The UNLV College of Education (COE) participates in the AACTE Holmes Scholars Program as a member institution of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). The Holmes Scholars Program supports students who self-identify as racially and ethnically diverse and are pursuing graduate degrees in education. The program provides mentorship, scholarship, professional development, and networking opportunities for those interested in obtaining academic positions upon graduation.

Meet the Holmes Program Director & Scholars

Meet UNLV’s Holmes Scholars Program Interim Faculty Coordinator: Dr. Blanca Rincón

Blanca Rincon's headshot

Blanca E. Rincón is an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She received her Ph.D. in education policy studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She identifies as a proud Mexicana/Latina, a daughter of immigrants, and is the first in her family to attend college. Her research agenda aims to advance educational equity for historically underserved and marginalized college students in STEM, and specifically Latina/o/x college students. 

Meet UNLV’s Holmes Scholars Program Faculty Coordinator: Dr. Sharolyn D. Pollard-Durodola

Dr. Pollard-Duradolla

Dr. Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola earned an Ed.D., M.A.T., M.S., and B.A. She is a professor in the English Language Learning Program at UNLV. Dr. Pollard-Durodola has served as the coordinator for the program since Fall 2019.

Dr. Pollard-Durodola explained her research focus as “how to effectively support native and second language development (Spanish/of English) of multilingual learners in varied U.S. bilingual education and mainstream English medium settings.” Thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Education, some of the areas of focus Dr. Pollard-Durodola’s research has examined:

  • the effectiveness of early language/literacy interventions in Spanish (native tongue) and English (second language),
  • the cross-linguistic transfer of early literacy skills,
  • the effectiveness of multidimensional professional development approaches in expanding teachers’ ability to integrate second language development opportunities during content teaching (e.g., mathematics, literacy), and
  • how school based and parent-led shared book reading vocabulary practices can stimulate children’s oral language and conceptual knowledge development.

Dr. Pollard-Durodola’s research has focused on targeting the needs of children whose language and literacy abilities were still developing as well as the instructional practices of their teachers, which may be influenced by complex belief systems (e.g., beliefs about multilingualism, self-efficacy). “My research includes mentoring scholars from Asia and Southeast Asia whose research is related to these topics (e.g., reading in a logographic language, multilingualism in Indian International Baccalaureate schools, Chinese students’ experiences with U.S. racism),” Dr. Pollard-Durodola said.

Dr. Pollard-Durodola believes that the Holmes Scholars program is important because it allows doctoral students to develop networks with peers from across the U.S. who have similar research interests and professional aspirations. “The program is valuable because it provides mentoring for doctoral students who identify as racially and ethnically diverse and serves as a bridge between their current doctoral experiences and the professoriate,” she said.

Discussing the scholars’ attainments attributable to the program, Dr. Pollard-Durodola explained, “I expect students to be able to present their research at a professional conference, receive support and professional development opportunities as a doctoral student, grow in their confidence and abilities as an emerging scholar, and to begin to think about how to build skills that are important for the professoriate.”

Sharing her advice to future Holmes Scholars, Dr. Pollard-Durodola encouraged students to explore the many opportunities that are provided nationally for students to diversify their involvement—for example, Washington policy experience, seeking a position on the Holmes Council, etc. And in preparation for the cooperative nature of the research and learning processes, she believes future scholars should seek ways to collaborate with other students within the Holmes organization. “To make the most of their experience, I would advise scholars to establish clear goals for how they can use the experiences to grow professionally and personally,” Dr. Pollard-Durodola said.

Meet UNLV’s Holmes Scholars

Kamilah Bywaters

Kamilah Bywaters is a doctoral student in Early Childhood, Multilingual and Special Education as well as a Rodman Scholars Fellow. She earned her bachelor’s degree as well as a Masters of Divinity from Howard University and a Master of Education from UNLV. Her research focuses on teacher preparation, equity and diversity in leadership, and the Black Lives Matter movement as well as police brutality and their impacts on students.

With a passion for lifting up the voices, stories, and work of leaders in her community, Bywaters devotes her time to initiatives that aim to spark change in her hometown of Las Vegas. Currently, she serves as president of the Las Vegas Alliance of Black School Educators and as a board member of the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Action Network.

Now, she is looking forward to growing as a professional and connecting with scholars across the nation with the opportunity to join the UNLV Holmes Program.

“My professor and colleague recommended I look into being a Holmes Scholar, and after doing the research, I knew right away I would love this opportunity,” Bywaters said. “I value mentorship and having access to networks that will enhance my growth as a student and scholar.”

Adriana Hernandez

Adriana Hernandez is a doctoral student in Teacher Education, currently in year 3 of her program. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and a Master of Public Health. Hernandez is currently a Graduate Assistant at UNLV. Her research focuses on the experiences of teachers of color, as well as preparation, recruitment, and retention in the education field.

“As a first-year Holmes Scholar, the program has been a rewarding experience,” Hernandez said, “I was able to submit a research proposal, attend virtual professional development opportunities, and connect with Holmes scholars from various institutions. I have also received mentorship support from Dr. Pollard-Durodola to complete my doctoral journey,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said that the knowledge and skills she has gained through professional development opportunities as well as her mentorship from UNLV’s Holmes Advisor Dr. Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola have developed her research skill to be successful in her doctoral journey.

“Participating as a Holmes Scholar is essential to me because I am able to acquire new learning experiences and guidance as a first-generation graduate student,” Hernandez said. Some of those experiences have included the Holmes Policy Institute, — where program students learn to advocate for their profession by participating in interactive policy discussions and briefings —mentorship, proposal submission, professional development opportunities, and networking with Holmes Scholars.

Hernandez hopes to teach and conduct research at higher education institutions after completing her doctoral program. Her advice to future Holmes Scholars. “As a first-year Holmes Scholar, I would advise future Holmes Scholars to participate and engage in professional development opportunities and build mutual connections with Holmes Scholars and mentors.”

Averill Kelley

Averill Kelley is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Cultural Studies, International Education, and Multicultural Education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Education as well as a Master in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College. His research interests are focused on educational equity with a specific interest in multicultural education, civic education, and social studies education.

Before returning to his own higher education journey, Averill taught high school Social Studies for ten years in the Clark County School District. He also served in a variety of leadership positions at the local, state, and national level. Now, he hopes to become a faculty member at a higher education institution and educate future classroom teachers.

Averill says he became a Holmes Scholar to unlock opportunities to collaborate with other doctoral students across the country in addition to opportunities to learn from faculty with similar research interests and backgrounds. He looks forward to attending conferences and gaining further insight about the research process, working in higher education, and developing a research agenda.

“I’m passionate about the scholarship around how we can change the current approaches to teaching and learning as they relate to civic education and engagement,” Kelley said. “The Holmes Program is a great way to network with, collaborate with, and learn from scholars making an impact in this field.”

Headshot of Mayra Marquez-Medez

Mayra Marquez-Mendez is a doctoral student in educational psychology. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in education studies and a Master of Education from the University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include teacher preparation and mentorship and how those experiences impact students’ self-determination as they navigate education.

Before returning to pursue her doctorate, Mayra taught elementary school for five years in a Title I school in Arizona. Teaching supported Mayra’s desire to pursue higher education. It allowed her to work and collaborate with students and educators, which helped her understand the types of support they needed. Through her experience in the classroom, Mayra has learned that collaboration, mentorship, and professional development are crucial elements for teachers to continue to support the growth and development of diverse students. As a first-generation Latina, Mayra values the opportunities that the Holmes Scholars program offers. She is excited to develop a research-focused agenda and gain more knowledge, skills, and opportunities to collaborate with other doctoral students and faculty who share research interests. She looks forward to the various mentorship experiences, research conferences, networking opportunities, and community-building with peers and faculty.

Headshot of Adjoa Mensah

Adjoa Mensah is a doctoral student in teaching and learning with an emphasis on teacher education. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Western Ontario, a master's in education from Daemen College, and a master's in French from the University of Kent. She is a bilingual English and French speaker. Her research interest focuses on the effective integration of technology for diverse learners in K-8 classrooms.

Originally from Canada, Adjoa is the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants who instilled in her the importance and impact education has in everyone’s life. Before embarking on her doctoral journey, Adjoa was an elementary educator for fifteen years in dual language immersion. Through her time in the classroom and leadership experiences, Adjoa became aware of the need to support students with 21st-century technology skills. Her aspirations for higher education include teaching preservice teachers and building partnerships that provide training for inservice teachers. Adjoa became a Holmes scholar to meet and build community with other doctoral students. Through this community, she hopes to gain interdisciplinary insights, learn from faculty, attend conferences and further define her path toward research and scholarship.

Headshot of Monique Somma

Monique Somma is a doctoral student in the career and technical postsecondary education program emphasizing STEM trades and occupations. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from Western State University of Colorado and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, emphasizing art and technology integration, from Nova Southeastern University. Monique currently serves as a science mentor for biology, chemistry, and geoscience at the Leadership Academy of Nevada. She works collaboratively with parents, administration, business, industry, and community partners to engage students in work-based learning and STEM career pathways accessible to all learners. She is a member of Association of Career and Technical Educators (ACTE) and the Geological Society of America (GSA). Monique is passionate about Black women’s empowerment and success. She aims to increase Black women’s pursuit and persistence in STEM CTE trades and help them become financially independent.

Elizabeth León Zaragoza

Elizabeth León Zaragoza is a doctoral student in Higher Education, currently in year two of her program and serving as a graduate teaching assistant. She has two bachelor’s degrees (Spanish and Athletic Training) and a Masters of Science in Kinesiology. Her research interests involve diversity, equity, and inclusion in Athletic Training (Sports Medicine) education and healthcare access.

Originally from California, Elizabeth is the daughter of Mexican immigrant farm laborers. She split her childhood in central Kentucky and on her family’s ranch, El Cicuital, in Guanajuato, Mexico, which instilled a love for road trips and travelling. An avid sports fan from the beginning, Elizabeth says watching her favorite teams, Chivas and the Mexican national team, sparked her interest in sports medicine. Today, in addition to her studies, Elizabeth leads the Latinx Athletic Trainers organization which strives to provide education opportunities about healthcare and healthcare access to the public.

Joining the UNLV Holmes Program in 2021, León Zaragoza said she was drawn to the program for its mentorship opportunities. “Being a Holmes Scholar will be such a valuable opportunity to connect with other scholars in meaningful ways,” she said. “I’m looking forward to both being mentored as well as becoming a mentor to others.”

Elizabeth hopes that being a Holmes Scholar will give her more experience in conducting and presenting impactful research with like-minded colleagues. “I sometimes struggle to ‘put myself out there…’ With the mentorship and support afforded by this program, I can grow in my experience as a scholar.”

Program Benefits

Individuals selected as a Holmes Scholar are eligible to receive:

  • Membership in a national network of peers with access to dedicated online social networks.
  • Opportunities to present research at the AACTE Annual Meeting.
  • Dedicated mentoring programs at the AACTE Annual Meeting.
  • Leadership and professional development opportunities at the national level, such as participation in conference presentations and policy/advocacy training.
  • Funding to attend and participate in the AACTE Annual Conference, AACTE Holmes Policy Institute, and another professional conference of their choice;
  • Funding to join a professional organization as a student member;
  • Funding for books and supplies (up to $500 per year)
  • Individualized mentorship from a faculty member of color
  • Group mentorship via monthly meetings from the Holmes Scholar faculty liaison
  • Shared office space within the UNLV Carlson Education Building
  • Professional development opportunities as part of the UNLV COE pre-semester summit for graduate students of color
  • Free registration to attend the UNLV COE Summit on Nevada Education
  • Networking opportunities and community-building with peers and faculty of color

Program Expectations

Holmes Scholars can participate in the program for up to three academic years, contingent on adequate performance within the first year. Holmes Scholars in good standing:

  • Attend monthly UNLV COE Holmes Scholars meetings
  • Attendance at national AACTE Annual Conference and Holmes Scholars-related events
  • Attend the AACTE Holmes Summer Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., if desired. This may include participating in AACTE’s Day on the Hill and associated networking events with the AACTE State Leaders Institute.
  • Engagement in a national professional organization of their choice
  • Co-authorship of a writing product within their third year of their doctoral program
  • Submission of a poster for AACTE poster session
  • Attendance at the UNLV COE pre-semester summit
  • Regular engagement with the assigned individual mentor

Selection Criteria

  • Doctoral student entering second or third year of program for the upcoming fall semester
  • Self-identification as a racial or ethnic minority
  • Interest in a future full-time academic position post-graduation
  • Clearly stated educational, career, and scholarship goals that are aligned with AACTE
  • Evidence of candidate seeking potential writing opportunities within and/or outside of UNLV
  • Strength of letter of support that aligns with students’ stated goals and interests
  • Demonstrated potential for an academic career in the education field (e.g., early childhood, educational leadership, higher education, school counseling, school psychology, special education, teacher licensure, multilingual/bilingual education)

Application Process

The UNLV College of Education (COE) participates in the AACTE Holmes Scholars Program as a member institution of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). The UNLV Holmes Scholars Program supports doctoral students who self-identify as racially and ethnically diverse and are pursuing graduate degrees in education. The program provides mentorship, scholarship, professional development, and networking opportunities for those interested in obtaining fulltime academic positions upon graduation.

The UNLV College of Education is presently seeking interested candidates to serve as a Holmes Scholar for up to two academic years, contingent on adequate performance within the first year. Selection criteria includes:

  • Self-identification as a racial or ethnic minority.
  • Doctoral student entering the second or third year of a program for the upcoming fall semester.
  • Demonstrated interest in a future full-time academic position post-graduation.
  • Clearly stated educational, career, and scholarship goals that are aligned with AACTE.
  • Evidence of the candidate’s seeking potential writing opportunities within and/or outside of UNLV.
  • Strength of recommendation letter from the candidate’s UNLV advisor, department or program coordinator, or other faculty member.
  • Demonstrated potential for an academic career in the education field (e.g., early childhood, educational leadership, higher education, school counseling, school psychology, special education, teacher licensure, multilingual/bilingual education)

Candidate must be willing to:

  • Attend monthly UNLV COE Holmes Scholars Meetings.
  • Attend the national AACTE Annual Conference and Holmes Scholars-related events.
  • Attend the AACTE Holmes Summer Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., if desired. This may include participating in AACTE’s Day on the Hill and associated networking events with the AACTE State Leaders Institute.
  • Engage yearly in a national professional organization of their choice (e.g., American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, Council for Exceptional Children, National Association for Bilingual Education, Literacy Research Association).
  • Co-author a writing product within their three-year tenure as a Holmes Scholar.
  • Submit a poster for the AACTE Holmes Scholar Poster Session.
  • Willing to serve as a mentor/mentee for other Holmes Scholars after their participation term.

Application materials will include:

  • A 500-word essay demonstrating interest and commitment to (1) a future academic career in the field of education, and (2) equity and diversity in education.
  • Unofficial transcripts including GPA
  • Current Resume (work experience, honors/achievements, community and university involvement
  • ONE recommendation letter from either the candidate’s UNLV advisor, departmental program coordinator, OR a faculty member.

Application materials are accepted March 1-April 1, 2022 by Holmes Program Coordinator, Sharolyn.Pollard-Durodola@unlv.edu. Only complete applications will be reviewed.

Candidate’s 500-word essay will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Elements 3 = Commendable 2 = Satisfactory 1 = Unsatisfactory
Candidate expresses a desire for a career in education, noting intended specific field      
Candidate describes relevant and/or related experience(s) with this intended field      
Candidate provides an overview of their educational experiences      
Candidate describes commitment to equity and diversity in education.      
Essay is well conceptualized, organized, without grammatical and spelling errors.      
Total      

Holmes Research and Mentorship Summits

In addition to regular monthly meetings for the Holmes Scholars cohort, the program hosts a series of summits throughout the academic year to provide support and information to the college's doctoral students of color. Links to videos for past summit sessions and dates for future summits are listed below.

2021-22 Academic Year

Session II video includes:

  • Welcome and Opening Remarks from Dr. Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola
  • Writing with Authority with Dr. Nicole Joseph
  • Developing Culturally Responsive Research Agendas with Minority Communities with Dr. Patrice Leverett
  • Developing Innovative, Impactful and Fundable Research Agendas with Dr. Gwen Marchand

Holmes Scholars Mentors

Holmes Scholars receive mentorship from a cadre of dedicated College of Education faculty, including:

Contact

For more information about the Holmes Scholars program, please contact faculty coordinator, Dr. Blanca Rincón.