Thursday, August 2, 2018
  Community, Announcements

By Marci Caltabiano-Ponce

Rio Grande Valley, Texas The newly created Academy for Entrepreneurs, an initiative by UTRGV Continuing Education, will serve as the springboard for innovation and entrepreneurship activities in the Rio Grande Valley.

One of the first offerings to launch from this academy is the UTRGV Entrepreneurship Certificate Program (ECP), designed to build a community of innovative entrepreneurs who will learn what it takes to establish successful startups.

This eight-week program will provide the coaching and support necessary to help entrepreneurs find success within their first year, incorporating a blended learning format of online and in-class sessions.

‘‘UTRGV Continuing Education facilitates the development of industry-specific course content offered as certificate programs to train the workforce in the region and prepare them for the most in-demand professions,
—Jayshree Bhat, director of Continuing Education’’

ECP is uniquely positioned and includes an initial application process that incorporates a highly selective admission process designed to identify the best early-stage entrepreneurs in the Rio Grande Valley. The application fee is $45, paid up front, and includes a three-step process before acceptance into the program.

Jayshree Bhat, director of Continuing Education, co-developed the curriculum with Michael Barnes, the lead instructor and a serial entrepreneur committed to quality education, and CEO of Teacher Talent, a venture-backed startup that has raised more than $300,000 in the first year of operation. 

“UTRGV Continuing Education facilitates the development of industry-specific course content offered as certificate programs to train the workforce in the region and prepare them for the most in-demand professions,” Bhat said.

In keeping with that tradition, the department is launching the innovative Entrepreneurship Certificate Program to help the entrepreneurial community in developing a deeper understanding of how to take products and services to the market quickly and efficiently, while relying on the existing supportive ecosystem for such startup ventures.

“This program complements UTRGV Continuing Education’s commitment to provide high-quality education services to help sustain the talent pool in the region and advancement in their career. I hope we can leverage the existing ecosystem, which includes chambers of commerce, EDCs and Angel Investors, to sustain the new startups that will emerge from this program,” Bhat said.

Michael Barnes, the lead instructor for the program and a recent graduate of UT-Austin with a Ph.D in Education Policy, said he is delighted to share his first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

“The custom curriculum of this program derives heavily from some of the strongest entrepreneurship programs in the world, which blend the best of design thinking, lean startups, and agile development,” he said.

By the end of the course, participants will have engaged customers, refined their problem/solution fit, and could be generating revenue if they follow through with the curriculum and homework assignments, Barnes said.

Dr. Parwinder Grewal, executive vice president for Research, Graduate Studies & New Program Development at UTRGV, said the Academy for Entrepreneurs will serve as a catalyst for growth in the community.

“We are very excited about the potential benefits of the new academy for local entrepreneurs seeking to build successful businesses in the South Texas Region,” he said. “We believe the academy will play a significant role in boosting the local economy.”

The ECP already is garnering significant interest from the entrepreneur community. One potential candidate for the program – Javier Hinojosa of Ryson Studios – said he is excited to hear about the availability and already has completed the application process.

“I am excited to join the course to get a clearer path to launching validated products and services with a higher chance of success,” he said.

Visit for additional details and deadlines for application.

The program fee is $2,400/person, to be paid in full before the start date of Sept. 3 if accepted into the program.

You can also contact the Office of Continuing Education at (956) 665-2071 or email


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.