Raíces : Mentors

Image of Dr. Gloria Contreras

Dr. Gloria Contreras, Professor Emeritus, was recruited to the University of North Texas in 1987 for her strong background in multicultural and social studies education.  In 1989 she was appointed the first Director of the Office of Minority Affairs (now the Office of Multicultural Affairs) by President Alfred F. Hurley where she was charged with creating and implementing a 5-year plan for the recruitment, retention, and graduation of minority students and faculty. As a result of her successful initiatives, over 20 student organizations are actively operating across campus today.

Dr. Contreras’ defining passion has been teaching Social Studies through a multicultural and global perspective.  Her major contributions to her field include her work co-authoring the leading K-6 social studies textbook series (published by Macmillan/McGraw-Hill) and serving as Executive Editor of The Social Science, a nationally peer-reviewed journal aimed at educators at all levels.

In 1990, as Professor of Secondary Education and director of Minority Affairs, Dr. Contreras was awarded the International Education Committee Distinguished Service Citation at the University’s Honors Day celebration.

In 2002 she was honored as a Latina Living Legend by the Hispanic 50, an organization that serves as a catalyst for increased participation of Hispanic women in employment, procurement, and social issues.

Image of Roland Vela

Dr. Roland Vela is an Emeritus Professor of Microbiology at UNT, having retired in spring of 2000 after 35 years of service to the Department of Biological Sciences, as well as the greater community.  Vela led his field in the study of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and his research in bacterial physiology was recognized both nationally and abroad.  Dr. Vela’s contributions to research and scholarship were numerous: during his career at UNT, Dr. Vela supervised over 45 master’s and 19 doctoral students. He also published 75 scientific papers, a textbook and an accompanying lab manual.  In 1991, the University established an award in his name to be granted to individuals or groups making significant contributions to the education of Hispanics. 

Dr. Vela was also highly respected for his contributions to the surrounding community. Vela was the first Hispanic elected to Denton City Council. In August of 2012, the Denton chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens lobbied City Council to name a planned soccer complex at North Lakes Park after Dr. Vela in honor of his numerous contributions to the community and its citizens. He was recently named one of the top 100 Texas Latinos of the 20th century in the millennium edition of Latino Monthly magazine.

Image of Valerie Martinez

Dr. Martinez (’80) is a Professor of Political Science at UNT where she teaches classes on the issues of race, ethnicity and politics, Latino politics, public policy, and the politics of rock-n-roll. 

In 1991 she was granted the highest honor bestowed by the students to a faculty member when she was presented with the ‘Fesser Graham Award, given annually to a faculty member in recognition of their outstanding and unselfish service to students beyond the call of duty.