The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

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In recent years, we have begun to understand how much we can, and must, do as individuals to protect the Earth. Concerns are no longer limited to the field of environmentalism; sustainability refers to environmental concerns in an inclusive way, encompassing all of the social and economic conditions required for present and future generations of humans and nature to exist in productive harmony.


UTRGV is situated in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America located at the most southern tip of Texas, where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf of Mexico. Four climates (temperate, desert, coastal and sub-tropical) converge to create a 365-day growing season, and rich soils of the Rio Grande delta support a documented 1,200 plant species within the Valley.  This plant diversity attracts wildlife, birds and butterflies that can only be found in the U.S. – and often only in this region.

The Valley is also one of the fastest growing areas of the country, largely due to its proximity to the international border between the U.S. and Mexico.  The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan statistical area is expected to jump to 1.9 million people by 2030, which is a 397% growth rate from the 1990 population. Though the growth is a boon to the economy, since the 1930s, 95 percent of the native habitat found within the Valley has been cleared for agricultural or urban development.  This development has relegated native plants and animals to remnant tracts, possibly compromising the genetic integrity of many species.


The Valley’s explosive growth, coupled with its unique ecological situation, presents challenges as well as opportunities with regard to sustainability.  The university is dedicated to being a transformative force for the Rio Grande Valley through education and service, while contributing to the economic growth, environmental stewardship, health, and cultural richness of the region. The Valley has much to gain in the area of sustainability, and UTRGV provides the tools necessary to enact such change through career paths for our students that will directly serve the community, improving health and longevity, while multidisciplinary research provides new business models, data for habitat preservation, and opportunities for entrepreneurship. 
As an institution, UTRGV is in a position to inspire, engage and prepare countless students to be socially conscious citizens and transformative leaders who will discover and apply sustainable solutions to preserve and maintain the planet. UTRGV serves as a model for the region by integrating sustainability goals of preserving a healthy and renewable ecological system, developing economic viability, and pursuing social justice across all areas of the university. By addressing university goals through the wide scope of sustainability, and in accordance with our local tradition and global movements, UTRGV works to maintain a high standard of environmental responsibility. To that end, in 2009, the university created the University Sustainability Council (and the Office for Sustainability to bridge the gap between old traditions and new goals.


We seek to engage and unite every corner of the university to create an environment in which all members of the campus community are generating knowledge, acquiring skills, developing values, and initiating sustainable practices in their personal and professional lives.  UTRGV is committed to institutionalizing sustainability and recognizes the necessity of infusing sustainability into its curriculum, community engagement efforts, and its day-to-day operations. UTRGV continuously engages students and the community, providing educational resources and partnering with several departments, both within and outside of the university, to offer student organizations opportunities to participate at sustainability programs, projects, and events both on and off campus.

The university uses best practices, from selecting energy/waste-efficient products and sustainable materials for construction and design, to providing accessible alternative transportation and a well-maintained campus, all of which create healthier environments for our students and community members. Sustainability-related research on both a regional and global scale by faculty and students is carried out across all disciplines, and learning is not limited to the classroom, but rather applied; our campuses serve as living laboratories for current students and the community as a whole. Curriculum from every college is regularly revised with the assistance of workshops on integrating sustainability topic. To better serve students’ needs for sustainability education, educators participate in faculty development workshops. The Office for Sustainability reports its successes to the council annually to ensure accountability and progress.


The Office for Sustainability’s mission is to advance the principles of sustainability through the continuing existence of a healthy, safe and environmentally sustainable campus that enhances individual health, community well-being, and positive teaching/learning experiences, while maximizing efficiencies, accessibility and affordability by educating and empowering faculty, students, staff, and community to enact change on our campus and the region.  Under the leadership of the 25-member council, UTRGV examines issues across a broad array of academic, administrative, and operational programs, and has developed a Sustainability Campus Action Plan, a 10-year roadmap for major steps toward sustainability – not just for campus planners, but also for every individual who wishes to participate in a more sustainable future.

The Office for Sustainability at UTRGV strives to satisfy the needs of these individuals as we move together in pursuit of sustainable Innovation, Opportunity, Purpose and Careers. In contributing to a sustainable, high quality of life on campus, the Rio Grande Valley and across the globe, the Office for Sustainability helps satisfy the goals of UTRGV in a manner that allows our region to shine as a global innovator in higher education.

Contact Us:

Marianella Franklin, Chief Sustainability Officer
Office: 956-665-7301
Department: 956-665-3030