UST Celebrates Retiring Faculty in Arts & Sciences: Nicole Casarez, Livia Bornigia, Carl Scott
Dr. Hans Stockton, divisional dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences & Global Studies, celebrates Professors Nicole Casarez, Livia Bornigia and Carl Scott for their tenure at UST. All three professors will retire at the end of the spring 2021 semester.
“Each of these long-serving faculty members made enduring contributions to the legacies of their respective departments, the lives of our alumni, and the betterment of our community,” he said. “I know first-hand the care that they put into teaching and mentoring their students for academic success and fruitful lives after graduation. Each was dedicated to providing students with internship opportunities and various other hands-on applications of in their fields of study. All three colleagues continue to this day serving the community and their professions.”
Make Plans to Attend the Retirement Party for 2020 and 2021 Faculty Retirees
The University will celebrate faculty retiring in 2020 (delayed due to COVID) and 2021 at a party scheduled at 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., May 12 in Scanlan Room, Jerabeck Center. The campus community is invited.
Retires include Charles Krohn, Robin Williamson, Carl Scott, Nicole Prof. Nicole Cásarez, Lee Williames, Sr. Marie Faubert, Ravi Srinivas, Fr. Donald Nesti, (late) Sheila Waggoner, John Starner, Livia Bornigia, Michele Simms, Robert LeBlanc, Randy Soffer, Eduardo Torres, Angelina Chambers, Phyllis Kritek and Yvette Rolle.
Communication Associate Professor and Actress
Livia Bornigia Retires, Exits Stage Right
Italian-born Livia Bornigia is animated when she talks. She laughs easily. She is passionate about her students and her work. The former UST student-turned-professor in the Communication Department claims her wonderful teachers and mentors in that discipline are the reasons she blossomed into a professional who “joined the UST communication family” as an adjunct professor in 1998. She also credits UST for helping her meet the love of her life, psychology professor Carl Scott.
Associate Professor Bornigia, who earned her doctorate in 2007, loves theatre and is an actress who teaches public speaking, persuasion, mass communication/propaganda and film courses at UST. For the past five years, she served as chair of the Communication Department, successfully lobbying for the new, current facilities equipped with a brand new digital media studio, control room, audio room and space for the online student newspaper, The Celt Independent.
Bornigia said, “These were major successes that allowed our students to once again have exciting hands-on opportunities to create media content.”
A Thriving Internship Program
Bornigia was also instrumental in expanding a thriving internship program for her department, which is the only department on campus to require an internship. The addition of a virtual platform has allowed communication students to secure extremely exciting and competitive internships in other states, such as California, Montana and Illinois, just to name a few.
“Over the last 20 years, our students have represented UST at every major news station in town, at the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Press, the Mayor’s Office and too many others to recount,” Bornigia said.
A New Film Concentration
Among her accomplishments, Bornigia also is extremely proud of the new film studies concentration, which has attracted guest speakers like Jeremy Dawson (Wes Anderson’s producer), actress Sarita Choudhury, costume designer Suevia Sampelayo (Almodovar Productions), and many more.
Among the many courses offered in the concentration is an exciting hands-on opportunity. Bornigia added, “Currently, about 10 students are involved in a new course COMM 4355, Film Practicum, where they are working with a local production company to create a film from pre-production to production to post-production and marketing. Due to the current COVID situation, we are also fortunate enough to have students work virtually with film production companies in California.”
National SleepOut on the Academic Mall
During her tenure, Bornigia served on the Social Justice Committee, which she chaired for several years. Along with like-minded alumni and colleagues, they created some high-visibility events like National SleepOut Night on the Academic Mall. Our community slept outside and interacted with our homeless brothers and sisters and members of other like-minded organizations to bring a layer of empathy to this pervasive problem.
Bornigia also brought TEDxUSTHouston to life. She worked with a group of speakers made of UST faculty, students and alumni who gave talks about pressing social justice issues affecting our community and the world, such as the plight of children of incarcerated parents, the promise of personalized medicine, public relations as a force for good, diversity in the media, pro-bono professors, and many more. The event brought thousands of people to our website and was streamed worldwide. Bornigia, along with community members, carried off this overflow marketing event with no budget and no compensation.
Micro-credit Documentary Results in Large Donation to UST
One of the UST highlights for Bornigia was traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula with the late student and alumnus, Crew Ginn, and Dr. Carl Scott (Bornigia’s husband) to create the documentary Solidaridad: Micro-credit in the Yucatan for UST’s Social Entrepreneurship Program. The film was screened at UST, and so moved one viewer that he instantly donated $250,000 to the program. The documentary was also accepted and screened as a finalist at the American Psychological Society’s Film Festival in May 2011.
Moving Forward: Italy Here we come!
Fast forward, Bornigia and Scott are moving to Italy part-time! “I want to get back to my other loves: theater, writing, the arts in general, fashion, gardening and dog rescue,” she said. “But retiring does not mean retiring from friends at UST.”
She summarized more than 20 years of intense giving and receiving as a teacher. “I treasure all the students who expressed gratitude, and I know I made a difference in many students’ lives, and there is nothing better than that,” she said.
Communication Professor Nicole Cásarez Retires,
Heads for the Colorado Hills
Professor Nicole Cásarez, J.D., leaves an indelible mark on UST, the state and the nation when she retires this spring from the Communication Department. Over 34 years of teaching at UST, hundreds of students have benefited from her knowledge as an instructor of investigative journalism and as a practicing attorney with a mission for truth, social justice and crime lab reform.
She earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a Juris Doctor from UT Austin in 1979. She started at UST as an adjunct professor in 1987. Later in 1991, she earned a Master of Arts in Communication from the University of Houston. Two years later, she became a full-time assistant professor in the UST Communication Department, associate professor in 1997, and a full professor in 2004. She served as the adviser to the student-run newspaper, the Cauldron, from 1988 until 2008.
Cásarez Known for Wrongful Convictions Work
Cásarez is well known for investigating wrongful convictions, including more than eight years of work with UST students that led to the exoneration of Anthony Graves after 18 years in prison, 12 of those on death row. The Graves investigation attracted state-wide and national attention. Her expertise is in media law, the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, ethics, civil rights and wrongful convictions.
Nicole Cásarez Day in Houston
Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed July 13, 2019, as Nicole Cásarez Day in Houston to honor her work as chair of the board of the Houston Forensic Science Center, which transformed Houston’s scandal-ridden crime lab into a world-recognized forensic center. She joined the HFSC board in 2012 and was chair from 2015-2019. For part of that time, she served alongside Graves, working to prevent wrongful convictions from happening, instead of through the legal system after they happen.
UST Students Benefit from Cásarez’s Crime Lab Experience
In addition to other communication classes at UST, Cásarez teaches the Wrongful Convictions course, cross-listed with Criminology, Law and Society. Through her experience on the board of HFSC, she speaks expertly to her students about junk science in criminal proceedings, and each semester she takes students to visit HFSC. She also gives her students access to HFSC’s communication director to speak to her public relations class about handling communications for a non-profit.
Cásarez’s Impact on Communication Alumni
Cásarez has a legion of alumni who hold her in high regard because of her excellent teaching, passionate guidance on the student newspaper, their life-changing involvement in the investigative work proving Anthony Graves innocent, and her crime lab reform work.
"Like every teacher, what I'll miss most about teaching is the students,” Cásarez said. “While I've had many great students over the years, I was particularly blessed to have worked with the student staff of the Cauldron. We share a special bond, and I'm so grateful that we've stayed in touch—we're a family, and I love them all very much."
Meaningful Moments in Cásarez’s Career
Cásarez was elected to the American Law Institute in 2009. In her honor, Anthony Graves established the Nicole B. Cásarez endowed scholarship in law at the University of Texas School of Law in 2013. She received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Community Service from the UT School of Law in 2014.
Cásarez, her husband, Rueben, and her four cats are moving to Evergreen, Colorado, after retirement.
“I'm looking forward to spending more time outdoors, hiking in the mountains, becoming a fan of the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, and learning new things,” she said. “We hope lots of friends and family will come and stay with us to enjoy the Rocky Mountains.”
Psychology Associate Professor Carl Scott Retires,
Leaves Social Responsibility Legacy
Psychology Associate Professor, Dr. Carl Scott, has had a distinguished 32-year career at UST from 1989-2021. He retires at the end of this semester, and his impact on UST is far-reaching. This article barely touches on his many accolades.
Busy Start at UST Leads to Memorable Experiences
Scott recalls a busy start at UST in 1989. In his second year, he took a leave of absence to work on a DOD grant at NASA. “The grant supported educational interventions designed to increase women and minorities in STEM fields. In eight months, I analyzed the results of 46 interventions and wrote 21 technical reports. In my first five years, I won two National Science Foundation grants, and I won tenure and promotion to Associate Professor.”
Scott said, “In 1991, the National Science Foundation awarded me an Undergraduate Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement grant to promote scientific psychology at UST. This recognition by NSF convinced me that my ideas for a more scientific curriculum were on the right track. Three years later, I won a second NSF grant that built on the first.”
These grants helped advance the department’s scientific psychology curriculum, a point of pride for Scott. He also counts promoting undergraduate research at UST, his service on the human subjects committee, and his applied psychological research activities as other memorable experiences.
Scott Revamps Psychology Department Curriculum as Chair
While serving as department chair, Scott also spearheaded a dramatic revision to the Psychology Department’s curriculum. Scott served as department chair for 13 years.
“The Psychology faculty shared the goal of readying students so that they could participate as co-authors on research of professional quality. However, our existing curriculum did not prepare students for undergraduate research. We undertook an extensive program review, dramatically changed our curriculum, and our revised curriculum lightened our load of preparing students for research.” Scott also created the department’s first structured internship, a model copied by the UST Career Center a few years later.
For the last 20+ years, he has embraced the challenge of teaching statistics to a reluctant audience of psychology majors. “For me, statistics is critical thinking with numbers, not math. My success grew from my continuous pursuit of better textbooks, better software, better assignments, and better engagement with students.”
Scott was a Founding Member and Chair of UST’s UG Research Committee
Based on his grant success, Scott was the founding chair of UST’s Undergraduate Research Committee in 1991 and served on the committee for 13 years. He is most proud of establishing faculty stipends for supervising research, student funding for research and travel, and the growth of the Research Symposium from 17 students in 1993, to 181 students in 2004. Over the years, Scott co-authored presentations at professional conferences with 113 students on 46 projects.
Scott’s Sees Pursuit of Applied Research as Part of His Social Responsibility for Teaching
Scott studied psychology “because I believed that I could help solve the world’s problems by gaining a better understanding of people,” he said. “I still believe that. Over time, I gravitated to studying applied problems. I have come to see the pursuit of applied research as part of my socially responsible teaching.” (“Pro Bono Professors” was his TEDxUST talk.)
Over the years, Scott found ways “to combine my love of teaching and my desire to work on applied research, in particular, educational research.” His work as statistician and evaluation consultant produced 77 technical reports, 73 peer-reviewed presentations and publications, and a short film, “Music, Movies, and Emotions,” that screened at two science film festivals (APS and Scientific American).
Scott Thankful for his Teaching Career
Scott is thankful for his many opportunities at UST. He grew up Catholic in Houston and graduated from Loyola (NOLA), and he relished the chance to teach at UST and apply Catholic social teachings. He said, “I went into psychology because I was fascinated by people and I wanted to make the world a better place. In my teaching, I could give students a better understanding of people, and encourage them to work toward a better world.”
Scott’s Last Words
Scott’s parting thoughts are that he will miss teaching students, from whom he learned so much. He will miss his colleagues in the PSYC Department as well as other UST colleagues who saw that helping students succeed was their primary purpose, that promoting undergraduate research led to excellent education, and who knew that critical thinking required learning professional-caliber skills so that students could criticize the status quo and make the world a better place.