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Statistics professor works to preserve land

Gaby Velasquez
Associate professor of statistics, Amy Wagler is making efforts to get more students involved in the Frontera Land Alliance.

Seven hundred miles away from her birthplace, associate professor of statistics, Amy Wagler, found the city and university she now calls home.

Wagler has taught at UTEP for more than eight years.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, and her master’s and doctorate in statistics from Oklahoma State University.

“During my first interview, I had a feeling this was the place for me,” said Wagler.

In December of 2015, Wagler was named a member on of the Board of Directors for the Frontera Land Alliance, a non-profit organization working to protect water, wildlife, natural areas, farms and ranches.

“It’s an honor to be part of this board, I’ve always been passionate of our environment and I hope to make a difference,” Wagler said. “There will be no places for our wildlife or to hike if we don’t take action to help preserve our land and help make a voice for the community saying ‘we want this land for recreation and its beauty.’”

Wagler was born in Oklahoma City and discovered her love for the environment when she and her family traveled to southern Colorado for the summer. Now she is able to combine both of her passions at the Frontera Land Alliance.

Wagler and Janae Reneaud Field, the director of Frontera Land Alliance, were able to set up a project where some of her students were able to be part of a study in which they analyze the value of houses based on different criteria, such as the proximity to green or natural spaces.

“I really want us to focus on education and outreach because I think people aren’t going to immediately understand our mission,” Wagler said. “We’re hoping to become more relevant in people’s mind as they understand why it’s important to have these open spaces preserved.”

One of her goals at Frontera Land Alliance is to teach people  to understand the importance of animals in the environment and the significance of land.

“They say ‘oh there’s nothing out there,’ well it’s very far from the truth,” Wagler said. “We need to understand their role and not just think about them as a nuisance or a pest.  They have a place, so that outreach and education are really what I want to focus on personally.”

Wagler said her students had a positive learning experience from the study and said she wans to continue to make a difference for her students and the university.

“I feel like many students in the past have been overlooked, and I feel very privileged to be able to teach in an area that has been under-resourced for so long,” Wagler said. “We have a huge population of capable students and I take that as a mission in which I can provide help for students so they can achieve success.”

Wagler was selected for the 2014 Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Award, which is awarded to professors based on their student learning outcomes and curriculum quality among other criteria.

“The regent’s award is a big deal, but last spring I got Student Choice Award in the math department, where all math majors vote for their favorite professor and that one was really significant to me,” Wagler said. “It was all the people who had taken my classes versus the regents, who were people that don’t even know me, they just read my portfolio and decided the winner from that.”

Marcela Martinez, a senior majoring in applied mathematics, said Wagler’s teaching style has helped her understand what her career demands of her.

“Dr. Wagler has been a great influence and inspiration in my life. I myself aspire to one day become a professor, and she is the kind of professor I want to be like,” Martinez said. “So actually, having the chance to have someone as a guide for my future goals is inspiring and encouraging.”

Students in Wagler’s class worked with data regarding Frontera Land Alliance’s stance on whether or not the proximity of green spaces affects house values.

One of those students was Karla Martinez, senior mathematics major said this was a great learning experience. It also gave her the necessary tools to continue with her college career.

“Dr. Wagler is an empowering and positive female role model for students like myself,” Martinez said. “She has made a positive impact on my academic career as I hope to pursue a master’s degree in statistics.”

Wagler said she would like to see more UTEP students involved with Frontera Land Alliance.

“This your future land for your community and we’re going to start Friday afternoon sessions to have outreach to UTEP students so that we can bring more of them to our organization and give leadership roles,” said Wagler.

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Statistics professor works to preserve land