Message from the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

January 22, 2024

Welcome back, Vaqueros!

We concluded 2023 by celebrating 2,800 graduates over two days of inspiring and invigorating commencements. On a hot weekend in December, our graduates savored these special moments with their loving families, memorializing them with photos across campus in Brownsville and Edinburg. Those two days remind us that we are one university with one identity.

During the ceremonies, I also noticed the impressive representation of faculty — the people whose expertise and leadership make UTRGV…distinctly UTRGV. No celebration is possible without them! I was moved to have so many faculty members applauding their undergraduate and graduate students, while also hooding their doctoral candidates. Faculty make commencement possible, and I believe commencement should always celebrate them as much as it does students.

In my first week back, I saw a sampling of all the reasons we celebrate faculty. For instance, on Monday, January 8, I joined Dr. Alfonso Mercado from the Department of Psychological Science in welcoming the Task Force on Immigration and Mental Health of the American Psychological Association (APA). The task force, chaired by Dr. Mercado, could not have picked a better place to meet than here in the Rio Grande Valley, a place where the impacts of immigration are felt daily. In addition to task force members from universities around the U.S., the president of the APA, representing 140,000 members, was present, a display of UTRGV’s growing prominence.

On Tuesday, January 9, I was wowed by the Energy and U performance put on by engineering faculty and students. This event filled Edinburg’s PAC auditorium with several hundred elementary school children and teachers from school districts near and far, to learn about the first law of thermodynamics. The enthusiasm of the performers and the audience was palpable! These young students got a preview of how much fun lifelong learning can be, and our faculty made it possible.

Energy and U performance.

I spent the morning of Thursday, January 11, with our Anthropology faculty at their annual retreat. What was scheduled to be just an hour-long meeting went on for two hours, filled with insightful and awe-inspiring updates, and a few good laughs. I’m grateful to Dr. Peg Graham, department chair, for inviting me to hear about projects faculty are doing in and out of the classroom, and what they have on the drawing board. Yet again, I was surrounded by dedicated and engaged UTRGV scholars who live their intellectual passion every day.

The day concluded by watching a competitive men’s basketball game against Seattle University at our Fieldhouse. There, too, I saw UTRGV students, faculty, administrators, staff, and fans cheering for our Vaqueros in an 81-80 victory, courtesy of junior guard Hasan Abdul-Hakim’s winning shot.

UTRGV Basketball players celebrating the victory.

On Friday, January 12, Teresa Patricia (Paty) Feria-Arroyo, professor of Biology, was our institution’s latest inductee into The University of Texas System’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. The medal Dr. Feria received is a tribute to her teaching prowess and an inspiration for all of us.

Teresa Patricia (Paty) Feria-Arroyo
UT System seal

We know that a school is more than a set of ideas or buildings; it is its people. All it took was one week in this new year to see how the people that make up our university have helped make it a magical place for learning and growing.

Again, welcome back!

Luis H. Zayas, PhD

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs