Sandra Calles, PhD

Dr. Sandra Calles is a psychologist, educator, life coach, mentor and activist. Her passion is to advocate for causes she believes in, teach about mental health topics, and guide others, so they may achieve success in their personal and career endeavors.

She has over 11 years of experience as a mental health professional having worked at various mental health facilities. Most recently she was a therapist at Los Angeles Harbor College at the Life Skills Center. While at Harbor College, she helped many students overcome emotional obstacles so they could transfer to universities and meet their career goals. She devotes her personal and professional life to political causes, and activities that promote mental health, women’s issues, the empowerment of Latinas through education, business ownership, financial literacy and political engagement. Dr. Sandra is a graduate of California State University, Dominguez Hills, earning both a BA in Human Services and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She earned her doctorate from Saybrook University in Psychology, where she developed a treatment modality from her research on survivors of sudden cardiac death. The treatment plan known as PROSPER, is an acronym detailing a healing plan that can be applied to survivors of various traumas and is the underpinning for the work she does with her clients..... Continue Reading

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Author, Poet & Teacher

Benjamin Alire Sáenz Wins 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

Chairman of the Department of Creative Writing Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been selected as the winner of the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s largest peer juried prize for fiction. He won the prize for his collection of short stories titled Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, published by El Paso company Cinco Puntos Press, making it a double honor for the city of El Paso.

“The people of the border have given me my voice. All I have ever done is return those words back to the people who taught me to speak,” Sáenz said. “This award does not belong to me — it belongs to us. This border is my heart and I believe it is the heart of this nation. And I also believe that Juárez is the heart of Mexico,” Sáenz said.

Taking its title from a storied Juárez club just over the U.S.-Mexico border, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club offers seven different stories examining the lives of people in the El Paso-Juárez border region. The press release about the award describes them as struggling “with the impossible ambiguities of borders, whether they be sexual, emotional, national or economic.

“Ben Sáenz’s work is well-deserving of this award,” said UTEP College of Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D. “He is a consummate storyteller who writes with strength and yet tenderness, who shares his space and time with his reader and always brings us willingly on the journeys he takes. He is one of the few writers who can speak eloquently to adults, young adults and children. And what a wonderful person to have among us as a colleague.”

Renowned novelists Walter Kirn, Nelly Rosario, and A.J. Verdelle served as judges for the prize, considering more than 350 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the United States in 2012. Submissions came from 130 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. First awarded in 1981, the prize is named for Nobel Prize winning novelist William Faulkner, and Sáenz is the first Hispanic writer to receive it.

“He’s one of the most prolific writers I have ever met, sometimes producing two books in one year, like he did this year,” said Saenz’s colleague Associate Professor of Creative Writing Daniel Chacon. “Both of those books have gone on to win amazing prizes and to get positive critical attention.”

In speaking about his experience as co-host of KTEP-FM’s (88.5) “Words on a Wire” radio program with Sáenz, Chacon said, “We have the chance to talk to some of the greatest writers in the country, and together we are able to extract a lot of valuable information and advice from these writers, but the ironic thing is that Ben himself is one of the country’s most distinguished writers.”

Judge A.J. Verdelle praised Saenz’s mastery of language.

“In Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, his 20th published book, Benjamin Alire Sáenz shows how decades working at your craft gives birth to might and mastery … He presents a rendering of reality that is lush, tender, expansive, inclusive and profound. The author takes stunning care with language — English, Spanish, and the languages of sunlight, daylight, dimlight, night light — twisting and tumbling with the whispered language of the human heart. Sáenz also devotes impressive attention to rendering communities on the borders of the United States and Mexico, on the boundaries of sensual and sexual expression, on the edge of despair, and on the cusp of redemption.”

In addition to teaching at UTEP, Sáenz is a poet, fiction writer and essayist who has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN Center’s award for young adult fiction. He was recently awarded the American Library Association’s Pura Belpré Award and the Stonewall Book Award for his young adult novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. The book also was recognized as a 2013 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor Book.

As winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, Sáenz receives $15,000. He will be honored during the 33rd annual PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on May 4. Previous winners include E.L. Doctorow, Ann Patchett, Philip Roth, John Updike, Sherman Alexie, and Annie Proulx.

“He’s, quite frankly, a brilliant writer, and as a friend and as a colleague he has been incredibly supportive,” Chacon recalled. “When I started off here as a new writer, he was very encouraging, and I learned a lot. His passion for El Paso is unsurpassed by any other writer.

“In many ways, my latest book was improved because of his advice,” Chacon continued. “He once told me, ‘If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not worth much.’ He writes with unapologetic passion, and when he writes it hurts, but he produces some of the most beautiful prose in the country, which is obvious in winning this incredibly prestigious fiction prize.”

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Selected photos England and Belgium, 2016


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“…And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while…”

T.S. Eliot
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Press Release

2015 Annual Report on Mexican American Professionals Now Available

The 2015 Annual Report on Mexican American Professionals is now available on

News from the 2015 American Community Service shows good increases in the numbers of Mexican Americans attending college, achieving educational attainment, and holding jobs in industries including science, management, and business.

• Mexican American college enrollment increased from 18.7% to 18.9% between 2014 and 2015
• Graduate or professional degree attainment among Mexican Americans rose from 2.9% to 3.0%
• The number of Mexican Americans achieving bachelor’s degrees rose from 7.6% to 7.8% in 2015

Despite these numbers, Mexican Americans are still near the bottom of college enrollment and educational attainment by race and ethnicity.

The University of California is proactive in pushing for a greater number of underrepresented minorities. The number Chicano/Latino students attending UOC increased by 2.7% since 2014; this group now makes up 32.3% of admitted university freshmen.

In terms of occupations, the number of Mexican Americans making up part of the management, business, science, and art occupations continues to rise, from 16.6% to 17.5% from 2012 to 2015. Mexican Americans have also seen consistent numbers in the professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services occupations, keeping steady at 10.2% of all jobs in these fields held by Mexican Americans.

These numbers represent continuing gains in higher education and professional jobs for Mexican Americans. For more, visit