CRLA Summer Institute


Michael Saenz

Michael Saenz has been in higher education instruction, student development, and student retention for over ten years and currently work as an Assistant Director in the Student Success Center at the University of Texas at Dallas. In this capacity, he oversees peer tutor and mentor training and certification, including the Peer-Led Team Learning program, Supplemental Instruction, Peer Tutoring, Academic Success Coaching, Writing and Communication Lab, and Financial Literacy Peer Coaching program. He also works as a lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies and serves on the CRLA Leadership Team as the IMTPC Coordinator and IMTPC Application Review Team.

Shawn O'Neil

Shawn O'Neil is the Assistant Director for Academic Skills with the Tutoring and Academic Skills Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he supports students in learning how to learn and how to manage their time and priorities. He has been involved in CRLA's International Tutor Training Program Certification at almost every level-- as a tutor, tutor-trainer, tutor coordinator, and ITTPC reviewer, and ITTPC associate coordinator for the last two years. Currently he is serving as the ITTPC Coordinator. He is also the former CRLA Mid-South regional director. He has Masters degree in Education and is working on a second Masters degree in Training and Development from North Carolina State University.

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith, who holds a BA in Psychology from Texas A&M University, a Masters in College and University Student Personnel from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin, currently serves as the Director of the University Leadership Network (ULN) at The University of Texas at Austin. As part of the university’s initiative to increase the four-year graduation rate, she was appointed to provide a unique student experience based on leadership, professional development, and experiential learning combined with the opportunity to earn a significant scholarship. Jennifer was instrumental in the development and implementation of a number student success initiatives including the University Leadership Network, the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan Mentor Academy, and the College of Natural Sciences Peer Leader Academy.

Jennifer has been a contributing staff member in the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin since 2003, and has served as an undergraduate instructor since 2011.  Jennifer’s research and practice center on leadership, incentive-based scholarship, undergraduate peer mentoring, and the experiences of underrepresented undergraduate populations.

Melissa Thomas

Melissa Thomas is a Lecturer for the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin for their Texas Interdisciplinary Plan (TIP) Scholars program, a wrap around program for potentially at-risk students. Since 1999, the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan (TIP) has sought to provide a small college experience for over 450 first-year students in the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences. The program provides academic and social support through smaller classes, academic advising, linked courses, a critical thinking seminar, social connections, academic peer mentoring, and academic tutoring.

Previously, she was the Director of the Center for Student Learning at the College of Charleston where she provided leadership and management to all the learning assistance programs and services provided to students by the Center. Before that Melissa founded and managed a graduate student academic support program, including being a P.I. for a multi-year grant that provided writing tutoring to graduate students. She also has served as Past President of the College Reading and Learning Association and has three chapters published in the CRLA Tutor and Mentor Training Handbook. Melissa’s research interests include common read programs, motivation inside and outside the classroom, critical thinking in action, applied ethics, group communication, assessment, and student success. Melissa holds a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from the University of Texas at San Antonio.