Sylvia Robles

Sylvia Robles

Name: Sylvia Robles

Department: Intl Business & Entrepreneurship 

College: College of Business & Entrepreneurship

I’m a visionary entrepreneur and lecturer who assist small businesses and students to craft their entrepreneurial dreams. In 2002, I discovered my true passion in the education field, and in 2007,  I designed and implemented a triple helix model called “Adopta una Empresa”  linking the University, Startups, and Government, and developed more than 80 startups, registered more than 47 trademarks, 4 patents, 3 utility models, etc. In Fall 2015, I started to assist RGV startups with the UTRGV students’ intervention, and have supported more than 250 managers and 55 startups to build their business plans based in the Business Model Canvas. In fall 2017, I launched the “Adopt a Startup at UTRGV program” in partnership with the Women’s Business Center of Cameron County and Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center. Also, my students have placed either first, second and/or third during the last three UTRGV Rafael Munguia Annual Business Plan Competitions. I was appointed as the faculty advisor of the CEO Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization Chapter Brownsville that was successfully launched on October 2016, and in 2017 and 2019 I was nominated as the Faculty Advisor of the Year, and recently the CEO President was awarded as the “Student Leader of the Year”. On April 2017, 2018 and 2019, I have encouraged my students to participate at the Engaged Scholar Symposium by presenting a poster showing how UTRGV students actively impact the economy and the business community by adopting startups or creating their own ventures, or by assisting local managers to solve a current management problem (traditional and online management courses). During 2018-2019, I’ve been acting as the Women Faculty Network (WFN) member at large representing Brownsville. During 2017 and 2018, I acted as the WFN Achievement & Advancement Committee’s secretary, and have assisted to launch the First and Second WFN Newsletter editions to promote UTRGV women faculty achievements. During 2018, I was elected as the Faculty Fellow for the Spring 2018 Faculty Learning Community on Community Engaged Scholarship in Brownsville, and I was re-appointed to facilitate the Summer 2018 FLC on CES cohort. Also, I was awarded as the Faculty Member of the Month (March 2018) by the Engaged Scholarship and Learning at UTRGV. Last year, I was awarded by the SBA Small Business Administration as the 2018 Small Business Woman Champion. This Spring, I was nominated for the 2018-19 UTRGV Faculty Excellence Award in Community Engaged Scholarship. Finally, I participate as a volunteer facilitating the Business Planning module at the Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp around RGV to assist business women, and as speaker in local and international forums like the Governor's Small Business Conference, Women in Entrepreneurship Week, Kauffman Fast-Track, Foro Empresarial, CEO National Conference, etc. 


Why is teaching important to you?

I have realized through the more than 15 years in the education field that teaching is my true passion. Through teaching I can inspire and motivate students to discover their potential, creativity, values, lights, and shadows. My mission is to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability, community engagement, and new venture creation by EMPOWERING my students and promoting entrepreneurial spirit, collaborative research projects, teamwork, communication, leadership, decision making, critical thinking, etc. My objective is to take my students out of their comfort zone, and even sometimes to push them to their limits just so they may discover the treasure of sharing their knowledge with the community. I empower students so they may empower and inspire others.


What are you beliefs toward teaching and learning?

I believe in making possible for students to finish the semester with the sense of accomplishment not only in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of personal growth. I believe that my job is “done” if my students complete my course possessing an inner treasure nobody will take away from them.  Moreover, I’m satisfied when I see how confident they become with the ability to replicate what they have learned and improve as they continue their professional path. I try to always encourage them to “be the manager” or “be the entrepreneur” by implementing community engaged scholarship activities, interdisciplinary collaboration with other UTRGV colleges, agencies, organizations, etc. When students have the freedom to choose the company they want to adopt or the manager they want to assist, I allow them to mature and propose new ways to solve things. I’m very pleased when I read their reflections thanking for the opportunity to create, to think on their own, to propose alternative solutions to solve a problem, to research, to discover, to grow, and have a grasp of what it means to be a manager or an entrepreneur through hands on and real experiences.


What type of learning environment do you try to create in your classroom?

Since the very first day, I try to build trust by believing in my students’ greatness and uniqueness. Also, I make an effort to do my own research, and get to know my students before classes start. I show them “all” they can accomplish through the semester by stablishing clear objectives, clarifying expectations, and making commitments. Students appreciate a clear course’s organization from beginning to end. I make myself accessible specially when teaching online, and create a welcoming atmosphere. I try to be honest by letting them know that I don’t know everything, but I’m there to motivate them and look for answers together as their coach, facilitator, and co-learner. Although, sometimes it’s hard, I try to build a sense of belongingness. Most of the time, our students do not have the opportunity to be themselves, to express, to share, to laugh, etc. I encourage them to have fun while they work really hard. Finally, if I’m teaching entrepreneurship courses I treat my students as entrepreneurs and set the scenario to simulate the business environment so they can speak, dress, interact as other entrepreneurs. Suddenly, they start acting as one to then become the entrepreneur of their own lives.


What is your favorite teaching strategy to foster student learning?

My favorite teaching strategy is the Project-Based Learning (PBL) and of course I always try to incorporate a CES project. Through this strategy, I make learning relevant to my students by establishing connections when designing “out of the building” activities and by addressing real world issues. This model gives me the opportunity to build relationships with students by acting as their coach, facilitator, and co-learner. Consequently, I empower my students when they conduct research, explore, prove their hypothesis, make their own conclusions, synthetize their learning, share their discoveries, present their outcomes in a weekly basis, write a business plan or a management report, interact with people, work in teams, develop a sense of ownership, and definitely create magic. Students learn to share their knowledge and experiences with the community and truly impact others. At the end of the semester, when the teams compete against each other, each team tries its best as this may give the adopted entrepreneur the opportunity to continue growing through the prize of the incubation process for the winner. The satisfaction to assist a real startup and witness its growth and success supports developing a lifelong commitment to civic engagement. Finally, through this strategy, I’m able to prepare students for engagement, promote ongoing reflection and/or critical analysis as I intentionally integrate community-based needs and academic learning objectives to address societal needs with reciprocal benefits for community partners, campus partners, and students.


What advice do you have for new UTRGV faculty members regarding teaching?

Get to know your students, and let your students know you care about them. Do your homework by knowing your customer’s profile, so you can build a strong relationship with your students even through online courses. Try to participate in key trainings and courses offered by our institution, do your research, join a club, organization, etc., learn about our mission and vision statements and determine how you can be a change agent in this evolving process, try to network, be positive about your mission in UTRGV, share your knowledge with other colleagues, try to incorporate a service learning or CES in your courses, motivate others, make learning relevant, incorporate active involvement for all students, along with high expectations, give good feedback, promote reflection, be patient, and most important enjoy the journey.