Saturday, May 12, 2018
  Alumni, Announcements

By Victoria Brito

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – More than 700 UTRGV graduates dressed in full commencement regalia lined up for the first of four spring commencement ceremonies, held Friday evening on the Student Union lawn on the Brownsville Campus.

Close to 3,000 graduates will walk in the two-day event that starts in Brownsville and ends with three ceremonies at the McAllen Convention Center on Saturday.

Dr. Patricia Alvarez McHatton, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, led the ceremony.

“This is a special moment for our university and our communities and especially for our graduates,” McHatton said. “Today, we come together to celebrate a major accomplishment in the lives of our students, and we celebrate their success.”

UT System Student Regent Jaciel Castro, from UT San Antonio, gave keynote remarks in English and Spanish. He was appointed in 2017 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and is pursuing a master’s degree in Finance.

“It is important that as you leave this institution, you remember those who invested in you, both inside and outside of the institution” he told the graduates, and reminded them how important is it to give back to their institution in any way they can,

“Congratulations to all of you,” he said, “and Happy Mother’s Day. We look forward to seeing you go out in the world and make a big impact.”


Among the graduates in Brownsville were Steven Masso and Veronica Gaona, communication majors working for University Marketing and Communications (UMC). Together, they conceived and spearheaded the popular UTRGV online series, “Unsung Heroes.”

Masso, 23, said his ambition to be a sports journalist led him to his chosen major.

“I always liked sports,” he said. “I figured if I couldn’t be the professional athlete, I could report on it instead. Sports has always been a big passion of mine, and I want to continue that.”

Masso said Dr. William Strong and Dr. Gregory Selber, professors of communication, were a big influence on his academic career.

“I am very grateful for everything they have done,” he said.

His family, too, played a major role in his university success.

“Anytime I did something, even if I didn’t think it was a big deal, they were there to tell me, ‘Congratulations, this is the next step, this is a part of the process,’” Masso said.

He looks to the future with optimism and ambition, including a job at ESPN as a sports correspondent one day 

“It’s a bittersweet moment, graduating,” he said. “I’m happy this part of my life is coming to an end, but at the same time, I’m sad I will be leaving it behind.”


His classmate and coworker, Gaona, 23, is a photographer who has been perfecting her skills for three years during her work with the News and Internal Communications team within UMC.

“I chose to study mass communication because I have a passion for photography, and I figured that if I pursue that passion, I would be able to learn more about photojournalism,” said Gaona, who is graduating cum laude.

She follows the footsteps of her older sister, one of the first in their family to graduate from college.

“I was inspired by her, especially seeing her study really hard and work at the same. She set the foundation and made me realize that education is really important, in order to do things and to get places in life,” she said.

Gaona now will move to Houston in August to pursue a Master of Fine Art in photography at the University of Houston.


Ana Barbara Gonzalez, 27, of Brownsville, is the first in her family to graduate from college.

“I’m the daughter of an immigrant who worked so I could strive to be and do better,” she said.

On Friday, Gonzalez walked the stage to earn a Bachelor of Art in psychology.

“I happened to stumble into my major by taking Intro to Psych as a general course, and I fell in love with it,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to learn more about how the mind works, and the external and internal factors that shape us into the people we are today.” 

She is moving to Lubbock after graduation to work and pursue a master’s degree in psychology.

She advises future students to put plenty of thought and consideration into deciding on a major.

“Don't rush it. Make sure your major is something you enjoy and want to learn more about. Otherwise, it becomes work and it’s easier to slack when you aren’t interested,” she said.

The Brownsville ceremony concluded with the traditional ringing of the University Bell by graduates Mee-Lai Alvarado and Michael Schlater, both from Brownsville.


There will be three more UTRGV commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 12 – 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – at the McAllen Convention Center.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.