact serving the career role of a journalist, scientist, engineer, or journalist. Dr. Miller’s research initiatives, funded through a NASA grant and local library public school program, were highlighted as the innovative research project in the University of North Texas’s January 2017 RESEARCH magazine and was featured in the March edition of HSI STEM Hub newsletter. Recently, Dr. Miller-Ray was awarded Noyce Scholars en la Frontera NSF grant, where she serves as the primary research investigator.

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Gilbert Betancourt was born and raised in Carrizo Springs, Texas. He is a second-year graduate student at Sul Ross State University. Gilbert’s graduate degree is in Education with an emphasis on Community Mental Health. His goal is to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.  

Matthew is from Austin Texas and received his undergraduate from Sul Ross state in Kinesiology Human Performance with a minor in History. Matthew is also a member of the Sul ross baseball team. In his free time, he enjoys watching football, playing golf, and spending time outdoors. Matthew is currently getting his MBA at Sul Ross State. 

LFRI Faculty Fellows

Dr. April Ortiz is an associate professor of mathematics at Sul Ross State University’s Rio Grande Campuses. Her interests include geometry, physics, and the ways in which a humanistic approach to teaching can make higher-level mathematics more accessible to underrepresented groups. She has served as a Noyce mentor, Faculty Senate president, and is involved in ongoing efforts to improve and assess institutional effectiveness.

Chris Ritzi received his BA from Texas A&M University in Biology before moving on to Sul Ross State University and earning his MS in Biology for work on bat ectoparasites. He then moved to Terre Haute, Indiana to earn his PhD in Ecology studying ectoparasitic relationships of bats in Indiana. Upon completion of this degree, he returned to Texas and one of his alma maters to become the invertebrate zoologist at Sul Ross State University. Leading an active research program, Chris has authored/coauthored 51 peer-reviewed publications, over 120 professional presentations, and several published illustrations and technical reports. His service to Sul Ross State University includes numerous university and school committees, as well as serving as the Chair of the Biology/BGPS department from 2007-2020, and most recently the Biology Program Director since Fall 2023. He has mentored 50 undergraduate projects, 20 Masters students, and 1 Ph.D. student to since working at Sul Ross.

Dr. Angela M. Brown is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Sul Ross State University-Alpine. Her research interests include Finite Geometries, Knot Theory, Mathematics Education, and the intersection of Mathematics and Art. As a professional, she has been a member of multiple organizations including the Association for Women in Mathematics, the Texas Academy of Science, and the Mathematical Association of America. For the Texas Academy of Science, Angie has served as Vice Chair and Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Section many times. As a member of the Mathematical Association of America, she has given numerous conference presentations, has been the section photographer for several years, was the Student Activities Director of the Texas Section for 2018-2021, and is currently the Chair-Elect of the section. She has also  exhibited multiple mathematically-inspired art pieces she has created. Angie received the Ron Barnes Distinguished Service to Students award in 2017 from the Texas Section of the MAA and received an Outstanding Mentor Award from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2018. Angie is an active member of the Sul Ross community where she serves on numerous committees and has also served the community of Alpine as a youth softball and basketball coach over the past nine years. 

Dr. Jeanne Qvarnstrom is a professor of education at Sul Ross State University. Her doctorate is from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.  She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, and she also is a university supervisor for student teachers and interns.  She joined the faculty at SRSU in 2012 after a career in public education in Iowa, Oregon, California, Delaware, and Maryland.  Her research centers around curriculum development and assessment.  Dr. Qvarnstrom is an active member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society, and she serves as the counselor for the local chapter for students on the SRSU campuses. 

Dr. Savannah L. Williamson is an Assistant Professor of History at Sul Ross State University. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Houston, and she enjoys spending time cooking, eating, reading, and being outdoors with her dog, Kai. 

Dr. Alicia M. Trotman is an Assistant Professor in Psychology whose Caribbean heritage hails from Trinidad and Tobago. She has an academic background in Computer Science and Applied Psychology from Pace University in New York, and earned her doctorate in Learning, Technology and Culture at Michigan State University. One of her divine callings was teaching and working with students, and some of her favorite classes to teach are Emotions & Motivation, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, and Humanistic Psychology. She advises the students’ Psychology Club and Anime Manga Club, and she is dynamically involved in creating professional development opportunities in mental health for students. She conducts research in emotions using humanistic, spiritual, and person-centered methodologies, gradually building a dynamic digital presence at her university. She is an active member of APA Division 1 (Society for General Psychology) and the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP). Besides teaching, conducting research, and committing to service, she is a loyal enthusiast of tea, yoga, aerobics, movies, and anime. 

Kayley Diaz was born in San Diego, CA and raised in El Paso, Tx and received her undergraduate degree from Sul Ross State University in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. She has also been a part of the Sul Ross Women’s Basketball team since 2018 and will be finishing up her career for the year 2023-2024. On her free time, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, painting, trying puzzles, watching movies, and reading the bible. Her future goals consist of possibly being a Radiologist or anything related in the medical field.

Catarino “Cat” Morales III is a teacher and scientist that specializes in STEM education. He has over 10 years of experience in college teaching, curriculum design, higher education teaching and learning pedagogy, program design, and leadership that focuses on transformative change in the higher education community of South Texas. Additionally, he brings a wealth of knowledge in grant planning, writing, and project management. Concurrently, his involvement in grants includes roles as a project director for the SWTJC Title V STEMward Bound grant, co-principal investigator for the SRSU NSF Noyce Scholars grant, and faculty representative on the SWTJC ESARF (Engaging Students Remotely on the Frontera) grant steering committee.  As a general biologist, Cat also serves as faculty member in Biology at Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC). Cat graduated from Uvalde High School and received his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio and graduate degree from Texas A&M University-Commerce. As a first-generation college student and native of Uvalde, Texas, Cat brings a unique and first-hand experience within the South and Southwest Texas communities and is an advocate of education as a means for upward social mobility. 

  • Peter Claffey
  • Science Mill

A seasoned museum veteran with over 20 years working in and leading Science & Technology museums and children’s museums, Peter started his time working in museums at the age of 13 when he volunteered at the Science Center of Connecticut.  Peter worked his way up through the ranks working in every department in the museum with the ultimate career goal of leading a museum someday.  After six years leading an Exhibits and Facilities team at The Children’s Museum, Peter got the opportunity to lead his first organization in Southeastern Connecticut.  Over the last ten years, Peter has led both science centers and childrens museums in Texas and Louisiana.  He brings a great passion for providing STEM career awareness to under-served students and is passionate about the Science Mill’s work in this area.  Peter has a BS in Business Management and Organizational Theory from Central Connecticut State University.  He is ecology-minded and has a hands-on approach to museum operations, with a preference to fix things instead of replacing them.  He still likes to spend a little time in the Science Mill Exhibit shop.