Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards 2022

The College of Liberal Arts Honors Three Outstanding Alumni with Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Headshot of Diana Lopez

Diana Lopez

Ms. Diana Lopez is an award-winning author and currently the Vice President of the Texas Institute of Letters. Ms. Lopez earned her M.F.A. in English from Texas State University in 1999. She began her writing career while teaching at a San Antonio middle school. Her books include the adult novella, Sofia's Saints, and middle grade books Confetti Girl; Ask my Mood Ring How I Feel; Nothing Up My Sleeve, and Lucky Lana. Her novel Choke was adapted as The Choking Game for the Lifetime Movie Network in 2014. She also had the honor of writing COCO: A Story About Music, Shoes, and Family, a novel adaptation of the award-winning Disney/Pixar film. Ms. Lopez's debut picture book Sing with Me: The Story of  Selena Quintanilla and simultaneous Spanish edition Canta Conmigo: La historia de Selena Quintanilla (Penguin/Dial, 2021) celebrates the life and legacy of the beloved Queen of Tejano music. 

She has been a guest on NPR's Latino USA and is the winner of the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Award and the William Allen White Award. She is the former editor of HuizacheThe Magazine of Latino Literature.

Ms. Lopez recently retired from the University of Houston-Victoria as an Associate Professor of Creative Writing after a 28-year career as an educator at both the middle grade and university levels. She still enjoys working with students by visiting schools and in her role as a mentor for new and aspiring writers via programs hosted by the AWP, SCBWI, and Las Musas. She often speaks at book festivals and educator and and writing conferences.

After many years of living in San Antonio and Victoria, Texas, she has finally returned to her hometown of Corpus Christi. Most recently, she and her husband have opened a physical therapy clinic called FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Center.

Heashot of Rose Vela

The Honorable Rose Vela

Judge Rose Vela is a retired Texas State District Judge and Appellate Justice with a 32 year career in both law and politics. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Political Science in 1985 from Texas State University. She received her J.D. from St. Mary's School of Law in San Antonio in 1988. After law school, Judge Vela served as Briefing Attorney to two different Texas Courts of Appeals. In 1998, Judge Vela was elected to the 148th State District Court in Nueces County, Texas. As a trial judge for two full four-year terms, she presided over thousands of complex civil and felony criminal cases and numerous jury trials. During this time she also served as Nueces County Presiding Administrative Judge from 2001-2003. In 2006, she was elected to the position of Appellate Justice on Texas' 13th Court of Appeals.

Judge Vela left the judiciary in 2012 when her husband, Filemon Vela, Jr., decided to run for Congress, and she worked extensively on his successful campaign.

During her career, she has been involved in numerous civic activities, serving on various boards including the Food Bank of Corpus Christi, chairman of the Corpus Christi Crime Control and Prevention District; Nueces County Appraisal District; and, Nueces County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). She is also former President of the Corpus Christi Young Lawyers Association and Director of Corpus Christi Bar Association. She has also served as a borad member on the Texas Center for the Judiciary, and graduated from the Center's College of Advanced Judicial Studies.

In March 2021, Judge Vela was appointed by President Joesph R. Biden to be Director of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.

Headshot of Dr. Todd Votteler

Dr. Todd Votteler

Dr. Todd Votteler is President of Collaborative Water Resolution LLC, an organization that is devoted to resolving water conflicts through mediation and strategic issue analysis. Dr. Votteler is the Editor-in-Chief as well as a co-founder of both the Texas Water Journal, and Texas+Water. In addition, he also hosts the Talk+Water podcast. Dr. Votteler is a partner with Four Worlds, a Corvallis, OR based firm that provides on-the-ground mediation, facilitation and collaborative process design for parties engaged in disputes, and for those working to prevent them.

Dr. Votteler is a Fellow of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, a mentor at the Austin Technology Incubator at The University of Texas at Austin, and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Permanent Forum of Binational Waters (Rio Grande/Rio Bravo del Norte water issues).

Previously, he was the Executive Manager of Science, Intergovernmental Relations, and Policy for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. He also served as the Chairman of the Guadalupe Basin Coalition. In addition, he was a Research Scientist in Washington, D.C. for the Battelle- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Executive Director of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, and Chairman of the Texas Land Trust Council.

Dr. Votteler has 30 years of experience in Texas water resources management, policy, dispute resolution, and science. Votteler served as Special Master during the Edwards Aquifer Endangered Species Act litigation, Sierra Club V Babbitt et al. 

Dr. Votteler has a B.S. in Natural Resources from The University of the South, an M.S. in Natural Resources from The University of Michigan, and he earned his Ph.D. in Environmental Geography from Texas State University in 2000. He also has a Udall Certificate in Environmental Collaboration from the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution. He resides with his family in Austin, but is frequently in Whitefish, Montana.